Growing up in a small village in Wisconsin, Kristine Agen had no idea that there could be such a thing as a singer-songwriter, which is ironic since her daughter Addison is the most nationally recognized one currently residing in Fort Wayne.
"There was no such thing as live music there," she says. "I never even saw a woman hold a guitar until I was in college."
That moment changed the course of her life as she not only learned to play guitar but decided to major in music therapy. She has now worked in the field for almost 20 years, the entire lives of her children Korrigan and Addision who will join her for a fundraiser for Audiences Unlimited, the not-for-profit for which Kristine works, primarily in nursing homes around the area. The work is the direct result of her discovery in college that live music is vitally important to people of all ages.
"About all I knew growing up was polka music, so to be living in a place like Fort Wayne where you can see live music any time you want to just blew my mind. Our family loves live music, and we want it to be available for everyone because it completely changes your mindset. We love to take live music into nursing homes because that's just such a huge thing for them."
Having grown up around it their entire lives, the Agen children have a healthy understanding and appreciation of what live music has meant for those in nursing homes, and Kristine points out that not everyone in a nursing home is elderly.
"My mother has been in a nursing home since she was 60, so that's not very old at all."
Playing to multiple generations has meant that the Agen playlist is pretty extensive.
"We know 550 songs, so we ask the residents what they enjoy singing or what genre they want to hear. We ask if they like country, folk or church music and find which decade they most enjoy, and then we just play whatever they want to hear."
Comfort with many genres of music no doubt helped Addision last fall as she competed in The Voice and was runner-up in the NBC competition. Since that whirlwind, Addision has settled back into life in Fort Wayne but with some obvious changes.
"I'm a senior this year, but I won't be graduating in May. I'm doing online school and will finish when I finish, which is fine with me because I'm basically working full-time now."
Her album, which she recorded at Sweetwater, will be released sometime this summer. All that remains is the artwork which will allow the marketing to commence. Then a tour will begin shortly thereafter. It's been a busy and heady time for the teenager, but she feels like it has all come at the perfect time.
"I've been learning about recording, teammates, bandmates, managers, PR agencies," she says. "I'm glad I'm learning about it now; that's been a big positive. It allows me to learn about it all when I still have my parents around me so that later when I'm on my own I'll fully understand what's going on."
Addison also appreciates the people she's met along the way and says that her experience on The Voice helped her make important connections and make new friends, including a couple of fellow contestants who will perform later this year at her father Morrison's record store, Neat Neat Neat. Addison is also looking forward to performing with her mother and her brother, who will accompany his mom and sister on bass.
"We've been playing with our mom at nursing homes and retirement homes since we were younger, so I think this show will be a lot of fun. We'll do a bunch of old songs and some newer ones."
Kristine Agen is estimating the fundraiser will draw in an audience between the ages of 30 and 60, somewhat younger than their usual audience, but no doubt also fans of the wide range of repertoire that the Agens have at the ready.
"We'll stick with music that they'll know," says Kristine. "There'll be some Johnny Cash, some music from some of our favorite singers. It'll be a variety of songs."
Watching her daughter find her own voice has been exciting for Kristine, but she says she prefers a different musical path.
"Some people have said to me 'You should audition for The Voice,' but that's not my passion. My passion is to take live music to people who can't get out and see it for themselves. It's just such an honor for me to be part of doing that for people, and I'm happy we can do this together as a family before Addison gets busy with her own concerts."
Having seen another Fort Wayne singer gain national attention on this spring's edition of The Voice, Addison isn't surprised by the success of Christiana Danielle and hopes Fort Wayne will be a regular feature of The Voice in years to come.
"I think it's awesome. Fort Wayne has a crazy amount of talent in every type of art. I hope it keeps happening."
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