Best Friends Forever

Local all-girl string ensemble
features aspiring musicians

Band was formed to help
friend raise funds for trip abroaad

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(March 2011) – When Jessie Miller was in need, her friends came to her rescue. As a result, several local girls have formed a string ensemble and their popularity is growing fast.
Barefoot Best Friends will be performing at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 11 at the Oldham County Arts Center for “Oldham County District Reflections”; at 10 a.m. on March 19 at Showcase Oldham County; and at 8 p.m. on May 14 at Sunergos Coffee Shop in Louisville.

Barefoot Best Friends

Photo provided

The all-girl Barefoot Best Friends
ensemble got its name by performing
without shoes. The group includes
(from left) Jessie Miller, Ellie Miller,
Carrie Lyons Brandt, Lily Brandt Lyons,
Emmaly Saliga, Isabelle Elwood
and Christina Saliga.

Miller, a senior at Oldham County High School, was nominated through the Kentucky Ambassador of Music program to travel to Europe to tour and play music. A band, choir and orchestra were organized, and when Miller was nominated to be in the band or the orchestra, she chose to play her cello and be a part of the student orchestra, said her mother, Patti Beth Miller.
“She earned $5,000 for the trip,” said Miller, by working two to three part-time jobs. The remainder of the money was raised by friends, who formed a band and have become known as Barefoot Best Friends.
Their first gig was at the farmers market in La Grange, where they would receive tips and invitations to play at other gigs, said Oldham County resident Miller. The girls can usually be found there every Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon in the gazebo on the Oldham County Courthouse lawn.
“They’ve gotten quite the response from people,” said Cathy Saliga, the mother of two more members, Emmaly and Christina Saliga. Since they began playing outdoors at the farmers market in the summertime, they went without shoes and thus derived their name, Barefoot Best Friends, Saliga said.
“All take individual music lessons,” said Saliga. In addition to Miller and the two Saliga sisters, the ensemble includes Jessie’s sister Ellie, Isabelle Elwood who attends the Louisville Classical Academy and lives in Jefferson County, Lily Brandt Lyons from Henry County and her older sister Carrie, who is currently away at college. Lily Brandt Lyons plays violin and is often the composer and arranger for the group’s musical performances.
The ensemble plays a mix of music including Celtic, fiddle tunes and mountain music, said Saliga. “All of them like Celtic music and go to concerts together,” she said. The girls chose “music that would honor all their instruments.”
Jessie Miller prefers folk music and is a big Beatles fan, said her mother. To Jessie, “Celtic music is a lot more fun than classical music.”
Homeschooled Emmaly Saliga, 13, plays the violin and her younger sister, Christina, 10, plays the accordion, autoharp, percussion and is just learning to master the banjo. Christina chose the claw-hammer style banjo because, “The first time I heard it on the radio, I asked my dad what it was,” she said. “I knew it was what I was meant to play.”
Her sister Emmaly said, “I like to play music and its fun being with my friends a lot. We played at the farmers market and decided to make a band together.”
As the oldest in the group, Jessie Miller won a Pinnacle Award for music and will be attending Berea College. “This award celebrates diversity in music, for students who want to go beyond band,” said her mother. She isn’t sure if she’ll pursue a career in music or not, but may put her skills to use by teaching music.
“She is also very strong in art,” her mother went on to say. “Most of her time is spent in music and art.” Some of their past performances have been for the Louisville Orchestra, the Oldham County Public Library, Crescent Hill Old Fashioned Fourth of July, an art exhibit for Vickie Eldridge (owner of Trimble County’s Apple Tree Studio), a wedding at Yew Dell Gardens, Henry County Citizen Center, they appeared as the opening act for another band at The Rudyard Kipling in Louisville and were special Christmas guests for an Oldham County Band concert last year.
“Since beginning at the farmers market, they’ve played some very impressive places,” said local artist and art teacher Vickie Eldridge. Eldridge first heard of the group through the Saliga sisters, who took art classes at her studio in Bedford.
“They are very, very good,” said Eldridge. “I was surprised to find a group of young ladies who are also very good friends who practice and get together to perform.”

• For more information on Barefoot Best Friends, contact Cathy Saliga at (502) 225-0456 or Patti Beth Miller at (502) 222-5873 or visit them on Facebook at BarefootBestFriends.

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