Family strives to create their own orchestra

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Nov. 24, 2012 at 5:24 a.m.

FORDTRAN - Anna Kate Aldis, 9, sat barefoot in the back of her grandparents' Victoria County home.

A cello resting between her legs, she drew her bow at first languidly across the strings to begin Jean Gabriel Marie's "La Cinquantaine," conjuring up images of 19th century French royalty. The crooning tune rivaled only by the wind rustling nearby oak trees, her brow furrowed in concentration as her fingers meticulously scaled the cello's neck.

When the song came to a close some four minutes later, her rapt audience erupted into cheers.

Her adoring fans were her family - five of whom tote similar instruments.

The Aldis family, of Dallas, were in town Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They make the trip annually to serenade those at Victoria's Senior Citizens Center alongside their cousin Ethan Medrano, 15, who strums a guitar in a local praise band.

They say they don't do it for anything other than to spread the joy of music - something that was instilled in them at age 5 by their clarinet-playing mother, Heather Aldis.

"Sometimes they feel like people only come and see them if they're earning a Brownie badge or a Girl Scout pin or something like that," said Sara Grace Aldis, 12, who during the impromptu backyard concert plucked the strings of her violin for a fast-paced, staccato number.

"If you come back again and again, they realize you're not trying to do that," Heather Aldis added, "You're just trying to be their friend ... That group of people are kind of ignored in our culture, so it's nice to hug them and let them know that they're important."

Most of the children are homeschooled, but that doesn't mean they're cooped up, Aldis said.

"Maybe that's how it was a long time ago, but it's not like that anymore," Aldis said.

When they're not practicing two to three days of the week at the Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas, they're stretching their vocal chords in choir or being ferried to and from sporting events.

The group's ultimate goal is be its own orchestra. They already make up various parts of Christmas carols, and they've nailed down "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" together.

They've now enlisted their adopted siblings, Peter Aldis and Vera Aldis, both of Russia, in the project.

Already, Peter Aldis commands attention when he plays "Happy Farmer." When asked why he picks the song almost every time, his answer was simple.

"It's my favorite. That's all," he said before leading everyone in counting from one to 10 in Russian.

Heather Aldis visited Russia as a college student and knew some orphans' circumstances there were dire because most agencies don't offer any kind of financial or emotional support once children turn 18 years old.

"Some of those kids are left lingering in these desperate situations, so it was nice to help pull them out," she said of a lengthy process in which the family prayed that they'd get to take the kids home.

And, while it's easier now to coax the children into practicing for 30 minutes every day, they all report some musical mishap.

While rough housing, someone tripped over Anna Kate Aldis' cello and broke its bridge, and Sara Grace Aldis learned the hard way never to leave a violin sitting on the couch.

"And Sara broke my bow one time!" Ella Hope Aldis accused.

Sara Grace Aldis chuckled and drew up her fingers to the younger girl's lips.

"Shh!" she whispered.



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