The Westonka Historical Society will host a fundraiser featuring a variety of live classic tunes and American standards, accompanied by desserts.
Performing the classics is Nuance/a duo, made up of vocalist Baibi Vegners and piano player Dan Wascoe.
Their music will be the star attraction at the upcoming event from 1-3 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Burl Oaks Golf Club.
Besides their performing skill, the duo also brings a connection to the area through Vegners, whose passion for music was sparked during her time in high school.
“I went to school in Mound, and I started singing when I was in high school,” Vegners said. “I was in the Mound Westonka Pop Singers.”
When she was involved, an intense audition process was required to get into the Pop Singers. Only juniors and seniors were permitted and it was heavily choreographed.
“I just loved that. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I didn’t think I would.”
Though she didn’t think she could perform for a career, experience has taught her otherwise as music is still what she’s doing for a living.
Vegners went to St. Kate’s for a year after graduating high school in 1978. She didn’t do much with music that year, but that summer she saw an advertisement for the George Kent Show, which needed a backup vocalist.
“I toured the Midwest with that group for a year or so,” she shared.
Vegners was going to finish school, but kept singing with local bands as she took classes, and singing became her career.
“I just kept doing it,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d keep doing it all this time.”
Currently she works with a family variety group called the Splatter Sisters, she works in a rock band called Loose Cannon and has been working with Wascoe for about eight years doing jazz standards and selections from the Great American song book.
While Wascoe didn’t grow up in the area, his love of and passion for music also began in his early years.
“I grew up in a family that was not necessarily musical in the performing sense,” he said.
However, his grandfather played piano by ear and accompanied a singer.
“I never heard him accompany that singer, but I heard him play the piano a lot,” Wascoe said. “The places that I did hear him perform he didn’t need any sheet music. He just played and people liked it.”
Seeing his grandfather’s playing, it became obvious to Wascoe that music was something he could participate in his whole life.
“As long as the fingers are there and the brain is active, you can do music until you keel over,” he said.
Wascoe, who grew up in New Jersey, took 10-11 years of piano lessons.
In high school he started to accompany some instrumentalists, played at parties in college and started writing some novelty songs and won a contest when in the army reserve that got him on local TV.
At the Star Tribune, Wascoe, a longtime reporter, played duets with some colleagues for fun.
“And then, I started working with a couple of singers for fairly long stretches,” he said.
Most recently, he has been working with Vegners, who he met through his work as a reporter.
“For one of my assignments at the paper I was covering education, and I was going to do a story about the use of humor by teachers as a teaching tool,” Wascoe explained.
Someone suggested that he check out the Splatter Sisters because of their use of humor in communication with kids.
“I was just so struck by Baibi’s poise and voice, that I sort of tucked that memory away for a while,” he said.
“One day I screwed up my courage and asked this poised lady who I hadn’t even met once if she would like to try to work something out as a duo.” Wascoe said. “Fortunately the timing worked out.”
Over the past few years they have developed a performance business together, with a focus on the American standards, and music by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Scott Joplin and more. This focus has garnered interest from historical groups in the region.
“We have performed in a number of other historical venues,” Wascoe said.
While there aren’t songs about the history of many of the cities they perform in, the music harkens to the past.
“These groups that I thought would be primarily interested in local history, I think appreciate the opportunity for pure entertainment that’s not necessarily about their geographic area but has historical tangents wrapped into it,” Wascoe said.
According to Wascoe, the upcoming performance at Burl Oaks Golf Club will include two sets and a costume change.
“In terms of music, it will be a sampling of a little bit of everything we do,” he said. “Many of the tunes we do will spark a memory.”
Previously, the duo has produced a CD, “Songs for My Baby – And One More for the Road.”
Event organizers were drawn to Nuance/a duo by the styles of music they perform.
“It’s music that has endured through the ages,” said Carol Senn with the Westonka Historical Society. “As a historical society, that’s what we’re all about.”
Another historical connection to the event is it’s location in the Wenkstern Ballroom, named after Tonka Toys chief executive and influential local Russell Wenkstern.
All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to support the Westonka History Museum, located at 5341 Maywood Road in Mound and open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday.
Tickets for the Feb. 21 event are $20 per person and include entertainment, coffee and dessert. The event will run from 1-3 p.m. There will also be a cash bar.
Tickets are available at the Westonka History Museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays or at the Gillespie Center.
Burl Oaks is located at 5400, North Arm Drive in Minnetrista, and is handicap accessible. More info can be found at www.westonkahistoricalsociety.org