Brian Weiland and his son, Aiden, are jamming out together every day online and providing a medley of music for anyone who wants to tune in.
Brain is the music teacher at the Oak Bluffs School, and also has a band called the Misfits of Avalon, a collaboration between his friend Max Cohen, himself, and his three children, Liam, Avalon, and Aiden. The Weiland family are multi-instrumentalists who love to explore the beauty of music and play together whenever possible.
When students were first sent home from school in March due to the pandemic, Brain said the teachers at the Oak Bluffs School were doing everything they could to create curriculums to keep kids engaged and actively learning.
But Brian said he believes the online jam sessions, which are uploaded daily and are all available on Vimeo, are the perfect thing for kids, families, and anyone who needs a little lift in their spirits.
“I wanted to do a strictly musical experience, just like in the classroom. Obviously we can’t all get together and sing, so I thought maybe an online performance and singalong would be a good alternative,” Brain said.
Brian said he aimed from the get-go to post an online video every day, and so far has posted 64 virtual jam sessions since schools closed their doors.
With the daily performances, Brain said he hopes to provide an “unabashedly positive experience” for anyone who wants to listen. With everything going on these days, Weiland’s high-spirited tunes are a well-deserved respite.
Sometimes the duo’s songs are topical — like when American country folk singer-songwriter John Prine passed away, and they sang some of his songs, or when they sang “We Shall Overcome” to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. The folksy stylings of the Weiland pair also include myriad other genres, including traditional Celtic music.
And the community response, according to Brian, has been immense. “I basically started out making these for my students, and at first we didn’t really know how to provide access to younger students,” Brain said. “I thought at the time that we could just put it on Facebook and hope the parents see it.”
Eventually, access for younger students was sorted out, and the Facebook videos began to take off, with viewers from other towns tuning in with their kids and families. The father-son experience isn’t just for Island families — Brian encourages anyone who is interested to check it out.
While Brian often plays drums, guitar, and mandolin in his videos, Aiden, a seventh grader now, is a skilled fiddle player, with his musical flair ranging from raucous, fast-paced tears to slow and melodic ballads. “He is definitely a fine little fiddle player,” Brain said of his son’s talent.
One thing Brian said he enjoys about creating the virtual performances is encouraging families to pick up instruments and try to play themselves.
“I really love the idea of the entire family watching the videos, with the kids looking at Aiden playing and saying, ‘Hey, he’s playing that. I can learn to play also,’” Brian said.
Aiden said that he has been studying the violin since he was 4 years old, when his father first put a bow and fiddle in his hands and began to teach him.
Fast-forward to the kindergarten talent show, and Aiden was on stage playing the violin for his classmates and teachers. The string teacher noticed his skills, and wanted him to take private lessons.
Aiden said he enjoys playing with his dad, not just for the videos, but for fun whenever they have time. The two go to renaissance fairs to play their music, and play at Island venues with their band.
“I really love to play with my dad, and just practicing with my extra free time is a great way to get a little touch of normal reality, especially during this time,” Aiden said.
Brian said that although online schooling is about to end, Aiden and he are going to continue posting content on their Vimeo, albeit not at the same pace.
“I have recorded over 200 songs in the past 64 days, really doing full, in-depth recording sessions. Aiden and I have spent many days choosing songs, rehearsing, then sitting down and playing,” Brian said. “But I want to keep doing these because I think it’s good for the community, and it’s definitely good for us.”