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Banded together - Like father like sons: the story of the Ashbournes

Published:Thursday | June 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small
Peter Ashbourne performing with his sons Jeremy (left) and Joel.
The Ashbourne family (from left): Jeremy, his mother Rosina Moder, father Peter, and younger brother Joel.

As the adage goes, 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. But if there are two trees, the harvest from the orchard is bound to be bountiful.

In almost every sector of the local music industry, many will be familiar with the name Peter Ashbourne. Those many may, however, be unaware of the fact that this musician's contributions to the local musical landscape have fed into his personal life and produced a family of performers who tread along similar paths, paved by a passion for music.

All four members of the Moder-Ashbourne family are performing musicians, educators, are and involved in other artistic trades and projects.

Peter Ashbourne's professional music career began as a youth recruited by Easton Lee to make a radio jingle. "And my first question to him was, 'What is a jingle?'" Ashbourne told The Sunday Gleaner. That question led to three decades of creating jingles - an activity that his son, Jeremy, has picked up. "It's kinda cute," Ashbourne said, with a light chuckle about his son following in his footstep.


Surrounded by music


Jeremy is the elder of Ashbourne's two sons. Like his father, he has been responsible for some of the current musical content heard in local advertising. "It's kind of funny how things turned out. It's just one of those things. You'd think it was planned," Jeremy told The Sunday Gleaner. "I had every intention of finding my own way in the music industry, but it just so happened, while not trying to be him."

He describes his childhood as one being surrounded by many aspects of music and suggests that his own development was encouraged by 'osmosis'. "It's a benefit to have grown up with such musical parents. It wasn't an influence in saying, 'Hey, you must do these things', but there was a lot for me to soak up and take in growing up. I learnt a lot just being around (my parents). For me, it's just a way of life. As a teenager I said, 'Well, this seems like the right thing to do', and I made up my mind from I was 14," Jeremy said. His mother, Rosina Christina Moder, was born in the Styrian Hills of Southeast Austria and is the author of the music work and practice book, Tu Tu Tu Tu: Caribbean Beginner's Workbook for Soprano or Tenor Recorder, which still has many primary school children tooting scales for homework.

Jeremy chose the drums as his focus and obtained a bachelor's degree in Austria in 2010. He returned home and is currently teaching music technology at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, School of Music, as well as drums and guitar at the American International School of Kingston.

An aspiring sound engineer who composes and produces music for bands, artists, film, documentaries, video games, and radio and TV commercials, he is also assistant musical director of Digicel's Rising Stars and the key organiser of a weekly live music jam session dubbed The Jam is Back. He performs with bands such as Eye of the Brainstorm, Skygrass, Earth and Fullness, and the Wide Grin Jazz Quartet.



How children are


With a wonderful 'switcheroo', with Ashbourne getting ready to record a new album later this year, he is using Jeremy's home studio. "It's not wonderful!" Ashbourne said with a laugh. "It's because Jeremy has taken everything out of my own studio! Three-quarters of the equipment in his studio was mine! But they say that's what children do."

The younger - Joel has also claimed some of his father's belongings. "He takes all my shirts! Many of the shirts Joel has were once mine." He, too, has charted a musical path of his own. His focus is the piano. Though it was not what he studied, his skill set is so accomplished that he accompanies his father and brother in performances.

"It's definitely a privilege and an honour because he is so intensely knowledgeable about different aspects of music - not just from a performance standpoint, but from a compositional standpoint. He's (Peter Ashbourne) knowledgeable about the history of music, or how and why we react to music they ways we do," Joel told The Sunday Gleaner.

"When I entered university, and I began formulating what I wanted to do, I started moving away from music to focus on the writing side. It was never really an unconscious decision, but it came back to bite me - in a good way! In my early 20s when I rediscovered my love for music, I started a band with my writing partner, Daryl Roberts. I realised that music could give me real purpose and be a tangible outlet that can affect the world in a positive way. When I realised it was more like a calling - something to do for others instead of for myself - that is when I started loving it," Joel admitted.

While Jeremy finds it cool and endearing to play alongside his father, Joel is sometimes intimidated. Beyond that, the younger Ashbourne describes the experience as enlightening, "because there's always another nuance I hear as my musical knowledge increases. It's also influential because I've often been told that I have my dad's sound, which is hard to hear from my side of things," he explained.

Joel is also a founding member of the group Eye of the Brainstorm, in addition to performing and teaching private piano lessons. Though he maintains his music as one of his passions, Joel is a writer - essays, poems, and film scripts - and is currently employed as an associate creative director at an advertising agency in Kingston.