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Baker Boyer employees find holiday harmony as a cappella group, The Bank Notes

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The Bank Notes

The Bank Notes sing before the tree-lighting ceremony last week at Heritage Park in downtown Walla Walla.

In their day jobs, the eight members of The Bank Notes work in various roles at Walla Walla’s Baker Boyer Bank.

But this time of year, voices are what they most frequently lend to the community.

In early 2017, a couple of bank employees got the idea to start an in-house a cappella group with plans to perform a few carols at the company’s branches.

Now in its third year, its songs are in demand from service organizations, community events and more.

Last weekend, The Bank Notes performed carols in Heritage Square Park for the city’s tree-lighting ceremony. That performance was booked after the city manager heard the group sing the national anthem as a kickoff to the community Veterans Day Parade.

On Friday, the group will take a three-hour tour through each of its branches, including at Wheatland Village, to perform a lineup of about eight songs in each spot.

This will be followed Monday with caroling for the Exchange Club’s holiday luncheon at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center.

Founder Tricia Agee, Baker Boyer’s marketing coordinator and content manager, said she and a former colleague got the idea because they loved to sing.

Agee is the daughter of a choir teacher at a private school in California. The music bug didn’t just bite Agee in the vocal chords. She also is a violinist in the Walla Walla Symphony. In fact, on the night of the tree lighting, Agee sang her soprano parts between her afternoon and evening Hogwarts for the Holidays symphony performance.

As word got around about plans for the group, Agee discovered more colleagues with pipes.

When Marketing Director Jim Wilson joined the bank in October 2017, it didn’t take long for Agee to learn he was a singer. Inspired by his daughter, who has performed in a number of a cappella groups that include “Deep Dish” in Chicago, Wilson joined to add his bass notes to the mix.

“I think it really adds to the culture here of people doing what they love,” Agee said of the group.

Although the size of the group changes as employees have come and gone, there seems to be no problem finding voices. With eight members currently, The Bank Notes have what seems to be an ideal number at two people per part for songs and arrangements gleaned by Agee.

Rehearsals are relatively few since the informal criteria for joining is having experience with a choir and being able to read music. Plus, the song parts are familiar enough the longer they sing together. This makes it possible for employees to be part of the group and also maintain their separate commitments to work and family.

Over time, it’s also changed its repertoire with a focus on both energy and songs that will challenge the performers. “Christmas Time is Here” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Carol of the Bells” are among favorites.

One side effect of the group for the Baker Boyer team is that it brings together people who don’t necessarily otherwise have an opportunity to work directly together among the 180 or so employees spread among five branches.

“I think in a lot of ways, we are a great manifestation across the bank of participating in community events,” said Wilson, who’s credited with brainstorming the group’s clever name.

“This gives us a way,” added Agee, “to interact with the community rather than just through our own personal way.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.