Janis Wallin '99 to perform at the Blue Star with her band, Family Groove Company
9/22/03, Meg Bernhardt, The College Reporter, Lancaster, PA

During her sophomore year at F&M, Janis Wallin '99 learned how to play with a little help from her friends on the bass guitar. When she graduated two years later, she knew she wanted to pursue music, and playing the bass, as a career. Now, she is returning to Lancaster as the bass player of an accomplished band, Family Groove Company, for a show at The Blue Star on Tuesday September 30.

She met her fellow band members at the Musicians Institute, a music school in California. She went to study bass at the school immediately after F&M, at a time when most of her friends were going to law school or settling into jobs.

"I wanted to try out music while I was still young," she said.

At the institute, she took live music performance workshops, which helped teach her how to be comfortable on stage. It prepared her for her band now, one that often uses improvisation and thrives on live performance.

The music of Family Groove Company is hard to pinpoint, but is most closely related to the jam band genre, though it also incorporates rock, funk, jazz, and blues. The band has been influences by the music of Phish, Steely Dan, The Beatles, and Herbie Hancock.

"A lot of mainstream music fans want to hear things that are familiar to them. There are many clones out there in popular music," Wallin said. "But jam band fans [most of our audience] are more open to different types of music styles. We thrive on that because our sound is a little bit different from your average band."

Family Groove Company has released one album, Reachin', and is in the process of touring the country to promote it. Located in Chicago, the band has toured extensively nationwide and hopes to be on tour for 75 percent of the time.

Originally from Harrisburg, Wallin is very excited to return to the area for the show at The Blue Star, where many of her family and friends will be able to come to the performance. But she also has a strong connection to F&M, and said any F&M students at the show will receive a free live CD from her.

"When the audience is listening, dancing, or cheering, that energy adds to our performance. When the audience is really into it, I feel more confident, especially in improv. That's not something you have on a rehearsal stage," she said, describing her love of live performance.

In addition to performing, Wallin is involved in the songwriting and arranging process.

"Our band works in a couple different ways with songwriting. Jordan, our keyboardist, does the majority of the songwriting. He brings a skeleton to the rehearsals and we work together with it," she said. "My primary role is arranging the songs - basically mapping out how the song sounds in the end."

Despite her arranging role, Wallin was responsible for actually writing most of the "Rattler," the closing track of Reachin', an instrumental piece highlighting the band's talent.

The show at The Blue Star beings at 9pm and is free. Family Groove Company will be swapping sets with Dann Ottemiller, a solo acoustic musician who is friends with Wallin. Call The Blue Star at (717) 509-5095 for more information.