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Nerness Newspaper Clip
Fair

 
The Nerness Family
(Worthington daily globe)

 

Remember how TV's "Partridge Family" all sang and played instruments, had a recording studio in their garage and traveled around to bookings in a wildly painted bus? The Nerness Family of Windom has a somewhat similar arrangement, although

the Nerness’ are a two-parent family and their preferred mode of transportation is a well-traveled Motor Home. Their music has a pro-family message and many of their bookings are in MN, IA, NE, and the Dakota’s.

 

Patriarch Harvey Nerness, a native of Windom, played in various bands from 1960 to 1977. He remembers purchasing the Fender guitar he still plays while a student at Worthington Junior College. His wife, Linda, sang and toured with a large ensemble before they met. When Harvey and Linda married and lived in the Twin Cities, they were in a music group with some other adults.

"When the kids came along, we phased them in and phased the adults out," joked Harvey. "Well, actually there was really a breaking point where we didn't do anything for a while."

 

The oldest Nerness child, Andrew, now 18 and a junior at Augustana College, began playing piano at age 4. Similarly, Allison, the next in line at 17, has been playing the violin for almost 10 years. Laura, 14, plays both the steel guitar and harmonica,

and Elizabeth, 12, joins her mother and brother on the keyboards. The Nernesses live on the shores of Cottonwood Lake in Windom. They returned to Harvey's hometown in 1997 after living in Forest Lake, MN. The Nerness Family began with singing a song or two in church and has grown gradually over the last four years. Now, the group is capable of doing 1 ˝ to 2 hour sets.

 

"We have six to eight hours worth of program we can do, depending on the occasion – if we are doing two or three sets a day on a free stage, each set we dress differently and play  a different style of music. The different free stage sets that we do are country, rock, gospel, acapella, seniors and variety. When we do a grandstand show we do a variety of the above. Our shows are very audience interactive.” Explained Harvey. "We make up a list that will fit for that setting, so it's all laid out when we get there
and everybody knows what they're going to do."  
Harvey emphasizes that The Nerness Family is a business that

provides a substantial source of income for the household. Besides the musical aspect of the program, they also include skits, and audience participation. "The purpose of our group is to bring the message of a family being together and not to show off the talent of our kids, although that happens, and it's important to do a good job," he explained. Doing a "good job" requires a lot of advance preparation and rehearsal. That takes place in the studio-equipped garage. According to Andrew, rehearsing can "get to be a chore." "His goal is eight hours a week," Andrew related about his Dad's expectations. "That's eight hours as a group. Outside of practice, we have to practice on our own." The biggest block of rehearsal time comes on Friday nights. "I try to knock off at about 4 o'clock," said Harvey, who also works as a manufacturer's representative. "Then we try to start at about 4 or 5, assuming we aren't playing somewhere."

 

Prayer begins each rehearsal session. "It's a challenge with so many different personalities," said Harvey. "We are forced to work out our differences when we practice. If we had to do it without the Lord, it would be impossible.” The family also encourages feedback on their rehearsal sessions from people outside the immediate family."We always try to invite friends over for the last half hour or so, and then we all go out for pizza," Harvey explained. "That makes it more “look-forwardable” for the kids. And when you play it for somebody else, you know what it's like for your audience." The members of the group are also good at critiquing themselves. "After we're done playing, we all have stuff to say," said Allison. "On the ride to our next engagement, we'll all talk about how it went, what we liked, what we didn't like."

 

Consequently, the Nerness’ are constantly changing and adding to their program. Everyone has input into possible songs that could be added to their repertoire. The family's desire to improve their music and their performance led them on a trip to one of the more popular show venues. "We took the whole family and went to Branson (Missouri)," related Harvey. "We all went to two shows a day for a week. The reason why is we wanted to see and learn what they're doing down there." The family members came away with some specific ideas on how to improve upon their performances, such as shortening songs to less than three minutes in order to hold the audience's attention. The Nerness Family generally performs at venues that are within 1 day from home, although need for their group has taken them to places as far as the panhandle of Nebraska, and they recently received an invitation to perform in Arizona. "This year, we're going farther than we have before," said Harvey. "We need to reach out a little more." Their group is expanding in other ways, too. The Nerness Family is currently entered in a contest with a major recording studio that has a main prize of a $50,000 re-cording contract. But they've also begun recording on their own with equipment purchased about a year and a half ago. Andrew handles the technical aspects of that endeavor. "We've had some software and hardware problems," said Harvey. "... And since we don't have a soundproof studio, we get a lot of tics and noises on the recordings. We can't do it at sunset, because you can hear the birds chirping. Another time, it was windy, and you could hear the wind chimes." "And one time you could hear my dryer was on," added Linda. Despite such setbacks, the Nerness’ prefer to work on recording at home, where they don't have the pressure of getting the job done during the time allotted in a rented recording studio. They hope to get some major work done on two CDs within coming weeks. They are using three different Minneapolis professional recording studio’s to help with mixing and mastering.   "One thing we've noticed is that Andrew has perfect pitch, and Allie, now, too." said Harvey. "I don't. I have relative pitch. But (perfect pitch) really helps with recording. If something's not right, Andrew picks up on it right away." A new focus for The Nerness family is acapella music, and Harvey would like to do more original songs, too. "We're probably at a point where we can do some creative things, along with some more acapella and some more youth contemporary music," he said. Besides each taking an active role on stage, each family member also contributes to The Nerness Family in other ways, having found a niche in which they can be helpful with the bookings, office work and recording efforts. "We never planned it that way," emphasized Harvey. "It was just that things need to be done, and somebody takes it and runs with it."