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13 Jun, 2009 06:30

Music a weapon against woes for family of 12

A family of 12 from St. Petersburg has formed their own brass band. Their father says that despite money troubles and age differences, he wanted his kids to speak a common language – that of music.

At face value you would not think Vladimir and Nadezhda Alekseev would have the energy to smile, being responsible for looking after ten children ranging from 3 to 19 years old. Despite a lack of personal space, not to mention money, they say they couldn’t be happier. So what’s their secret?

Nadezhda, the mother says, “It’s all about being patient towards each other and learning to understand, help and accommodate one another.”

With both parents not working – Nadezhda being a full-time mum and Vladimir retired – the family survives on a government allowance of $20 a day. After paying for staple items, such as five loaves of bread and four litres of milk, not much is left over. This might lead to quarrels or discontent in other households, but this family of twelve says it has a special way of staying together – music.

Each one of them plays numerous instruments, ranging from the trumpet, to the clarinet to the tuba. It is the brainchild of their father Vlad who, two years ago, decided he wanted his very own family brass band.

“My children are of different ages and they certainly have various interests. So, there had to be some link that would unite the young and old members of my family. And I couldn’t think of anything better than a family orchestra,” he explained.

The children’s talent not only draws attention from their neighbours, but also from further afield. They regularly perform at concerts in and around St Petersburg. Oldest child Astra, meaning star, is setting an example for her siblings to follow. She’s the only female tuba player in Russia’s northern capital.

“The family band is a really interesting idea. We have a large age difference between us, but the band brings us together. I believe if I have children they would be playing with my brothers and sisters,” Astra says.

Most of the instruments are secondhand or donated, and the children get free lessons at a music academy where they can train and practice.

To Vladimir, music is a way of bringing his family together and he has no plan to stop. He says he wants to have as many children as possible, so this Russian family orchestra is only going to get bigger.