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Kerplunks making big noise

The Kerplunks know full well the benefit of living in a close-knit Gulf Island community.

The Kerplunks know full well the benefit of living in a close-knit Gulf Island community.

Tina Jones and Dinah D, who lead the Gabriola Island group, barely had in their clutches their first major award -- a Western Canadian Music Award for outstanding children's recording -- when they got a phone call from a friend back home last month.

A groundswell has started, they were told, and the island community of 5,000 was raising money in their honour to send the women to their next destination: the Canadian Folk Music Awards in St. John's, N.L., on Sunday.

That it started so immediately after their win at the WCMAs was a total shock, Jones said. "We had just started driving home [from Edmonton] and people already wanted to send us to Newfoundland. They wanted to book flights and hotels. We got back, and this whole motion had been initiated."

Jones, a powerful singer who graduated from the music program at Esquimalt High, couldn't be happier with the news. Though she has been around the local music scene for well over a decade, both with her own Tina Jones Band and as part of an extremely popular collective (Wunderbread), Jones never caught the big break.

The Kerplunks could be her ticket to ride. Jones ran a musical preschool when she lived in Nanaimo, and carried on teaching kids music when she moved to Gabriola. The community's recreation society asked her to run a similar program, which she and Dinah D named Melody Makers. The idea for a family-oriented project came out of that.

"The parents kept coming up to us saying, 'You've got to do something with these songs. I want to hear them at home.' So we decided to go for it and started the Kerplunks."

The group, which regularly performs at elementary schools around the Vancouver Island area, has been a smash hit with kids. "We're not dumbing anything down," Jones said of the group, which also includes Phil Wipper and Aaron Cadwaladr.

"We're playing, and it's challenging musically. We give them licence to have fun, especially in schools, where they are often taught to not say anything. We get them excited about music."

Gabriola Island, in turn, feels the same way about the Kerplunks. After the nomination at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, donation jars were quickly placed around the community. Two friends donated their Air Miles reward points, which covered flight costs, while another gave them a very specific dinner request.

"A very good friend said, 'This $100 is for nothing more than for both of you to go out and enjoy a lobster dinner in St. John's.' "

To outsiders, the hubbub might seem like an overwhelmingly compassionate gesture. That's just Gabriola, Jones said.

"I probably get approached to play benefits at least a few times a month.

"I love contributing to that, because it is something that I can give. But it's really nice to find that coming back to us."

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Nominees from the Island region in the running at Canadian Folk Music Awards, held through the weekend at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's, N.L.

World Solo Artist of the Year: Harry Manx, Harry Manx and Friends Live at the Glenn Gould Studio (Saltspring Island)

Marc Atkinson Trio, Vol. IV (Hornby Island)

Pushing the Boundaries Award: Harry Manx, Harry Manx and Friends Live at the Glenn Gould Studio (Saltspring Island)

Instrumental Group of the Year: Marc Atkinson Trio, Vol. IV (Hornby Island)

Children's Album of the Year:

Art Napoleon, Mocikan: Songs for Learning Cree (Victoria)

The Kerplunks, The Kerplunks (Gabriola Island)

Young Performer of the Year: Emma Beaton (Qualicum Beach)