Last year four siblings from Bluff City, Tenn., formed a band they called J4 and exploded into the national music spotlight by winning the "Singing Family Face-Off" on CBS-TV's The Early Show.
Now they are reaching out to other youth with a positive message, and they're bridging the generational gap with their musical versatility and classical influence.
The parents of J4 band members are Mark and Lori Smith of Bluff City, Tenn. Dad is the minister at Bunker Hill Christian Church. Mom homeschools the kids. The family lives in the church parsonage. The young musicians walk across the road to the church to practice and set-up and tear down each week in order to prepare for concerts.
The musical siblings are:
• Jessi, age 16, who sings lead vocals, sometimes turning it over to Jedidiah, depending on the song. She plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, violin, and bass guitar.
• Jedidiah ("Jeddi") is 14. He sings, writes music, and plays drums and keyboard.
• Josiah, 9, provides back-up vocals and plays the electric guitar, bass guitar, violin, and drums.
• Josephine ("Sophi") is 7. She sings back-up and plays keyboard and acoustic percussion instruments.
This summer, J4 made a music video of one of their original compositions, "Back Home." They performed the song during Race Week for Bristol Motor Speedway fans. The song has a country feel that demonstrates the group's love for their home state of Tennessee. They also performed in concert for Jonesborough Days, Kingsport's Fun Fest, and the Appalachian Fair in Gray, Tenn.
In September, J4 returned to the CBS studio in New York City to promote the release of their first two singles, a cover of the Partridge Family's hit "I Think I Love You" and Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Both songs are available at ITunes and Amazon.
Before they became known as J4, the Smith siblings and their parents had a passion for music and community. Winning the national competition has given them a platform for that.
While J4 was performing in New York, local students were participating in Music4Kids, created by the band. The new program is geared to elementary and middle school students and designed to teach about music beyond the performance.
"It's a way to give back to the community and share our passion for music at the same time. We want to not only encourage kids to listen to music, but to learn from music as well," says Jessi, the oldest J4 sibling.
Music4Kids is available to area school systems and on J4's website, www.j4fans.com/music4kids. Parents and teachers are encouraged to share the video with their children and complete the online worksheets together.
The band plans to expand the program with each new song they release.
The band would like to take their Music4Kids program on a national level; however, a huge grassroots effort is needed to exceed the expectations of CBS Records and launch the band nationwide.
The Smith siblings study with area music teachers in the realm of classical artistry. One of their instructors, Ivy Blair, says, "The Smiths are not just some talented 'garage band' hoping to 'make it big.' They are a sincere family, dedicated to the true development of their talent in the musical arts. The opportunity that has won them acclaim and fame on the CBS 'Family Face-Off' has come from diligent musical studies, a great commitment to practice, and perfection that comes with that hard work."
Jedidiah Smith began his study of piano with Blair at the age of 5. She recalls, "He showed exceptional talent and a unique quality of professionalism even at that young age. Through the years Jeddi has progressed beyond the normal rate of learning. He loves music. It is part of his very being! He requires a high standard of himself and is often dissatisfied with his work, though his ratings in area auditions and contests are consistently 'superiors' and first place standings. Jeddi continues to excel in his classical training as he feels it is the foundation and building blocks for his future in music."
Josephine started her piano lessons with Blair about two years ago. Blair says, "Sophi has shown the same tendencies in her progress that her brother has. She loves to play by ear and can pick up rhythms quickly. She, also, has participated in area auditions with the highest of ratings in her performances."
Jessi and Josiah have received classical violin training from the Academy of Strings in Johnson City, Tenn. Tim Barrett has taught both students for the last several years.
You can also find them at www.myspace.com/j4family