Best of State in North Ogden
BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
To accommodate all the instruments, the Hales Family have two music rooms. Some of the older instruments are hung up and displayed as wall art.
Hales Family Music is North Ogden’s own local band that is undoubtedly the “Best in State.” However, they also have national awards to boot. We have the scoop on how the family came to win so many musical competitions.
First, the band would not be where it is today without their matriarch, Grandma Linda Child. She started what we now know to be the Utah Old Time Fiddlers. Linda and Jim Shupe were founders of their Pioneer Chapter in the Ogden area. Today, it’s a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion, perpetuation, and enjoyment of Old Time music. “Our purpose is to encourage musicians of all ages and to provide them with opportunities to improve their skills by performing in public,” their website reads. “If you live in Utah and enjoy the music of the fiddle tradition, then this is the place for you.”
Now, it is a group of people in the area who get together about twice a month to rehearse and twice a month to perform. In Linda’s time, she played the violin and raised her daughter, Cindy, to do the same. Cindy teaches from the fiddle books and CDs Linda made as teaching resources. Her family even produced a CD together. Her dad played the harmonica, and some of her siblings played the fiddle, guitar, and bass. Her mother’s teaching would help her win many state fiddle contests. She would go on to learn to play the banjo, guitar, mandolin, piano, and organ. In fact, she played on her grandmother’s pump organ, which was brought across the plains via train by her pioneer ancestors.
The Old Time Fiddlers aren’t the types of performers to play their piece and leave, either. Often, they stick around events to brighten the lives of their audience beyond a song, with a smile and conversation. While Linda has passed, other founding members have been known to play with the group into their nineties.
Amidst all the Old Time Fiddlers’ jam sessions, Cindy met Brent Hales. He and his family played alongside the fiddlers and were some of the original members. In addition to the violin, Brent plays the piano, tuba, and bass. Brent came from a musical family, and his parents D. Brent and Elaine worked hard to create their own family band called the Hales Family Fiddlers. His family had likewise produced a CD together, and they have been performing at events for over 40 years. All of Brent’s siblings play many instruments such as fiddle, guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, piano, and are still performing today. Brent and Cindy were excellent matches. But, since they were both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they decided to serve missions before pursuing a romance together. Cindy was a missionary in San Bernardino, and Brent served in Paraguay. Before her mission, Cindy got a full-ride music scholarship to Weber State University and studied child and family studies. Brent studied accounting. However, they both agreed their children would study music.
The Hales family not only taught their family fiddling music, but also taught them the classical Suzuki Violin Method. Shinichi Suzuki was a violinist-educator-philosopher-humanitarian born in 1898. He studied the violin in his home country of Japan for some years. Then, he went to Germany in the 1920s for further study. After the end of World War II, Dr. Suzuki devoted his life to the development of his method. Brent and Cindy’s parental involvement was a huge part of their children’s learning. According to the method, just like when a child learns to talk, parents are to be involved in the musical learning of their child. Cindy served as “home teacher” during the week. Since she was musically talented, she understood what her children were expected to do.
Stephen is the youngest of the five children. While they all play the violin and piano, they also explore new instruments on their own. In addition, Stephen plays the banjo, guitar, mandolin, dobro, saxophone, and trumpet. His brass specialty comes from the legacy of his Great-grandma Child, who also played the trumpet. The family still has her trumpet in their possession, although it is too old to play. Stephen is also the percussionist in the family and has his own drum set. He’s a member of the Northern Utah Youth Symphony now, along with the Chamber Choir in high school, which all his brothers and sister were also in. He plays in the jazz band at school, and he is a state champion junior banjo winner.
Jocinda is the Hales’ only daughter. Her additional instruments include the flute and mandolin. In fact, she’s a state junior mandolin champion. She’s a triple treat in her family, having pursued theatre acting and singing. In junior high school, she played Mrs. Pots in the Beauty and the Beast musical. As a result of her performances and lessons, she’s recorded her own singing album. Some say she sings like her Great-grandma Jo, who had a beautiful voice. Today, she’s in Puerto Rico, serving as a missionary, and she took her violin with her. When she returns, she wants to study to be a teacher. This will be an easy task since she received a violin music scholarship from Weber State.
