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Kepple family to play for hospice benefit concert

Mona Hill
Staff Writer
11/2/2011

Quincy physician Dr. Jeff Kepple and daughters Kelsey, 20, Natalie, 17, and Claire, 15, will once again perform for the benefit of Plumas Community Hospice. The event will be held Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Town Hall Theatre in Quincy.

Other musicians performing that evening include The String Beings, Theresa Gallagher and Jodi Beynon, Andrew Ohren and Che Rubalcava-Cunan, Mark Satterfield and Garrett Hagwood.

Doors open at 5:45 p.m. The String Beings’ prelude begins at 6 and the concert at 6:30.

Tickets, available at Epilog Books, Plumas Arts and Quincy Hot Spot, are $20 for adults and $15 for ages 15 and under.

The Kepple Family is a longstanding and well-known fixture at hospice benefits, as well as other community fundraisers and musical productions. In addition, the family has released several CDs locally.

The family’s front man, Kepple began his musical career when he was 5, singing “I Love You Truly” at a family wedding. In what was perhaps an early indication of his disinclination toward fame, he covered his eyes as the officiant said, “You may kiss the bride.”

To augment his vocal talents, he learned to play the ukulele early on, followed by the banjo, which he pursued into college. Kepple reluctantly sold the banjo in college to buy textbooks. Shortly after that, he took up the guitar. It was during medical school that he became a serious songwriter.

During a recent performance at the Old Meadow Valley Schoolhouse, one of his daughters likened his prolific songwriting to popcorn. Reminded of that comment, Kepple laughed wryly and said that, actually, he often has dry spells.

The dry times, he said, usually come during periods of heavy workload and stress. Inspiration, striking at the tail end of those periods, usually comes because of his patients’ experiences, whether birth or “homegoing.”

A deeply spiritual man, Kepple said he doesn’t purposely try to write Christian songs; the music comes from who he is.

The songs have evolved as the girls grew up. When they were younger, his songs reflected family life and events: the death of a pet, matters of faith or some other aspect of their lives.

The girls are the first to hear his songs. Kepple said they’ve developed a critical ear, writing and developing their own arrangements and harmonies for the songs he writes.

Kepple and daughters Natalie and Claire credited Tracy, wife and mother, with being the reason behind the music. She was candid about her non-performance role in the family, saying, “I love music. I don’t love performing.”

For Tracy it’s about encouraging her family. She loves the music that comes from participating as a family.

She also keeps them grounded and has been known to say, “Hey guys, we’re not having fun anymore.”

That observation helps everyone step back from the frustration of who plays or sings which part, the lack of rehearsal time and logistics of day-to-day life. It helps them remember to enjoy the music and each other.

Claire was 4 when she didn’t perform for her first hospice benefit — she walked off stage and could not be enticed to return.

Now she’s more interested in performing; last spring she appeared as Dorothy in a musical production of “The Wizard of Oz” and did — by all accounts — an outstanding job in the role.

Kepple said Claire has the biggest voice and range in the family of singers. Natalie added, “Claire has a purity of tone none of the rest of us have.”

In addition to vocals, Claire plays piano (but hasn’t reached “performance quality” yet) and dances with Beautiful Feet Dance Company, a lyric dance group run by Eliza Hardy.

Natalie is the jazz vocalist and cellist. She also plays with the Youth Symphony Orchestra in Reno.

Natalie loves the smoothness and laid back feeling she gets from jazz. She said, “It’s free for the voice; the keys can be played around with. It’s fun.”

She’s always thought it was “special playing with Dad. I like the music, the depth of the lyrics; it’s an honor to perform with him.”

Kepple said Kelsey, who attends Azusa Pacific in Southern California, is a gifted improvisational musician. That gives him a sense of relief because she can’t rehearse with the family before the concert.

He added, “She’s into music 24/7.” In addition to vocals and violin, she does a lot of the arranging because she can “hear” the parts.

While the family is immersed in music, Kepple said they strive to not be stereotyped as a “nice family,” a common perception in the community.

He said they try to show realness and don’t present a façade: “We just have a lot of love and respect for each other. It takes a lot of work, but it pays off.”

Tracy said many young moms ask her how she got such a “nice family.” She tells them, “We are just like everyone else. We made decisions early on in childrearing, conscious decisions about what books, entertainment. We focus on goodness, kindness, love.”

Kepple added, “We are rooted in faith, humble before each other, admitting fault.”

The result has been a talented family of faith and music whose members love each other and their community. That is kind of nice.


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