If the U.N. had a house band, which they did in the 1930s, the von Trapps would be it. They make beautiful melodies based on different cultures and languages. Growing up, Sofia, Melanie, August, and Amanda von Trapp were exposed to music in so many different countries that they combined it all to create what they call “global folk.” They write original music, while also rearranging gems from classic recordings. Sofia, the group’s young and energetic manager, shared that they have enjoyed collaborations with such notables as the Chieftains, Rufus Wainwright, Pink Martini, Meow Meow, and Wayne Newton. She also revealed that their parents had no musical talents!
The siblings first started singing as a group when their grandfather, the “real” Kurt von Trapp, had a stroke. As he inspired them, they realized they had important stories to share through their music. While Sofia and the group never knew Maria and the Captain, the girls previously wore Maria’s dresses when performing. These days, their dress is more modern. The von Trapp kids are growing up! They are grateful for their family history, but also want to establish their own identity. Their long-term goal is to make people happy and have fun doing it. Word about town is they are doing an amazing job thus far.
You can see the von Trapps this weekend at the Martin Woldson Theater in Spokane, Washington, or various venues throughout the world in coming months.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?
Sofia: I really like to surround myself and collaborate with fun and good people who are creating and accomplishing something in a way that is different and innovative, whether it’s music, economics, or…zoo development. It inspires me and I try to learn as much as I can from them, and then jump into each project. I’m excited about doing whatever needs to be done to make it happen.
Melanie: Keep up the chops (whatever they are). Get in touch with someone/something amazing. Be really present in the moment and see where it goes.
August: I just try to stick to what sounds fun, refreshing, and interesting to my own ear, and hope other people think of it the same way!
Amanda: When I’m looking for inspiration, the process of identifying right articles, images, and audio is pretty simple. Visually, it has to be the thing that first pulls my attention. I stop myself and ask why. If I can’t come up with a quick reason then I know I have something original, but with just enough familiarity to first capture my eye. The great part is when you find out why; it takes time, though. In terms of finding songs and things more audio-related, someone taught me how incredibly important the melody is. If the melody is great, good ideas will follow. Generally, when I listen to a song, if I don’t like the song the very first time I hear it, chances are I’m not going to grow that fond of it over time or enjoy singing it.
WHAT DO YOU COLLECT?
Sofia: I collect show programs, sheet music, cameras, film, Polaroids, books, National Geographic magazines, dry flies (for fly fishing).
Melanie: M. Sasek books, travel magazines, snacks (until I eat them), airplane boarding passes, and train tickets.
August: Visual art that I can stick on the wall without nails or thumbtacks, Japanese folding fans, old pictures from other countries, experiences that may come in handy later on in life, and interesting deluxe pencils and pens.
Amanda: I collect magazines and books. Fashion magazines are so inspiring, and although I dread pulling out pages to stick in my sketchbook for inspiration, I think it is such a great way to generate ideas and remember what was once or still is appealing to you. Flowers and bird feathers are also an amazing amalgam of colors that can be turned into anything, especially fabrics. Flowers really do hold the most incredible tones and shades. How is it that they turn out so beautiful? Books are great fun to collect too. I have a giant bookshelf of every book I’ve picked up from around the world or just what looked interesting. I struggle with giving them away if someone shows interest, but I figure that’s pretty selfish so I pass on what I think someone would enjoy. I keep the ones where I added notations, though.
WHAT IS YOUR THEME SONG?
Sofia: “Vienna” by Billy Joel.
Melanie: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2, or “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast.
August: “Skeletons” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Amanda: Theme songs change with whatever phase I’m going through or if I’m working on something that mimics the energy of the song. The last major theme song that really got me moving was “Some Nights” by Fun. Now it’s moving more toward Mozart’s “Serenade for Winds,” 3rd Movement.
WHO IS THE PERSON WHO INSPIRES YOU MOST?
Sofia: Jack and Suzi Hanna, Thomas Lauderdale, and my parents.
Melanie: Jack Hanna and his wife, Suzi.
August: Hayao Miyazaki.
Amanda: Sherlock Holmes, for sure.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PHILANTHROPIC CAUSE?
Sofia: Music Empowers Foundation—basically anything that helps put music/art education back in schools.
Melanie: Bridge2Rwanda—helping Rwandan women start their own businesses.
August: Anything to do with education—scholarships, building schools in underdeveloped areas, free online resources, etcetera. I think it is overwhelmingly important to better understand education and to proliferate the ways people (not just young people) can access it. That is exactly what I would do with philanthropic funds!
Amanda: There are a lot of causes to support, but things like domestic and international disaster relief, organizations or people that really encourage literacy and the love for learning, and stuff like farm-to-table foods are good and positive things to back. Investigating the organization or person before you give or support is always best, though!