We spoke with Erika Klaber, group leader and business manager of Franz Klaber Orchestra (The Klaberheads). She shared about her love for music, teaching and the group’s upcoming concert on Saturday, Feb. 3, at Parrish Auditorium.
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Q: Tell us about yourself?
A: I grew up in Ross, Ohio. I'm a Ross Ram. I went to Miami University for my undergraduate degree in Music Education, and I went to the University of Colorado in Boulder for my Master's in Music Education, and got a minor in Ethnomusicology. Being at Miami sparked my interest in world music, because I was there when Dr. Chris Tanner started the steel drum program. So, that was a game-changer for me, playing the steel drum. I became very interested in world music. I even went to Africa, to Ghana, for three weeks one summer, and took some classes there. Then, when I graduated, I came back to the Cincinnati area, in Fairfield, and I started teaching. I taught at Lakota Local Schools for a couple years and at Fairfield City Schools for about nine years. I taught general music, beginning orchestra, and I assisted with the marching band. Then, I started having more kids, and the band started getting busier, so I decided to devote my time to managing the band and my children. I have four kids. My oldest is 17, and my youngest is five. Also, I've been teaching private piano lessons for about 20 years. I really have enjoyed teaching piano, because It's one-on-one. It never feels like work when I'm teaching piano. It's always a joy.
Q: How long have you been a member of Franz Klaber Orchestra/The Klaberheads? Did you always know you wanted to be in the group?
A: I've been a member since 2001. I've been leading the band since 2006, but the band has always been a part of my life, because my parents were running the band when I was young. I was always going to gigs. I was always there for rehearsals, because the rehearsals were in our home. So, it was always such a part of my life that I never thought it wouldn't be part of my life.
Q: What do you love the most about being in Franz Klaber Orchestra/The Klaberheads?
A: There are three things. I love playing music. Number two, I love getting to play with the people I play with. I get to play with my family, and I get to play with members of the band, who may not be my blood family, but they're family. Thirdly, I love being able to watch the audience have fun, dance and sing. There's no greater joy than being able to produce music, and see smiling faces.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you as the leader of the band? What are some of your responsibilities?
A: I'm constantly looking for new venues or festivals that might be a good fit. I'm always looking at what new songs can we add, or what new songs can we write. I keep track of the payroll. And, what's nice is I delegate. If I come up with a great idea for a song, I turn it over to my husband, Robb. He's the song arranger, so he will make my idea happen. And, my mom is a graphic designer, so if I say I have an idea for a poster or a CD cover, she goes to work on that. My daughter is social media savvy, so she helped set up Instagram and Twitter. My dad is the fixer. If something breaks, he fixes it. In name, I may be the leader, but I couldn't do it without their support.
Q: How does the Franz Klaber Orchestra approach playing big band music, and how do you put your own stamp on it?
A: When my grandfather, Franz Klaber Sr. started the band in the 1930's, he always wanted to play the tunes from Germany, but he also wanted to play what was popular of the day. I think we're still doing that. What I think about this big band music, specifically, is that it is so rich, historically, and it conjures up so many memories of grandparents, or of an iconic time in history. Providing a concert like this with the emphasis being on big band, it's one of my goals as the leader of the band to get this music out, and to get it heard again. I'm excited about being able to perform this music.
Q: Do you have a favorite song that you perform?
A: Whatever song we are playing at the moment is my favorite. But, I will say, the one that gets to me the most is probably when my dad sings "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. It takes on a real personal meaning. He's overcome a lot of physical struggles. He suffered a stroke in 2006, and could hardly even speak, and he's brought himself back to the point that he can belt out this ballad. It really touches the audience. We've had several people come up after a concert and tell us how much that song moved them.
Q: How do you complement one another, musically?
A: The key for us is that we've played together for so long. The band itself is 88 years old. My father's been in the band for 65 years. Everyone has been in the band for decades. So, we're all good at knowing each other's strengths and reading each other, musically. In addition to being family, we're comfortable playing music together, and it's just another extension of the way we all communicate together.
Q: How is Franz Klaber Orchestra carrying the group’s torch into the next generation?
A: "I'm hoping to make it to year 100. We are on year 88, so my goal is 100."
Q: Why would you encourage the community to come to the concert.
A: It's a way to see The Klaberheads in a different light. A lot of people associate us with Oktoberfest, which we love, but we can be a lot more than an Oktoberfest band. And, I feel it's important to keep this music alive, because there's not a whole lot of opportunity to get a whole night of big band music performed live. It's become a side passion for me to keep this music alive, and to expose it to the next generation. I know my daughter and nephew, who play with us, are well versed in the music of big band and they enjoy it. So, I see it as an outreach as well as preservation.
Q: What are the concert details and how can we purchase tickets?
A: Franz Klaber Orchestra (The Klaberheads) will be in concert at Parrish Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. The evening will feature a night of big-band music. Parrish Auditorium is located at 1601 University Blvd. in Hamilton. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 at the door. Tickets are reserved seating. Tickets can be purchased online at www.klaberheads.com, or by calling (513) 218-6017. If available, tickets will also be available at the door.
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Event: Franz Klaber Orchestra preview, B1
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