Richard is the middle child. He plays fiddle, piano, guitar, banjo, mandolin, dobro, trumpet, and trombone. A dobro is a sort of acoustic guitar that lays flat on the lap. However, instead of a sound hole, it has a metal resonator built into its body. This resonator serves as an amplifier. It’s the typical instrument heard in bluegrass music. Josh Graves of Flatt & Scruggs introduced it in the 1950s, and now, Richard records bluegrass albums with his family on it. He has also recorded banjo and guitar on his family’s albums. In his free time, he fixes up antique cars, a hobby shared with his younger brother, Stephen, and his older brother, Jon.
Richard has mastered flat and finger picking on his grandma’s guitar as well. He has recorded his own CD on the mandolin, guitar, and banjo. He brought his guitar on his mission that began in the Dominican Republic and finished in Missouri on account of the pandemic. He made spiritual guitar songs and videos on his mission too. In the state competition, he won first place in banjo and guitar and second place in mandolin. The only time his eldest brother, Brent Ray, won state in banjo was the year that Richard was off on his mission. Most recently, both Richard and Brent performed the Star Spangled Banner on the guitar and violin, respectively, during the Ogden Raptors game commemorating the twentieth anniversary of September 11th.
Jon is the second oldest child, and he plays the banjo and guitar as well, plus the bagpipes. He went on a mission to Mexico and played some violin on his mission too. He has also played bagpipes in several places, including Fort Buenaventura, Parades, Memorials, for funerals, etc. He also played saxophone in the marching band, carrying on the Hales family tradition of ancestors who played in the Nauvoo brass band.
As the oldest child, Brent Ray has blazed the trail for his siblings. He won 1st place in state on the fiddle for the first time at eight years old. Then, he went on to win first place in the State of Utah five times. They always did The Northern Utah Symphony, who he played with for six years. When he was about 12 years old, he started branching out to the banjo, guitar, and mandolin with his mother’s guidance. Yet again, he played on his Grandma Linda’s violin. When he graduated from high school, his mom gave him a guitar as a gift. Richard got a mandolin when he graduated. He took his violin with him on his mission to Guatemala, where they loved to hear American fiddling. His fiddling was even featured on TV, when he and Richard won the National Talent contest for Future Farmers of America in Indianapolis, Indiana. Today, he teaches music, just like his mother has done for over 40 years. They have also received full-ride violin scholarships at Weber State University, just like their mother did. All the kids have played in the bands at school, and trumpet was Brent Ray’s choice. The kids have won many school talent first-place awards fiddling, doing banjo, and playing bagpipes. They are all Eagle Scouts and have participated in ballroom and Celtic dancing teams in Northern Utah.
The Hales Family has enjoyed playing music for many people and in many places. Performing has brought this family closer together as they serve other people through music. In turn, it has brought many people joy to hear them. Many Hales family members have performed and danced American Folk music in many countries, which include the following: Greece, Austria, Switzerland, France, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico, representing the U.S.A while playing for cloggers and dancers. They’ve performed fiddle, Celtic, bluegrass, swing, blues, folk, tango, Cajun, Spanish, Broadway, religious, and more styles of songs. Locally, we’ve been lucky enough to see them perform at North Ogden Cherry Days, the Weber County Fair, the Pleasant View Salmon Bake, the Virginia Reel dance, and the Grantsville Honey Festival. However, they also perform for family events, dances, weddings, churches, and nursing homes, following the legacy of their family’s traditions. They have recorded seven CDs of different themes of their family’s music. Some are titled Celtic, Variety, Fiddling, Blues, and so on. Brent Ray and Richard have both written some of their own songs. If you don’t want to leave your home to hear them, you can find them on Instagram and Facebook at Hales Family Music or follow their YouTube channel under the Brent Hales Channel/Hales Family Music.
Listen to them!
Check out Hales Family Music on this website: brenthales25.wixsite.com/halesfamilymusic OR on social media @Hales Family Music
Do you know of any other accomplishments out of North Ogden? Please reach out so we can recognize our fellow community members in all that they’re doing! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 801-624-9652.