Great Adventure Gospel Band to play at Siloa

Luke Reiter

Great Adventure Gospel Band, Garms
From left to right: Taylor, David, Caleb, Kris, Jayme, Ben, Sam and Leesha

Being part of a family is always an adventure. Being part of a family that tours the upper Midwest hauling instruments, sound equipment and six kids ranging in age from seven to 20––that’s a Great Adventure.

And that’s precisely what the Garms family of Braham call themselves: the Great Adventure Gospel Band.

The band will be featured in the 11th Music and Pie Concert Series at Siloa Lutheran Church at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. The concert is free, with a free-will offering accepted, with all proceeds given to the performers.

The band is composed of Ben (who plays banjo, guitar and bass), his sister Taylor, 18, (mandolin, fiddle and piano and soprano vocals), Leesha, 16 (steel guitar and lead vocals), Sam, 11, (harmonica, drums and alto vocals), Jayme, 9, (fiddle, mandolin and alto vocals) and Caleb, 7, (ukulele, harmonica and tenor vocals). The kids are complemented by their dad, David, on guitar, accordion and baritone vocals, and mom, Kris, on upright bass, piano and alto vocals.

The Garms became interested in Southern Gospel music about five years ago, and shortly thereafter they started attending musical events at North Isanti Baptist Church.

The band began as a hobby after David and Kris bought instruments for everyone for Christmas. The Garms practiced in the living room of their Braham home when they could get everyone together, and eventually played in front of an audience at their church, St. Stevens Lutheran, in a performance that David describes as “OK.”

“When we started, it wasn’t really a conscious thing,” Leesha explains.

However it started, it has become more than a hobby now. While they still practice in the living room, the Great Adventure Gospel Band put on 45 performances in 2010. The touring range now extends to Nebraska and Wisconsin and all over Minnesota.

The “Great Adventure” of the band name is the term that all members of the Garms family use when referring to a period that began nearly a decade ago when the family found themselves facing an uncertain future.

In April, 2002, David was laid off from his job as a small aircraft mechanic in the rippling downturn the industry experienced after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. With the house payments growing difficult and prospects of finding another job in David’s trade slim, David and Kris decided to try something radical.

The Garms sold their house and donated most of their possessions. They bought a van and a 33-foot travel trailer, gathered up the children, and headed west to join Laborers for Christ, which provides churches looking to build or remodel with skilled workers from all over the country. The idea was that the family could live on the church grounds rent-free, and while David worked on construction during the day, Kris would homeschool the kids.

The Garms pulled onto the site in Brentwood, Calif., late on the evening of Dec. 15. The family’s high spirits deflated the next morning when the project manager pulled David and Kris aside and told them although the recruiters who had reviewed David’s applications said it was OK to bring kids, the permit stipulations for the Brentwood project prohibited minors from entering the construction site.

Feeling forlorn, the family piled back into the van and pulled out of town without a home or a destination in mind. One morning after filling up with gas in Blythe, the family paused to discuss which direction they should take. Seeing a rainbow to the north, they decided to rely on the Biblical characterization of a rainbow as a sign of promise, and headed that way.

They eventually decided to stay at a campground in Parker, Ariz., and wait for a construction project in Utah to begin. However after four months of camping, a combination of ongoing health problems for the Garms’ oldest daughter, Whitney, then 16, and the discovery of Kris’s seventh pregnancy prompted the family to head back to Minnesota.

Finally in February, 2004 the Garms purchased and moved into their current home in Braham, drawing a close to the Great Adventure, if not to the lessons that it brought.

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For more information on the Music & Pie Concert series call Pat Schonhardt at 718-749-6341.