OCEAN CITY – Singer/songwriter Frankie Moran will always remember the 2014 Berlin Fiddler’s Convention as the precise moment his 12-year-old son Cole took center stage.
“I think what I remember the most was the thunderous applause after we finished our song, and being really thankful that I was wearing my sunglasses, because they were hiding my tears of joy,” said Moran.
Their performance culminated in the second place prize in the group competition and a “most inspirational performer” prize for Cole, but the moment instantly went down as one of the most memorable in the Fiddler’s Convention’s 22-year history.
Nate Clendenen, local musician and music director of the Fiddler’s Convention, was standing just offstage and remembers the moment well.
“I’m always amazed at the impact music can have on both those that play and those that listen,” said Clendenen. “Music is life, and everyone that experienced Blind Wind’s performance last year was affected by it. Everyone. It was truly awesome.”
The Birth Of Blind Wind
Cole, now 13, was born blind, and was diagnosed with Charge Syndrome shortly thereafter. It’s a rare pattern of birth defects that can cause heart and breathing problems, along with a range of other medical conditions. In Cole’s case, those conditions include significant cognitive delays, apraxia, which inhibited his speech until age 5, and early onset scoliosis.
Frankie, a Stephen Decatur High School alum, and his wife Jenny, left the Eastern Shore and moved to a Baltimore suburb to be close to Cole’s doctors, but soon realized that their young son not only had an incredible passion for music, but also had perfect pitch.
By age 3, Frankie turned Cole onto the harmonica and by age 7, he was starting to turn heads with his playing.
“He wouldn’t just noodle around with random melodies, he would play songs over and over in his room until he got them note perfect,” said Frankie Moran. “Music has really helped him come out of his shell and connect with the world.”
Last year’s Fiddler’s performance didn’t just launch Cole’s talents into the spotlight, it started the father-son band that has been on quite the musical ride covering countless miles of open road, more than 40 gigs this year, and an album that has sold through its first pressing of 500 copies.
“We had to pick a name to enter the competition and we picked ‘Blind Wind.’ Berlin was the start of all of this,” he said. “The crowd was so incredibly kind to us and so we started a website, booked a few more gigs and then the interview requests started coming in.”
Blind Wind has been featured on television, radio, newspapers and magazines in small markets here in the region and in larger markets nationwide in the past year, but despite the attention and the growing number of fans, Frankie says life is still pretty much the same.
“Day to day, not much has changed,” said Moran. “The driving force is to make sure that Cole has fun and we get to visit new places as a family and create an experience for him through music. So we are looking to do some dates a bit further south, and do some more festivals too.”
Coming Full Circle
Blind Wind will perform again this year at the Fiddler’s Convention on Saturday and Frankie admits it will be exciting to come back to the place where it all started.
“Cole is excited to play, because that’s what Cole loves to do,” he said. “If it were up to him, he’d give up school and go full on with music, but just like any 13-year-old, we are teaching him that if he doesn’t do well in school, he can’t get up on stage, so that’s been a great motivating tool for us as a family.”
Moran says spectators will see a more polished act than last year, and they will see and hear the confidence his young son has accrued over the course of a year’s worth of stage experience.
“He’s more polished, his repertoire is bigger, and he’s so comfortable on the stage,” he said. “The thing that impresses me the most about him is his willingness to try and get better every day. He’s just growing up right in front of me.”
Stop And Stare
Moran remembers back to a time when Cole was first diagnosed, and he struggled with the harsh realization that he might never be able to take his son surfing or play catch in the backyard. But now, when he watches the crowds react to Cole’s harmonica playing at shows, he feels full of fatherly pride and untenable happiness.
“I’m working during the show to make it look easy and play all the right notes,” he admits, “but sometimes I have to catch myself from getting lost in the moment and just marveling at how far he has come, because he has, and we are so proud of him. But even in those moments that you want so desperately to get lost in, I have to remind myself that it’s time to sing the second verse.”
Cole is now an eighth grader at the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore, and his newfound notoriety has not gone unnoticed by his peers, and his teachers.
“I think his classmates always thought he was cool because he was the kid who could play the harmonica,” said Moran, “but I think the teachers have been blown away the most. We’ll send a box of CD’s into school and the box always seems to come home empty.”
Moran says doing a show in Berlin always feels like coming home, but this year he says the Berlin Fiddler’s Convention feels a lot like coming back to the beginning.
“The only thing we can give back to people to thank them for launching us on this great journey is our music,” said Moran, “and we hope people like it as much as they did last year.”