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KPBX Kids' Concert: Cowboy Music & Poetry from Western Reunion


SPR took kids of all ages back in time to the old west at the April 11 KPBX Kids' Concert with Western Reunion. The four-piece band played a variety of great cowboy songs and western swing numbers.

The concert started at 1 p.m. at the Bing Crosby Theater. The small screen at the top of the stage showed a slide show of images from the Old West, including Hollywood portrayals and sheet music of the classic songs. 

Band members are Bill Siems, lead guitar and mandolin, Dawn Holladay, lead vocals and guitar, Michael Gifford, vocals and washtub bass, and Don Thomsen, fiddle.  The group plays around the  Northwest at festivals, concerts, fairs, and has played for multiple KPBX Kids’ Concerts.

Guest performers at this concert were Ted Hensold and Susan Dankovich. Kids attending the concert also could take home a small TREE courtesy of the Idaho Forest Products Commission.

The Spring KPBX Kids' Concerts are free thanks to event donors Numerica Credit Union, Pioneer School, and Rocket Bakery. SPR also gets support from the Florence Wasmer Fund for Arts & Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. Thanks also to the Bing Crosby Theater's events staff Michael Smith, Tony Kacelek, and Davis Creekmore, and to the SPR Volunteers.

Western Reunion is (from left) Don Thomsen, Dawn Holladay, Michael Gifford, and Bill Siems.

About the Performers

Guitarist Bill Siems is a scientist and faculty member at Washington State University. He has played acoustic guitar and mandolin since childhood, and has been with numerous northwest bands including Hired Hands, Sweet Hominy and River City Ramblers. Besides chemistry and music, Bill’s obsessions are books and birds. He is an avid reader of all things history, and is currently researching European history.

Dawn Holladay has a love for singing country, jazz and western music. She has performed with two swing bands, Sweet Hominy and Jive Five, and sang with the trio, Madame Orchid. She also plays guitar in the oldtime band, River City Ramblers. After a career as graphic designer and photographer at Eastern Washington University, she continues her activity with visual arts along with her music.  

The band’s string bassist, Michael Gifford (“Gut Bucket Giff”) lives in Rossland, BC. He frequently travels to Spokane to perform with Western Reunion, The Two Big Jug Band, and The River City Ramblers. Gifford’s passion in life is the washtub bass, sometimes called the “gut bucket.” He is quite proud of his washtub bass instructional video, “Compleat Washtub Bass.”

Playing fiddle with Western Reunion is Don Thomsen, one of Spokane’s musical treasures. Don plays many styles of music including Irish, bluegrass and swing music. His popular band, Floating Crowbar, was featured at last month's KPBX Kids' Concert, the March Celtic Dance Party. Raised in a musical family, Don is adept at many instruments, including flute, mandolin, and banjo. He has performed for years with many well known bands in the area, including Planet Lounge Orchestra, Staley & Thomsen, Prairie Fire and Jive Five.

Special Guests

Ted Hensold performs with Bill Siems as the Educated Fellers, reviving the old tradition of cowboy songs and yarns. He also plays banjo and harmonica with the River City Ramblers.

Susan Dankovich teaches people of all ages and abilities how to dance in a variety of folk styles. As director of the Silver Spurs International Youth Folk Dancers, she teaches children as young as Kindergarden up to high school seniors. She frequently calls Contra Dances or Family Dances for the Spokane Folklore Society.

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