Music is family affair for band gearing up for park concert - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Music is family affair for band gearing up for park concert

December 22nd, 2018 development
Music is family affair for band gearing up for park concert

By COLLEEN SPARKS, Managing Editor

Temperatures might be chilly outside, but a local band with strong family ties plans to fire up the crowd when it takes the stage at Veterans Oasis Park next week.
The Real Thing Variety Band will perform rock hits, as well as soul and funk, Motown and some Christmas songs in the Sonoran Sunset Series concert Dec. 20 at Veterans Oasis Park at 4050 E. Chandler Heights Road.
Various bands take the stage in the free Sonoran Sunset Series shows the third Thursday of the month in that park October through March.
Members of The Real Thing Variety Band include longtime singers and musicians who are also family members. The two lead singers are Melisza Gransbergen of Gilbert and her sister, Jessica Gransbergen, who will soon move to Gilbert, and their father, Pete Gransbergen of Ahwatukee, plays bass in the group.
The other band members who will be playing in the Dec. 20 show are Jonathan Nilsen of Anthem on guitar, Dowell Davis of Tempe on drums and Blake Stephens of Goodyear on keyboard.
Melisza Gransbergen, who also manages the band, said the group plays current radio hits, as well as ‘80s and ‘90s songs, Motown tunes and “anything that gets you moving.”
She said fans love when she covers the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
“I love doing anything that’s got some soul and funk to it,” Gransbergen said. “I love singing Aretha, but the No. 1 requested artist for me to sing would be Adele. They love when I do Adele. Motown is a real big fan favorite.”
Gransbergen, who will turn 40 on Dec. 20, grew up in Ahwatukee. She said her father, Pete, was the “biggest influence” on her and Jessica. He has played in bands since before the two women were born.
“It just is kind of a part of us,” Melisza said. “We’ve literally been singing since we were itty-bitty. It’s definitely what we were born and meant to do. It really did help to have our dad there to kind of show us. We were so versed in all different genres and styles of music. We love it. There’s always something to be appreciated.”
She said her and Jessica’s late uncle on their mother’s side was a roadie for REO Speedwagon, Chicago and others.
“We used to be back stage,” Melisza said. “We got to see a lot of cool stuff when we were little.”
She and Jessica performed in school choirs and briefly in a church choir. Melisza went to Mountain Pointe High School and then transferred to an online charter school, from which she and Jessica graduated.
Jessica, 36, said she and her father started their first band together in 2000 and then formed another band in 2004 called Exit 157, “which was a pretty successful, working band and a whole lot of fun.”
“I can’t remember a time I wasn’t singing or writing music,” Jessica said. “As a child, I’d lock myself in my room and sing for hours. Our poor neighbors had to hear the same song over and over and over again. Music is where I find joy, connect with others and I’ve been doing it my entire life. I was always involved in music in school as well as outside of school. Outside of being in choir through grade school, middle school and high school, I sang at many high school graduations, including my own.”
She and Melisza said they enjoy singing together and with their dad playing in the band.
“I love being in a band with my sister and dad,” Jessica said. “My sister and I are best friends. Something really special happens when we sing together. I can’t explain it completely, but it’s really as if our voices belong together. They are different and special on their own, but together they are supported and taken to another level.”
While their mother, Dianna, is not in the band, Melisza said she is their “No. 1 fan.” Jessica, who works a day job overseeing training and development, as well as policy and procedures at American Airlines, agreed their parents have been supportive.
“My dad has always been an inspiration in music,” Jessica said. “He and my mom have always encouraged my sister and me to go for our dreams and pursue a career in music. Their support and guidance have played a huge role in who I am today. I always strive for more. Once we reach a goal, we set a new, higher one and we continue to work hard at achieving them. Connecting with others through music is something I am so grateful for and having the support system to do that has really helped me to continue on and reach new levels.”
Jessica and Melisza are looking forward to performing at Veterans Oasis Park, where they have sung with the band several times before.
“We get to see the sun set and the audience gets to see the reflection of the sunset on that water,” Melisza said. “It’s super cool. It’s very cold in December, but families come out and they bundle up. It’s great. We love that venue. Everybody that has been involved in that particular event has been phenomenal. They’re very accommodating.”
Jessica said she also really enjoys performing at the park.
“We love being outdoors next to the water, and the audience is always a pleasure,” she said. “It’s always a great experience.”
People can bring blankets, folding chairs and food to the park to listen to the band play at the free event alongside the park’s five-acre lake.

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