August, 2021: Thank you to all who've read, watched, and commented!
The family and I simply can't believe the response. - G

A Miner Family History

Welcome to this private page, which will provide background on a personal labor of love I recently completed.
I hope you’ll give it a look. –
Gregg Miner (

The opening shot explains...

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?!

It took a while. After seeing the movie Coco in late 2017, I brought up our ancestors with my family, who dutifully started to dig out photos (my brother Mark had already done most of the genealogy). Coincidentally, while moving my parents out of their home of 60 years in 2015, several additional boxes of photos and scrapbooks we had no idea anyone had, let alone saved, were discovered!

Meanwhile, I arranged the poignant theme song above for solo harp guitar, which I played at the next Harp Guitar Gathering. In 2019, I recorded it for posterity, without any upcoming album project for it.  Hmmm….why not use it as backdrop for the photos we had discovered?!

Except it was only 2 minutes long…good for a couple of relatives at best! So I removed my acrylic nails and got back on the pedal harp after 15 years, arranging another section, which surely would do it? Nope – not enough! And so, in turn, I scrounged the museum room for instruments and ideas and created a full 25-minute soundtrack (instrumentation details below).

As I worked on the music, the storyboarding and execution of the “elaborate slide show” took a full year (my friend Jon Pickard helped me get started with some ideas, and I realized I needed film-editing software, which was another learning curve).

But I did it.

My sister Kris (and others): “But who do you think will watch this?”

Fair point. Perhaps few. Honestly? It started just as a way to try and archive names and faces of my immediate ancestors, then evolved into a love letter to my family (we're extremely fortunate to still have both our parents). I well understand that most of you may care little about these assorted grandparents and aunts and uncles of mine, and 25 minutes is a long time to spend with someone else's family you've never met. And yet…I’m sharing it because:

  • Besides my obvious immediate family, old and new friends of ours may appreciate it.

  • Other musical friends and fans might get a kick out of my “back-story.”

  • The music is something I painstakingly crafted to be as distinctive and emotional as possible. All along, I intended for it to serve as a standalone soundtrack, so people could at least enjoy that part of the film (and I now offer it separately on my Bandcamp page).

  • If nothing else, I thought that this (yet-another-obsessive) project might inspire others to investigate, share and archive their own family history, stories and images. I can tell you that my siblings and I found ourselves in tears numerous times while working on this! If not the end result, the journey alone will reward you, I promise. And if you do create something, you’re welcome to use any of my own soundtrack music if it suits your purpose (private personal projects only; while I registered the music track, it cannot be used publicly without a pricey sync license).

For playback I highly recommend quality headphones or speakers. And if you’re curious about the instruments you hear, please come back and check out the details below.

Otherwise, here is the link for viewing on Vimeo.  

NOTE: The video is packed with archival detail (dates, etc.) which necessarily go by fairly briskly.  Don't try to take it all in at once!
I also burned a second version that is 25% slower (but without music) for those who prefer to linger longer over the photos and captions. - Gregg  

Video links:

Standard video with soundtrack  

Slower slide show without music

Vimeo Options:

1. Click the Expand symbol to expand to full screen

2. Click Play

3. Adjust volume as desired

* To make the player scroll bar disappear, move mouse cursor up and off to the side. If it doesn't, go back to non-expanded screen.

4. If you're so moved, feel free to leave a comment!

The Tune

The Instruments

Your comments

The Tune

The Instruments

I started things out with the original harp guitar solo (this is Stephen Bennett’s original Merrill #1), but later changed the ending to segue into the next arrangement.

The next section consists of a Gibson mandolin “orchestra,” with 3 tracks each of mandolin, mandola and mandocello and 1 of mandobass.

But that was just the backdrop. For the lead instrument, I kept hearing violin – and it would have to be a charming “period” fiddle, as this was to score my Dad’s parents’ early days. Remembering the fantastic player on my own HGM “Christmas Present” compilation (he did a duo with the late Tom Shinness), I asked if he’d give it a try. Needless to say, Nashville's Stephan Dudash’s gypsy-style 5-string viola was everything I could’ve hoped for.

