The GillyGirls Band: Two Sets of Twins, Four Unique Talents.
By Kara Martinez Bachman
While many sibling bands are found in bluegrass, The GillyGirls Band claim a rare status: They’re a group featuring two sets of twins from the same family.
“Being two sets of twins in a band is unique, but it’s also a lot of fun,” explained 16-year-old Jillian Gillingham, who plays bass, mandolin, and banjo. “Being with your best friends 24/7, and getting to perform shows, is a life we would never trade.”
She is joined by Savannah (age 19), who bows the fiddle and picks banjo; Morgan (age 19), who plucks bass and strums mandolin; and Hailey (age 16), who rounds things out by jamming on the guitar.
This quartet of musicians –proud to have won first place in the Youth in Bluegrass Competition at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri – is currently performing locally in central California. The GillyGirls recently performed in Oregon and participated in a month-long tour of Wyoming with the “Concerts in the Park” series.
In addition to the live shows, the girls have an impressive discography considering their youthfulness.
“We have four albums, with the fourth being newly released as of spring 2022,” Gillingham said. That record is called “Home.”
For these musicians, “Home” was where they honed their skills starting at an early age. Gillingham said they all sang around the house as little girls, and learning instruments was soon to follow.
“Before we started on stringed instruments, we all started on piano,” she explained. “We begged our mom to let us start taking music lessons.”
The older set of twins was age seven when the lessons began, and the younger was age six. Gillingham said they all caught on so quickly that their mother soon found a local folk musician, Evo Bluestein, to get them started on stringed instruments. All four started on the mandolin but eventually landed with their instruments of choice.
“In Evo Bluestein’s music room, he had every stringed instrument you could possibly imagine,” Gillingham reminisced. “When we would do our lessons, he would let us take whatever instrument we wanted and just experiment.”
After two years of lessons, he suggested the talented sisters start their band.
“He got us our very first concert, which was at the local harvest festival in our hometown of Prather, California,” Gillingham said. “That was seven years ago, and it’s been going strong ever since.”
She said being two sets of twins is unique, but the siblings’ backstory is “even crazier.”
“We are adopted embryos,” she explained, saying they were all adopted and born into the same family through a program that places cryogenically frozen embryos with infertile couples through an adoption matching process. She said the program is called “Snowflake Embryo Adoption.”
“Just like no two snowflakes are alike,” she said, explaining how each embryo is unique and a gift from heaven. “There are over a million embryos-in-waiting who are defenseless and without a voice, but we four sisters – once frozen embryos – have been blessed to use our voices in song, sharing hope, joy, and the love of Jesus.”
She said that is their goal in “this whole musical endeavor, but to also raise awareness about this wonderful program and all the frozen embryos waiting for a chance at life. All life is precious and valuable, and because of God and our amazing parents, we are all here today!”
It was a good thing that these musically inclined sisters were adopted by parents who value music.
“Our mom loves bluegrass, and she would play her favorite bands when we were little…The Quebe Sisters, The Isaacs, Dolly, Doyle Lawson. We would also attend bluegrass festivals around the state of California and join their kids’ programs. I think listening to her favorite music and being surrounded by musicians while growing up is part of what has instilled in us a love for bluegrass as well as country and western swing music.”
They met Ken Burns when “playing for an event for his documentary on country music,” Gillingham said, adding that the wording on the cover of his film “sums up” how the girls see the type of music they play. It referenced the country genre but also applies to all ‘roots’ forms. It reads A story of America. One story at a time.
“To us, this statement really sums up Americana music and how it’s able to speak to so many people,” she explained. “The music is steeped in rich history and incorporates so many different styles. Like a giant tree with many branches…folk, jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, old-time, and gospel.”
Gillingham explained how a single song tells you so much about someone’s life, history, dreams, relationships, and sorrows, showing a depth of wisdom that goes well beyond her sixteen years, adding, “It’s our heritage and story.”