When Kari and Michael Kovick moved their family from Durham, North Carolina, to Floyd in 1999, they were following a dream: to live a more natural lifestyle and to do what they love. What they love is music.
Today, both are well recognized in the Floyd music scene, as members of the band Windfall and for their individual musical accomplishments. Michael is a trained luthier, repairing and crafting stringed instruments in his home studio off Route 221. Kari, well loved by Floyd’s youngest generation, is best known for her Early Childhood Music Programs, currently held at the Floyd Country Store. Her work interfaces with Floyd’s Head Start and features interactive classes for young children (babies to age six) and their parents. Kari recently performed a children’s concert on the Jamboree stage, which included some wiggles and giggles, and even a makeshift summer snowball fight.
When the couple met in Durham in the 1980’s, Michael owned a music store called High Strung. For twelve years he ran the full-service instrument repair shop before selling it and moving to Floyd. Kari, who grew up in Tidewater, was in Durham studying psychology at Duke University. During that time she also studied voice and performed in musicals and with choral groups. Eventually, she shifted from research to clinical work, and then day care.
“Once I realized I was more of a people person than a scientist, it all boiled down to children and music,” Kari said. She considers her children’s music to be an aspect of her interest in healing, a form of preventative medicine. “It just looks like fun and games,” she joked.
The Kovicks have been inventive about supporting themselves as self-employed musicians living in the country. When repair work in Michael’s shop slows down, he picks up momentum making original instruments. Best known for his mandolin and harmonica playing, Michael has designed a harmonica holder that attaches to a microphone, which he is in the process of marketing. The mandolin he uses in Windfall performances is one of his own. The solid carved “A” style instrument has maple back and sides, a spruce top, and ebony details. While crafting it, he kept his attention on the quality of sound he wanted it to create. “It has an open sound,” he explained.
Kari’s sparkling voice is her main instrument. She also plays guitar and concedes that Michael is the most prolific songwriter in the family, although she has also written original songs. When asked if their children were musical, Kari laughed and answered that nine year old Maggie “aspires to be a rock star.” Outgoing, Maggie is primarily a singer, making up her own songs. Judging by the ones she belts out, she has a “blues voice,” Kari said.
The Kovick’s eighteen year old daughter, April, recently surprised them. They knew she played guitar but hadn’t heard her sing in a formal capacity until she sang at her graduation from a massage school in Florida. With the help of friends, April put together a CD that showcases her songwriting talent and her melodic voice, one that has the ability to give goose-bumps to a listener.
Formerly known as Brother Wind, the Kovick’s band Windfall has been growing in popularity. It was founded by Michael and the band’s lead guitarist Dave Fason. Michael and Dave were joined by bass player, Rusty May, after the group’s first bass player, Ron Oliver, died suddenly from cancer. Kari, a past drummer in an all-women’s drum troupe, was the last to join. She couldn’t resist, after seeing how much fun they were having and how good they were, she said. “The bass really pulled it all together for me,” she explained, “and I love that we can sing four part harmony together.”
Each member of Windfall is an accomplished musician in their own right, and each is well featured on the band’s CD, Autumn’s Aire, and in their live performances. The band specializes in Americana/roots music, folk, blues, rock, Celtic, and bluegrass. They play originals and covers and sometimes the band accompanies Kari, doing concerts for children. Recently, performing offers have increased and their band venues have been expanding, Kari said. “What started as part time work is turning into fulltime,” Michael noted.
The dream that brought the Kovicks to Floyd has been coming true, but it’s still unfolding. More paying work doing what they love is always welcome, Kari says. But the Kovicks are also mindful of creating time to enjoy their home-life, their daughters, and their garden. “When life gets busy, we get to slow down. We’re constantly refining our dream,” she said. ~ Colleen Redman