Next...I had no idea what to do for my Aunt Dot – more of the same? But once her video section was blocked out, I knew I just had to try an Africa-themed version of the Disney tune. I based the tempo and bookend vamps on the great pop version from the Coco soundtrack. I snagged a free authentic percussion sample from the web, warped it to fit the click as the background, then threw half of the 4 dozen instruments in my African case over it (also mandobass). I did have to pitch shift some of the “tuned” instruments to fit the key. Modern kalmibas and a valiha do the melody (the kora didn’t cut it), and I had my brother Mark add his own djembe to the last vamp (as, unlike I, he’s taken classes).


I thought ukulele might sound appropriate for my Dad, so used the Duane Noble harp uke. I then tweaked the arrangement for Mom.

I already had the harp arrangement recorded (Lyon & Healy gold Style 23) – it could’ve gone in many places. Naturally, my parents’ wedding was the obvious choice.

I next tweaked Stephan’s viola part into a new standalone solo that worked great dramatically. It segues into a new key and the next arrangement:

I have no idea how, when or why I came up with this idea, but I found myself playing Bach’s G Major Cello Prelude on the mandocello and thought it would make a cool motif for a sweet and emotional rendition of the pop tune. I tried a lot of instruments for its melodic duo partner and finally one clicked, though the stringing is apples and oranges: a Russian harp guitar. Its gut strings produce a gorgeous singing treble. Its standard tuning is already an open G chord; I then tuned the sub-basses to match (GBDG), as you can hear at the close. I really enjoyed working out this one. Both instruments incorporate light and dark tones, and both have a large range (so I had them cross – twice – to get my money’s worth).

Still needing to expand the soundtrack and starting to panic, I knew a piano should be under my piano-playing Aunt Glad, so enlisted my talented friend Brad Hoyt. He gave me a few takes, each better than the last (so naturally, I ended up using the first). A gorgeous arrangement.

The Miner “story” could have gone in any direction (and, in fact, I could only “circle back” over and over to get everybody in, in any sort of logical way), but here I chose to continue we kids from where we left off. That meant High School…and guitars! I had a rhythmic “folk-rock” thing in my head, but guitars were too boring and obvious. So I switched to this group of fretless zithers, with my trusty Marxophone handling the melody (two tracks worth, re-tuned to get the chromatics).


I did want one guitar to open and close the piece, and again, couldn’t find the right sound in the collection until trying this Washburn terz lyre guitar (silk & steel strings, tuned 3 steps up, played with a leather pick…details!). Mandobass and percussion on a banjo head provided the rest of the acoustic "rock band."

Finally, I decided to musically bookend the film, so did a re-edited/mixed reprise of the harp guitar solo, now with its original ending.


Hope you enjoy it! - Gregg

For more on the museum instruments, visit The Miner Museum of Vintage, Exotic & Just Plain Musical Instruments


Friends from around the world:

Nancy Hurrell (harpist): “Gregg, OMG! That is a fabulous video. I loved it so much. And the soundtrack is gorgeous, tugs at your heartstrings (harp strings?), and such great arrangements. I loved all the instruments and the pedal harp segment was wonderful! What a family, what a story. It's America's story. And there's so much music-making in your family history. Such an incredible project and really shows America's melting pot of cultures. Thanks for including me. Your video moved me to tears more than once. Just brilliant. When I read that your family thought no one would sit through it, I thought, you don't have to know these people. It's so interesting and it's a universal story on ‘families.’ As I watched it, memories flooded back of my own summer vacations growing up and then the trips with our own boys.”

Boston Biography Group: “What a great video – watched with interest and admiration." “Fabulous and fascinating! Brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing!"

Pam Marshall (TV editor/producer): “Brilliant job, and huge kudos to everyone involved for the Herculean effort!  A truly loving tribute to your family… I’m going to play it again now and just listen to the beautiful music with my eyes closed.”

Dean Brown (childhood friend who lived on the same block in Clarendon Hills): “Gregg, thank you very much for the link to your family's history. It has to be one of the best things that I've ever seen. You should be very proud. Seeing things from the 1800's to how I remember you all as a kid…I have to admit it made this old bald guy cry. As always the music was incredible!”

