Wimberleys put the hue in bluegrass

June 2016

By Liz Richelle

The Wimberley siblings are an anomaly, in more ways than one. As a starter, these three brothers and one sister are best friends. They were all seniors at Chapman University, and graduated together last month. Their shared passion is music. They taught themselves to play musical instruments, and are enjoying a level of success as a bluegrass band.

Danielle, 22, twins James and Mark, 21, and Michael, 17, live about two miles south of Chapman University. Their home was always filled with music - usually country and western, the choice of mother Tina, who plays the piano, and father Brent, who sings with the church choir. The kids had developed a love for bluegrass, and in 2006 implored their parents to give them musical instruments for Christmas. Their wishes were granted, and Danielle, James, Mark and Michael began teaching themselves the music they loved on a mandolin, banjo, guitar and fiddle, respectively. To play bluegrass, it’s necessary to go beyond simple chords and strums. This genre is achieved with complicated, fast riffs and picks, with arrangements and timing that complement each instrument with the other, which only emphasizes the feat of being self-taught.

As the Wimberley Bluegrass Band, they honed their skills and played together anywhere and everywhere they could: at their church (Bethel Baptist in Santa Ana),  parties,  school  –  any-where they found an audience. Their first professional gig was at the Yucaipa Apple Festivan 2008, when composer Carol Barnett asked them to perform in her production “World Be-loved,” a bluegrass mass. Since then, they have traveled through such bluegrass-lovin’ states as Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas during summer vacation months. Their shows include country and western and Southern gospel tunes, but mostly bluegrass. They write and perform many of their own numbers, but realize that their audiences want to hear the classics from Flatt and Scruggs, and their own fave, Ricky Skaggs, as well as other icons.

The Wimberleys delighted an audience with a variety of songs from their repertoire at OPA's Denim and Diamonds last month. They have a standing invitation to play at the Farmers Market on the second Saturday of each month, providing, of course, they are in town.

The Wimberleys did not graduate, as one might suspect, with music degrees. Although they would like to follow their dream and make their living in the world of entertainment, they understand full well that student loans must be repaid and that, while they will not lose focus on that dream, they’ll need jobs to support their journey to show-biz success. So they left school with degrees that steer them into business, mathematics, public relations, marketing and communications. Kudos must be given to Mom Tina for her quartet’s academic focus and dedication – she homeschooled all of them.