Spring 1998
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TCU Magazine "Academe"
Articles:  In the nick of time | Oil's well

The bond of music

In the grand tradition of family troupes, one of TCU's most talented clans has found that the family that sings together...well, you get the idea.

By Nancy Bartosek

A THICK black wire snakes through a tasteful 10th-floor apartment in central Fort Worth. It starts beside a stately grand piano, crawls through the kitchen then disappears under the back door.

It's really quite inconspicuous, simply a means to connect piano and vocal performances to equipment in a recording studio next door. But to TCU pianist Janet Pummill, it's also a tether that ties together a family, modern-day von Trappers, scattered nationwide.

Next month it will call them all home and again blend the voices and souls of the musical Pummill family as they record more than 500 songs (yes, and by June) for the latest edition of Silver Burdett Ginn's music education books.

"The music brings us together," explains Julie, 18, the family's youngest talent. "It's the one thing that moves us all. But Mom's the glue that holds us together."

The "us" Julie is talking about is a six-voice ballad, one of lives and love, that began with romance (dedicated young accompanist wooed by handsome music senior) and flowed through joys (birth of four children) and trials (job insecurity and many moves) and features its own original accompaniment.

The piano score is provided by Janet, TCU staff accompanist and church organist; Sallie '93, who is 26 and working on a master's at the University of Illinois; and Julie, 18, a senior at Paschal High School and a student of TCU's Jose Feghali. Vocals are more comprehensive, a blending of six talented voices, including father Douglas, a producer and singer; Patrick '96, the 28-year-old only son who once starred in the Texas Boy's Choir and is now sound designer for Madison Square Garden in New York City; and Amy '96, 24 and studying voice at the University of Illinois.

"Doug and I always had a goal of being a family performing group," Janet said. "So from the very beginning we always included them in all our activities."

Sometimes that wasn't such fun‹being thrust into grown-up social situations, Sallie said. But much more valuable than any "typical homestead existence." "Because we were so involved in their world as children, we became part of their career."

Amy remembers performing everywhere they went, a practice that taught them a special skill‹communication through music.

"I sometimes feel that I comunicate better with my mom and sister when we are making music together," she said.

In March, the group will begin weekend rendezvous at the family's apartment. Over the next few months they will record the CD that accompanies musical text books used by K-8th grade music teachers throughout the nation‹all with little or no practice.

"We've been performing together so long that we know how to do this, what to expect," Janet said. "The great thing is that the kids can go and have various careers and still come back and pick up where we left off because we worked so hard in the early years to build a core of sound and a work ethic. We should be able to continue this type of thing together."

This "type of thing" being music. Performance. Connecting.

"It helps that you're doing what you love to do," Julie adds. "Sometimes you get stressed out because you have so much to do but you've got to be driven by the music.

You have to love it."