Wini Matheson (descendant of Hollywood movie star Wini Shaw): “An idyllic and charmed life by all. Thank you so much for including me. I loved it! This is an incredible treasure and gift to your loved ones. I am also truly impressed by how well documented all of these lives are. I can't believe the treasure trove of photos. You have rivaled and surpassed me in that department! Last of all ...bravo on the soundtrack. The music is poignant and lovely."

Edward Bulak (my high school Cinema Study teacher): “It’s fascinating, mesmerizing in fact. Once you climb aboard, you decide you’re committed to the entire journey!”

Aluisio Laurindo Jr. (multi-string guitarist): “Thanks for sharing your family's history! A history of love, commitment, work and creativity. It's amazing how dense, exciting and full of quality everything you do is! Again I say, thank you very much!”

Tim Brookes (author, Guitar: An American Life, etc.): "Nice work!!!"

Jim Milio (Producer, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc.): “It's really great…there are many great photos, moments, etc...excellent job, my friend. I am sure you lit up many lives....including some not in your family.”

Bill Fiorella (my instrument restorer): "Wow…What an incredible family you have! Your soundtrack is stunning! Absolutely incredible, Gregg."

Darcy Kuronen (retired former BMFA Curator of Musical Instruments): “I think your family video is amazing, and congrats on all the effort I know went into producing it. I'd love to do something like this myself someday.”

Geoff Kline (lawyer, guitarist): “Quite the labor of love Gregg. A thoroughly enjoyable view & listen...I never felt like bailing. The music was really well done. Kudos to all involved.”

Jayson Dobney (Curator in Charge, Musical Instruments, the MET): “What a beautiful piece you created about your family – and your arrangement is gorgeous. Congratulations.”

Andy Hagel (Northrop-Grumman): “Heartwarming! ❤  "  

Rick Hilsabeck (high school best friend) & Sarah Pfisterer (the Phantom and Christine in the touring production): “As tropical storm Elsa was raging outside, we sat in bed with our coffee and watched your beautiful Miner family documentary. It came as no surprise that first, the soundtrack is exquisite – perfect. Always just the right touch of sentimentality and nostalgia. Oh, and the brilliant and deft playing. Beautifully arranged and mixed. Superb. Obviously your connection to the material made this a once in a lifetime creative experience. We loved seeing your family tree come to life as the moving slide show made its way through time. Well done.”

Matt Redman (professional multi-instrumentalist): “Even not knowing these people, the photos and information you have is a welcome step into their lives. What a challenge to get that much info in that time, whilst it was fast, it had a great rhythm which we as viewers became accustomed to. Anything before the early Victorian period is really rare to have, so to go back to the Norman conquest is an outstanding achievement for any genealogist, amateur or professional. The level of stuff about every one of them is mind-blowingly comprehensive, never seen a family story presented with this much, and I'm sure you had to have leave some out. So glad you had a song plugger in your line and so, SO many musicians - you were destined to do this, why was I surprised to see this many? And the engineering/technical professional relationship to your dad's career. Don't think I'm not going to go back and study the patents!”

Dave Ives (high school rock bandmate): “Outstanding, Gregg! A beautifully produced family ‘documentary.’ Loved the music, and your arrangement is very impressive and moving. Your photo compilation and editing are PBS-worthy. Charming and funny to see those pictures of you and your family. Geez, I'm even in there! What a wonderful tribute to your family.”

Paul Ruppa (professional mandolinist, Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, etc.): “Typical. . .exceeding my expectations, inspiring and setting another bar too high. Thanks for keeping me in the loop. Particularly loved the Wisconsin dairy references and the Minerian, story-telling continuity.”

 Michael Carlson (pastor, high school music friend): “Absolutely wonderful, Gregg. A real labor of love!”

Jennifer Petes (Art Deco Society friend): “Absolutely BEAUTIFUL Gregg! I had to send to my dad as I know he’ll love your music and the story behind it. I come from a family of picture takers but unfortunately don’t have any from as far back as you do. What a rich and musical family history and how wonderful that you have so lovingly preserved and presented it. Thank you so much for sharing!"

