For sisters Neilia and Ivy Eyer, music has been a part of their life for as long as they can remember.
Nine-year-old Neilia and 7-year-old Ivy both started playing music when they were just 4 years old, and now play with their dad, Carey, as one of the musical groups for Street Music Week in Spokane.
“When they were really little, we’d just come and I’d have one baby in a baby seat and a toddler just singing along with me,” Carey said. “This is our sixth year doing it.”
The event runs noon to 1 p.m. every day this week through Friday in downtown Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane’s Garland district. All donations go to Second Harvest food bank.
The siblings play violin, accordion and a washboard modeled after that of musician Washboard Chaz of New Orleans, Carey said. Music is how the family bonds.
“They’ve been going to concerts since they were infants, with ear protection,” he said. “My older daughter has probably seen over 500 live concerts.”
Every dollar given equates to five meals, and Tuesday the girls raised $132.70 in the hour spent playing with their dad and fellow classmates, 7-year-old Josie Hollingsworth, and 11-year-old Ivy Walter and her sister, 9-year-old Carmen Walter.
Over the years, Carey and his daughters have raised the equivalent of thousands of meals.
“Last year we made over $400 in our week, and we’ve been doing this for six years,” Carey said.
Donating is the best part of the event, Neilia said.
“My favorite thing is helping people, because I’m really lucky that my family has enough money to even pay for a house,” she said. “Yesterday we made $143.63, and that was 718 meals going to the food bank.”
Neilia and Ivy are also learning American Sign Language, and signed the lyrics to the songs when they weren’t playing instruments. That learning began when Ivy started attending an immersion sign language school, and the family learned signing together.
The girls took lessons as well and now integrate it into their performance. “On Mondays and Wednesdays we would also go to sign language lessons after school,” Ivy said. The first in the family to start signing, Ivy helped her sister learn.
“She came home pretty much every day with a new sign that she learned at school,” Neilia said of her sister.
Even though the family has raised money for hundreds of meals, Carey said, the girls get more out of the event than they give to it.
“It’s a performance opportunity, and it’s a motivator to learn a lot of songs, but it’s also about helping other people,” he said. “We made a big difference just by being out here and having fun.”