• Andrew Vait brings his talent — and his band — back home
By Christina Whiting
Music is what feeds Andrew Vait’s soul.
“When I write a new song, I think, ‘this is what it feels like to be alive’,” he said.
In 2011, the Seattle-based, Homer-born-and-raised singer/songwriter released “Closer To The Setting Sun.” He describes this set of solo recordings as having a “folksy, country vibe.”
Two years later, his band, “Eternal Fair,” released its first album, “The Horse that Carries the Wheel.” The album features 10 of Vait’s original songs.
The band is booking a tour to San Francisco in March, but this week, Vait brings his provocative jazz voice to Homer to mesmerize his hometown crowd.
Vait will perform in Homer Council on the Art’s first gallery performance of the year on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. Then, on Monday, Jan. 13, he’ll bring short music presentations to Homer High, Homer Middle, West Homer Elementary and McNeil Canyon schools.
A number of Homer musicians encouraged Vait’s natural musical talents early on. Eric Fenger taught him piano, while Bill Searle ran the jazz band program at Homer High. Vait also credits former Homer High choir director Mark Robinson, guitarist Matt Yaki and trombonist Howard Hedges.
“Howard took me under his wing,” Vait said. “I’d go to his house after school and we’d sit and talk. I thought it was amazing to sit and talk about music with an actual musician.”
Vait graduated Homer High in 2003, and was accepted to the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, thanks to Howard Hedges, who had ties to UM’s music faculty that dated back to his days of living and playing in southern Florida.
Vait said he was not prepared for the shock of going from being first-chair alto sax at All-State, to having to start at ground level.
“I auditioned into the lowest saxophone ensemble and simultaneously into the top jazz singing ensemble,” he said. “I quickly realized that being the best is impossible and doesn’t really apply in the real world. At UM, I learned that my self-worth as a musician had nothing to do with awards being handed out. That was a hard lesson.”
Vait switched from studying saxophone to jazz voice in his junior year when he heard musician Jeff Buckley sing.
“I had never heard anyone do with the sax what Buckley was doing with his voice,” he said. “I wanted to be able to sing like that.”
Vait graduated with a degree in jazz vocal performance. He moved to Seattle not wanting to teach, but when funds started to run low, reconsidered and applied to the Seattle School of Music. He started with one student, and by the end of the first year, was teaching 15 students. To date, he’s taught voice, guitar, flute, saxophone and piano to more than 100 students, aged 5 to 78.
While teaching, Vait continued writing his own music and released a number of solo recordings. In 2010, to help support his solo recordings, he formed the band Eternal Fair with four other musicians; Jeremy Manley on guitar, Steve Scalfati on keys, Brent Rusinow on bass and Daniel Nash on drums.
In 2012, the band morphed to just Daniel Nash on drums, Chris Jones on bass and Andrew as the singer/songwriter. Vait would also play guitar, keyboards, synthesizer and occasionally the flute and saxophone.
The band name was inspired during a walk through The Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland, Ore.
“As I walked by graves that were 50 and 100 years old, I got to thinking about how our lives are intertwined with theirs,” he explained. “Maybe there’s an after-party where we all go, like an Eternal Fair.”
When not writing new material or rehearsing with his band, Vait teaches music to elementary, middle school and high school students. He also does studio work and work for hire.
“I get a lot of calls for people who want me to sing on their album,” he said. “I can’t sing on everyone’s album, but I can help them sing better.”
Vait and his fiancé, Margit, live in a one-bedroom house outside the Seattle city limits. He said he loves the journey he’s on, and, while he finds independent employment challenging, it doesn’t come as a surprise to him since he used to follow his dad to his studio and job sites.
“I was exposed early on to the life of a self-employed artist,” he said. “Now, I’m my own work scout and I’m entirely responsible for filling up my schedule.”
Music education has found a bigger, more permanent place in Vait’s professional career. He looks forward to exploring those opportunities, and is considering opening his own music school.
Vait added that he is grateful for his Homer upbringing and all those who mentored, encouraged and inspired him along the way.
Tickets for the Jan. 11 gallery performance are available at HCOA, The Homer Bookstore or online at HomerArt.org. Tickets are $5 for youth, $10 for HCOA members and $15 general admission. Vait will return again this summer to help with HCOA’s Summer Music and Art Camp for the second year in a row.
Hear Andrew Vait’s original songs on his solo website, andrewvait.com and on the band’s website, eternalfair.com.
If you’d like to suggest a story for the Arts section, contact Christina Whiting at email@example.com.
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