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The King Family Makes Music A Way Of Life & A Gift To Be Shared

by Lisa Abbott

It was an impromptu rendition of Vivaldi’s Allegro in D fit for a distinguished concert hall. Judging by the high caliber of the performance, the musicians in this string septet might easily be professionals. But the gifted hands that draw the bows in this ensemble belong to the nine children in the King family; from 17-year-old Ethan right down to three-year-old Emmett. The performance for an audience of one (this writer) took place in the unassuming music studio that the family has created in the basement of their Indianapolis home. For this long-time Heritage family of 11, concerts like these happen frequently. Music for the Kings is a way of life and a gift to be shared.

The King Family

For parents Sam and Danelle King, Heritage’s fine arts emphasis was part of their initial draw to the school when they first enrolled their oldest son, Ethan, in kindergarten over 12 years ago. “We really wanted to explore the possibility of a Christian education, if we could do it; not to shield our kids, but to build them up and strengthen them,” says Danelle. “I think it’s important that their faith is being supported, all day, every day…We can’t do it by ourselves. We need somebody to support us…having a church and school is so influential. You’ve got to have a good school to really bring home not just learning the Bible, but living it.”

As their family grew, the Kings sought God’s direction about enrolling each child at Heritage. “We started praying every year, ‘Can we afford this?’ We take it year by year. We pray about it every year and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” says Danelle. To date, all nine of the King children attend Heritage (with plans for three-year-old Emmett to attend, too, when he reaches school age): Ethan (who is an HCS high school senior), Ella (high school junior), Emma (ninth grader), Eli (seventh grader), Eva (sixth grader), Ezra (fourth grader), Elsa (third grader), Elyssa (first grader), and Emmett (preschooler).

“We tell them that it’s a gift and something special that they get to do,” Danelle explains. “The support system is so good [at Heritage], especially with the teachers,” says Sam. “We’ve noticed that it has really built up the [kids’] strength and has given them a good basis for their beliefs. I can’t over-stress how confident we feel about all of the teachers at Heritage. We can’t imagine anything better.”

“The support system is so good [at Heritage], especially with the teachers. We’ve noticed that it has really built up their strength and has given them a good basis for their beliefs. I can’t over-stress how confident we feel about all of the teachers at Heritage. We can’t imagine anything better.

The Kings’ extensive fine arts involvement at Heritage has made a positive impact on the school. “This family obviously believes in the impact the arts have on students, and their children are exceptionally gifted and talented in this area,” says Heritage’s former director of fine arts, David Barber. “We consider ourselves blessed to work with their children, as well as the many other fine arts families.”

“I would use the word humility to describe the way the Kings work with other students,” explains Laura Payne, Heritage’s orchestra director. “This is a family that is generous with their time and talents, and the way they interact with their siblings and friends is an amazing blessing for me. They represent Heritage with their preparation, musicality, respectfulness and servant-heart attitudes.”

Heritage Provides Opportunities

Heritage’s fine arts program provides a wide range of opportunities that match the level and caliber of instruction each of the King children needs. The school offers foundational instruction and unique individual opportunities for advanced learning, as well. “We also give students chamber music opportunities through ISSMA, which requires them to be more independent musically. These often blossom into quartets or small ensembles that can play for weddings or community events,” Payne explains. “We try to meet the students right where they're at and provide extra or different opportunities that not only help their skills grow, but also give them an outlet for their extraordinary talent" explains Erin Voiles, Heritage choir director. “Those extra opportunities provide a talented and motivated student an outlet to perform, but they also elevate their thinking to become more professional as well.”

Music is All in the Family

Most of the King children play at least one instrument and are involved in multiple extracurricular activities at and outside of the school; from sports teams to missionary club to AWANA at their church. Each child starts musical instruction on the piano. After that, "We have all kinds of instruments sitting around the house that they can play anytime…guitars, a ukulele, violins and recorders,” says Sam. “It [music] helps them build self-confidence.”

The King Children

All of the Kings’ school-aged children also participate in Heritage choirs. The younger Kings sing in the elementary Hosanna choir under Cathy Bartemus’ direction, and the middle and high school students participate in the advanced choirs under Voiles’ direction. “An interesting thing about Ethan is that he has perfect pitch,” says Voiles. “This means that if you ask him to sing an ‘A,’ he can just do it without hearing it first, or you can play a note and he can name it. In class or for a concert, sometimes if I need a note to get us started, I'll just point at him and he knows exactly what pitch to give in order to start the song. He has an amazing ear!”

The family performs at churches, retirement homes and special events (including several Heritage open houses) whenever they have the opportunity. When Voiles got married in 2016, she invited the Kings to provide musical entertainment for her wedding guests. “I had so many compliments from guests at our wedding,” she says. “They couldn't believe that they were just students because they played so professionally!”

The Kings’ musical talent originates with Sam and Danelle, who both grew up singing in church. As children, Sam and his siblings toured as a gospel music group. Until recently, Sam played and toured with a local pop-rock band and recorded several albums with the group. He still plays as a solo guitarist at local venues. Music is a constant presence in the King household and on the road. Their playlists include everything from musical scores to country tunes to classic rock songs.

Danelle and Sam King
Danelle and Sam King

The Kings’ love for music accompanies their other clear passion: family. “For us, it’s important to do things as a family,” Danelle shares. “The music brings us together, for sure, as well as our vacations. We do a lot together.” They authentically seem to enjoy the large-family dynamic. Says Ella: “It’s like having your best friend just upstairs…We can just talk for hours because we’re good friends.” Raising a large family comes naturally to both Sam and Danelle; Sam is the youngest of six children and Danelle the youngest of nine. “Growing up, it was just a natural thing to have people around all of the time and I can’t imagine it any other way,” says Danelle. “I like having a house full of people.”

“Our whole goal in life is for them to be good friends, as well as siblings; to have them like each other. That was always our question; how to find ways for our family to mesh. Music is one way to do that,” says Danelle. “It’s something that we all have in common. Everyone can participate in it, no matter how old you are or how young you are.”

As foster parents for the past seven years, the Kings also have welcomed many other children into their home. “We decided that was kind of a ministry, to do foster care,” Danelle explains. “Our kids are so awesome with it, so having children rotate through the house was such a natural for us. They willingly would give up their space or help out with a child.”

For this closely-knit family of eleven, togetherness is the chord that seems to bind them. It’s easy to see the evidence of their collective love for music, for God and for each other. “I really believe everybody’s given a gift and not all people find out what it is,” concludes Sam. “I think in our family, we’re kind of lucky to find that out and be able to let it grow.”