The family’s musical roots go back years, said Kate, a self-taught piano and organ player. “I started playing piano in second grade. But my grandmother used to be a pianist at church so it kind of passed down. I think everybody in my family took lessons except me. I started playing for churches when I was 15. Rob actually comes from a background where he played in a rock band. We met each other when his brother and my sister got married and we stood up together in their wedding.”
The kids from oldest to youngest are: Michael, 29, Elizabeth, 28, Nicholas, 26, Jacob, 25, Rachel, 23 (attending UW-Eau Claire), Christopher, 21 (a UW-Osh-kosh student), Alex, 20 (at UW-Madison), Monica, 18 (a senior at Hortonville High School), Sarah, 15 (a freshman at Hortonville), Maria, 13 (a seventh-grader at Hortonville Middle School), and Tony, 10 (a fourth-grader at Hortonville Elementary School).
The two youngest children will be transferring to St. Mary School in Greenville next fall.
“They’re musically inclined,” noted Kate. “Jacob is self-taught in guitar and so is Michael. We didn’t concentrate as much on the instruments earlier because you had to choose in middle school between band and choir. Because singing came so naturally, that’s the way they went. Alex … is a very good trumpet player and he plays piano. Monica and Sarah are both saxophone players. Maria plays sax and flute.”
Weekends are busy for the Fannins. Kate plays on Saturdays at 4 p.m. Mass at St. Mary in Greenville, 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Edward in Mackville and then 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at Most Precious Blood. Elizabeth and Jacob have been cantoring at church since high school. The 10:30 a.m. Mass is broadcast live each week on the 92.3 WJMQ-FM.
The family helps out at other local parishes, too. Kate’s sister plays at St. Patrick Parish in Stephensville and Kate will step in for her when asked. Christopher and Alex help at St. Dennis Parish in Shiocton. If they have room in the schedule Kate and two or three of her youngest girls play and sing for special occasions at Sacred Heart Parish in Appleton.
People started asking the family if they would sing for weddings and funerals. Six years ago the 10 oldest children performed together in public for the first time at the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses at Most Precious Blood.
When they aren’t singing at church, all the kids like to get together on the weekends and sing for fun. The furthest any of the adult children lives from home is in Appleton, so it’s easy enough to do. They have been recording songs and putting them up on You Tube. Now those recordings have been compiled onto their own Web site, www.Fannin11.com. Their subscriber base went from 300 not so long ago to more than 27,000 at last count.
While music will always be a part of the Fannin family’s life, it could turn out to be a career for one or more of the children.
“You don’t know what the future holds,” said Kate. “Jacob’s recorded a CD already. What the kids have done is given themselves this window to see (if they can make music professionally) because they don’t want to have any regrets and they really do all enjoy doing music together.”
Kate said she and her husband are proud of their children. “We’re very blessed. It obviously started with our service in church. It’s been very much a blessing having a big family; and our kids all stayed with the faith. Now we’re at the stage where we can sit back and enjoy watching them perform knowing that they can do it now without me sitting there playing. I very much enjoy it.”