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The Beat Nun - Music as a Language

Words by Melody Stone
ran in the Eureka Reporter 5/23/08

“I’ve been called a musical prodigy,” said Maddy Shernock, songwriter and band leader for The Beat Nun. “Those people don’t do music.” For Shernock, music isn’t just a hobby; it’s a second language she started learning when she was 2.

She’s been doing music with Redwood Coast Children’s Chorus director Kathy Lyth from the age of 2 to 18. She just recently went from student to assistant director of the chorus, and she now teaches 2-year-olds how to sing. “It’s the cutest thing in the world,” said Shernock.

Her band, The Beat Nun, started as a recording project. Eventually Shernock wanted to start playing live. She started doing solo performances with her voice and a guitar, but in her recordings she used lots of instruments and wanted her live performances to sound more like the recordings, so she assembled a band.

The Beat Nun specializes in children’s instruments; they play a caterpillar that sings letters of the alphabet when colored buttons are pushed. Arcata High School senior Bailee Harrison plays the melodica and the rain-stick. The melodica has colored keys and the musician blows through it to make sound.

“I wasn’t a musician before I joined the band,” Harrison said.

Gurt Wainstomp plays samplers, the talking caterpillar and general noisemakers. Wainstomp said he enjoys playing with Shernock because people will come up to them after the show and tell Shernock they love her voice and tell Wainstomp they love his boots and the funny faces he makes.

Zac Bauman plays banjo and guitar.

Shernock said the music is inspired by her friends, the other musicians in her life and Sufjan Stevens. The Beat Nun said they are often compared to Cat Power.

“We make people cry almost every time we play. It’s really emotional music and apparently it’s really good,” said Shernock. “A lot of people with different taste in music tend to like my music. It appeals to several musical palates.”

Bauman said, “I really enjoy working with Maddy because she’s such a great songwriter. I really enjoy helping her bring that across to other people.”

For being a relatively new-to-the-scene band, The Beat Nun put out seven records in 2007 and 2008. They have booked an eight-show tour through Oregon and Washington with Brother Mitya and one week they played five shows in seven days.

They will kick of their tour with a show with Brother Mitya at Has Beans Coffee (Second and I streets in Old Town Eureka) at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Merchandise such as CDs and pins will be available.


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