River Valley and Ozark
Billy Joe and Christina Grace home-school their 10 children. In addition to reading, writing and ’rithmetic, those lessons include music.
From those basic music lessons, the four older Grace children have advanced and now are the crux of the family band,
Resonating Grace, and hope for a successful career in the music industry. The younger children are waiting in the wings to join their siblings on stage.
Resonating Grace has performed locally at churches and at Toad Suck Daze in Conway,
as well as regionally in Mountain View. The band has competed on a national level as well, participating in contests in Branson, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee.
“I had a really good vocal teacher in high school, where I learned theory and how to sing,” said Christina, 38. “I taught that to the older children, and [Billy Joe] taught them guitar.”
Billy Joe, 44, said, “I taught them three chords on guitar — C, D and G.
“It was kind of my idea to start the band,” he said. “Now I just tag along and play rhythm. I’ll never catch up with them. Everywhere we go, people tell us they just love watching the kids play.
“I’m the fifth wheel. At home, I get to be their dad.”
Christina said Resonating Grace first performed, without instruments, at a Morrilton nursing home about five years ago and has since become the band it is now.
“Our other six children are the up-and-comers, learning new instruments and vocals,” she said.
Resonating Grace is basically a bluegrass band. The band also plays gospel and some country and folk music.
Christina said the children have taken what she and her husband taught them and developed their skills by watching videos and YouTube.
Silas is the oldest of the Grace siblings. At 19, he plays fiddle and lead guitar.
“We play more contemporary bluegrass music, something akin to Alison Krauss or The Isaacs,” Silas said. “We look up to The Lindsey Family of Kentucky.”
Evangeline, 16, plays banjo. Paul, 15, plays mandolin, and Mercy, 13, plays upright bass and is the lead vocalist.
Waiting in the wings are Gladys, 11, who is learning to play the accordion and the fiddle, and Narcissa, who is learning banjo and mandolin. The younger siblings — Hudson Taylor, 6, Betsie, 4, and Keith, 2, sing, but the youngest son, Adoniram, 1, is not quite ready to perform.
“For most of our concerts, Silas will introduce all of the children, even Keith and Adoniram,” Christina said, adding that all except Adoniram perform a couple of numbers with the band.
“The crowds really seem to enjoy seeing the children,” she said.
Christina said the band performed regularly this past summer at the Gospel Opry in Mountain View and performed in that city again in October at the 34th annual Bean Fest and Great Arkansas Championship Outhouse Races.
The oldest children have competed recently at various venues.
Evangeline won first place in the instrumental category of the 2016 Arkansas State Fair Senior Youth Talent Contest in Little Rock and was named the overall winner, which was chosen from both the senior and junior competitions.
At the 2015 Arkansas State Fair, Paul and Silas also received recognition. Paul was named the grand champion in the Junior Youth Talent Contest. Silas was named the winner in both the instrumental and variety categories of the Senior Youth Talent Contest and was named the overall top talent performer from both the junior and senior contests.
Resonating Grace also competed in the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Contest in May in Silver Dollar City in Branson. Silas said the band members first competed in the contest in 2013, and although they have never won an award, they have moved up every year.
“This is what drives us to practice every day,” Silas said. “We want to continue to compete and to make music. We are now focusing on releasing a CD.”
Silas said the Graces have been given a portable building that they will use as a recording studio. They have also received a bus, which they plan to use when they go on the road to compete or perform.
“We do have three original songs,” Silas said. “We all just write together. Mom does the lyrics, and the rest of us do the music.”
Resonating Grace has a website — resonatinggrace.com — and a Facebook page where videos are posted. The band also posts on the website a schedule of upcoming appearances.
Silas said the band practices every day and is gearing up for its biggest competition of the year — the 43rd annual
(Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) Bluegrass Music Awards and 34th National Convention and Band Championship, set for
Feb. 2-5 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The band performed last year but did not place.
“Again, this is what drives us forward,” Silas said.
Silas graduated from high school in May as a home-schooled student.
When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he said, smiling, “I want to stay a kid all my life.
“Anything related to music would be ideal.” He added that he hopes Resonating Grace will be able to travel and perform together for many years.
“Lord willing, I would like to build musical instruments, too,” he said.
Evangeline said she hopes to “try to graduate [from high school] this year.
“If not, I’ll wait until 2018,” she said.
As far as the future is concerned, Evangeline said, she wants to get married and be a mom.
“I like anything artistic,” Evangeline said. “I like to bake. I also might like to become a beautician. I do the stage makeup for the band now.”
Evangeline also likes to draw. She has a drawing published in the 2016-17 Downey Conway/Faulkner County Telephone Book, as a participant in the Downey Art for Education Telephone Directory Cover Contest.
Paul said he hopes “to stay in music.” He said he also enjoys boxing and other self-defense practices.
Mercy said she wants to get married and have a family.
“If I don’t go into music, I might open a beauty salon,” she said.
Mercy keeps up with the family by creating a vlog, which is a video blog or log. She posts those vlogs under “hayseeds,” which can be found on the band’s website or on YouTube.
At 11, Gladys does not know yet what she might like to do in the future, but she does like to draw. Like her oldest sister, she also has a drawing [of a log cabin] published in the 2016-17
Downey Conway/Faulkner County Telephone Book.
Christina said she was just 18 when she and Billy Joe got married.
“I had my first baby at 19,” she said.
“I was raised in a big family,” Christina said. “We were happy but poor. I did not want to be poor. I wanted to go to Hollywood and be a model. I graduated from Conway High School in 1996, and that all changed. I got married.”
Christina is the oldest child in a family of eight. Her parents, Archie and Veleeta Snow, moved to Conway when she was about 10. They attended First Baptist Church, which she said was “such a giving church.”
“Conway is such a giving town, too,” she said.
By the time she graduated from high school, she said all she wanted to do was get married. By that time, her family attended Gold Creek Baptist Church, and that is where she met her husband.
“He was not raised in a family like mine,” Christina said. “He is six years older than I am. He was a ‘wild child.’”
Billy Joe is the son of Billy and Kathy Grace of Conway. He graduated from Conway High School in 1990. He said he has done several things to earn a living over the years but now operates a tree service — Family Tree Service Inc.
“We married and had our first son right away,” Christina said. “[Billy Joe] was not
expecting 10 children.
“But I began to feel guilty because we had only one child. I felt like I was being selfish. I finally said, ‘OK, God, I’ll have as many children as you give me.’”
Christina said Billy Joe was all for it.
“He told me life with me always felt really normal, so whatever I wanted was fine with him. He’s a funny guy. He really likes children,” she said.
“[I have] turned out poor after all, but I am blessed in so many other ways. We are blessed beyond measure,” she said.
Christina said Resonating Grace’s goal is “to glorify God and bless others with our talent and love for each other.”
Billy Joe added: “I really want this band to take off. I hope people will see us as a family that loves each other and the Lord.”