Father-Daughter Duo Find Musical Success
The distinct sound of a violin blends with an acoustic guitar, producing an enchanting melody. But what kind of music is it?
“That’s the hardest question,” said Erica Foster. The 20-year-old violinist is one half of the duo EricaJames. The other half is her father, James Foster, who accompanies his daughter on guitar. The musicians moved to Edmond last year and have found the key to making beautiful music right in their own home.
The two have been playing together for about six years. Their second CD, “Moments I Remember,” is scheduled for release later this month, and their tour calendar is filled with dates from New Mexico to Wisconsin. Their current CD, “Ode to a Gypsy,” is selling so well that they can’t keep copies in stock. They also have an earlier CD, “A Child’s Freedom of Faith,” which they recorded as part of the 10-piece band One Body.
Erica’s persistence brought father and daughter to the stage. James had been a musician since about 1970 and played with various bands over the years. Erica started playing the violin around age 10. When she’d been a musician about four years, she asked her father if she could play with him while he worked on a song called “Esther.”
He said he told her no, then shut the door and continued working on the piece. After a few minutes, he heard the sound of a violin melding with his guitar chords — Erica was outside the door playing along.
“It sounded good together,” said James, who invited her in to play with him. “It was like a light switch. It just clicked.”
Before long, the two started playing at events near their home in San Antonio. One of those was the Peanut Festival — a day neither of them will forget. The South Texas Fiddle Association was there holding a contest, James said. Erica wanted to enter, but James didn’t think it was a good idea. “We don’t play that kind of music,” he told his daughter.
Again, Erica was persistent. Unbeknownst to her father, she signed them up. James wasn’t excited about the idea, but didn’t think he could back out.
“I was very nervous and I kept thinking, ‘This is going to be bad,’” he said. They played three songs. When the competition was over, the judges handed Erica a blue ribbon and an envelope.
“The envelope contained $90,” James said. “They handed me an envelope too. It contained $5.”
James said Erica is the up-front part of their group, dancing while playing the violin. During one song, “Lamplight Waltz,” James and Erica dance together.
“It always goes over well,” James said.
On occasion, touring evolves into a family vacation when Erica’s mom, Tonda, and younger sister hit the road with them. Many of their bookings have been out of state.
In addition to all the creative and performance demands that musicians face, EricaJames has another challenge. At age 4, Erica was diagnosed with epilepsy and suffers petite mal seizures.
Instead of epilepsy being a disability, Erica has found inspiration in her condition. Several famous musicians had epilepsy, she said, including Beethoven, Handel, Tchaikovsky and Niccolo Paganini, an Italian violinist and composer who some consider to be the greatest violinist of all time.
Erica sometimes has a seizure while she is performing, and she knows that happened to those musical giants as well.
“When I seize on stage, I think about that,” she said.
With the type of seizures Erica has, she freezes and stares for about 20 seconds. When that happens on stage, James tells the audience about Erica’s condition and they continue playing.
Erica also credits her epilepsy for pointing her toward her other dream: working with those who have special needs. She volunteers with a special needs choir at Henderson Hills Baptist Church, has worked with Special Olympics and hopes to one day have an arts camp for special needs children.
“A special needs person could be the next Beethoven and we would never know,” Erica said. She talks about her dream for a special needs camp when they perform as EricaJames. She hopes one day she will be able to use her name to build the camps she envisions.
For James, the best part is watching Erica perform and being a part of it. He’ll never forget their first recording of the song “Esther.”
“When that song came together and I heard her playing, I started boo-hooing,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
To listen to samples of EricaJames’ music and find out where they will be playing next, visit www.ericajameslive.com.