As students at New York's prestigious Juilliard school, siblings Annie and Alex Wolaver had a typical career path laid out before them.
"Every child has an image that they envision for themselves if they play violin or viola," Alex Wolaver says. "We looked up to the great concertizing violinists like Midori or Itzhak Perlman — especially Annie. She had a solo, classical career in mind and was on the road to doing that."
Then, they asked a question.
"What do we really want to do with our music?" Wolaver recalls of himself and his sister. "Do we just want to play classical music? Do we only want to play this set repertoire?
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"We really felt more and more of an itch to expand the palette of creativity and styles of our instruments and what we wanted to do together. We had always played chamber music and had a lot of success."
The questions led them away from traditional classical music and toward something completely different — really, unlike much of anything else out there.
The Annie Moses Band, which performs at Kentucky State University's Bradford Hall on Friday night as part of the Frankfort Arts Foundation's season, mixes a broad variety of styles together from classical to jazz to pop to country and bluegrass. And they do it mostly under the banner of contemporary Christian music.
"What we've been able to do in the Annie Moses Band is take that experience of chamber music — this very collaborative and interactive form of the art — and bring it into the modern era," Wolaver says. "We're getting rid of the chairs and adding a full pop/jazz rhythm section and blowing the roof off the traditional string-chamber sound."
And they're doing it as a family band, right down to the name, which is taken from one of their maternal great-grandmothers, though Alex acknowledges his sister Annie, who is the group's frontwoman on stage, is sometimes mistaken as the band's namesake.
Wolaver describes Annie Moses as a farm worker who endured harsh poverty but "made every effort to make sure her daughter Jane was musically trained and had every musical opportunity."
And out of that lineage, and history of musical training, came the Annie Moses Band. Jane's daughter Robin would eventually marry jazz pianist Bill Wolaver, and they have six children: Annie and Alex along with cellist Benjamin; harpist, keyboardist and singer Camille; violinist, mandolinist, guitarist and singer Gretchen; and guitarist Jeremiah. Together they comprise the band.
Alex says he and his siblings have been playing their whole lives, and he credits the Annie Moses Band's unique sound to the diversity of their upbringing: a jazz pianist father, a mother who grew up in the mountains of Oklahoma, and then he and Annie's own classical training at Juilliard. Mom and Dad have played key roles with the band as songwriters and arrangers, and they perform with the band, too.
"The product of that is a live show that hits on all of those influences," Alex Wolaver says. "You have story songs and songs about life, faith and everything from Celtic jigs arranged for full band to fiddle tunes."
In their music, the band manages to bridge two worlds that do not often meet. Contemporary Christian and classical music both have big roles in American churches, but they usually are not the same churches.
Wolaver says building bridges was not the band's intention, though the band is happy with how things have worked out.
"We didn't want people to listen to our band because we were a family and we didn't want them to listen to us because we were Christians," Wolaver says. "We wanted them to listen because it was good music. We wanted music that was great, regardless of what genre you put it up against.
"Then, if people are drawn in by the music, and the fact that we are Christians and we play in churches, and we do those sorts of things, that comes with the package. That we 90 percent play in churches while we have an album that's No. 1 on the Billboard classical crossover chart doesn't usually happen."
On the other side, Wolaver asserts that despite its popularity, a majority of people warming pews on Sunday mornings are not contemporary Christian music fans exclusively or at all, leaving a large population of people open to hearing other sounds.
"We see ourselves as trying to burst the box as to what might be appealing to the average Christian or churchgoer," Wolaver says.
Defying conventional wisdom is just a family tradition with the Wolavers.