Alisa York (née Lisa Carnall, childhood friend who shared my exact birthday): "Wow - just wow - what a great family video! It was so fun to see all the family resemblances in older relatives as well as younger pics of Bob!! I loved the music and the stories. I do remember those elephant tables but had no connection to the wonderful work done by your Aunt. So many interesting characters, loved the information on the farm and the great work done by your grandparents. I have been collecting family history from Nebraska and Colorado and you have inspired me to take on something to record it all. Great work Miner and West Family!!"  

Ben & Pauli Carnes (ex-Woodland Hills neighbors): "Gregg! You're an inspiration to all of us. Beautifully put together and, as usual, an audiologic treat. You are fortunate to have such documentation of so much family history and I'm happy for you and the generations to come that it has been recorded for all to enjoy."

Daniel Wheeldon (AMIS scholar/ friend): "Thanks for this Gregg! It's a reminder that family is big, and winds its way in all sorts of directions across the generations. It also shows that 'history' is only a small number of overlapping lifetimes away. Loved the music too."

Filipo Bertipaglia (Italian guitar virtuoso): "Man, I gotta tell’ve made me cry...when I have seen you and are amazing guys, and you Gregg are a genius, my friend. The soundtrack arrangement is just sublime; every variation is so pure and beautiful in its musicality and the sound is terrific!!! How can you do that??? Amazing. Just astounding. Thank you for this movie."

Friends from the Harp Guitar Gatherings:

Stephen Bennett: "For now, just wow!"

Jon Pickard: “Awesome Gregg - SO great to see where you took it - and all the intricate work I missed out on! Loved every minute. Really wonderful music. Thank you for letting me be a tiny part of the project.”

Bob and Carol Hartman: “To Gregg and family - Carol and I sat down and admired, revered and just plain enjoyed your production of preserving your heritage. It inspired me to wish I could do the same for our family. The background music was adapted and performed with the highest degree of professionalism. It kept me wondering, what will come next? The pages of photos used in the video were also additions to the realization of the building of the musical piece. All-in-all, a lovely compilation of family memories. ‘Remember Me’  Know that you and Jaci will be remembered by our family."

Dave & Tone Powell: “Very inspiring Gregg! Great production on the tune, love the instrumentation and the vintage family photos, thanks for sharing!”

Philippe Fouquet: “Bravo Gregg, Tu as fait un superbe travail. L'histoire que tu racontes est très émouvante. La reconnaissance que tu exprimes à ta famille est magnifique. Bravo pour le travail musical. Quel bel hommage ! Amitiés  Philippe"
(Translation): Well done, Gregg. You did a great job. The story you tell is very moving. The gratitude you express to your family is wonderful. Well done for the musical work. What a beautiful tribute!"

Bruce Labadie: “Very nicely done Gregg! Although I didn’t know the people in the photographs, the images and music seem to transport me into the world in the video. It gave me a greater sense of who you are and where you’ve come from. I was deeply touched by the music!!! Incredible performance Gregg!!!!!!!!!”

Jeff Pike: “Amazing, beautiful, and inspiring. What a wonderful gift to your family!

Steve and Nancy Silva: Steve: “Gregg, thanks so much for sharing this project with us. I feel privileged to call you my friend. You are surely one of the world's great historians. And what can I say about the music and amazing performances. Simply amazing! My favorite scene was the kids sitting around the Mousetrap game. That one jogged some fond memories for me.” Nancy: "What a beautiful and brilliant treasure you have created, Gregg. Thanks for the opportunity to view it. What rich history!"

Duane Noble: “Absolutely beautiful! A labor of love for sure. I enjoyed it very much, Gregg!”

Mike Doolin: “Gregg, your ability to convey emotion through music is in peak form. I was really moved. And you have a fascinating family! Although I obviously don't know most of them, you present their stories in such an engaging way that I wish I did know them!"

Brad Hoyt: “Well done Gregg! It's good to know that many years from now, perhaps hundreds of years from now, this video will cause people to remember. I may have to wait before playing this for my family though; my wife and daughter already have a hard time getting through the original tune without tearing up; I'm not sure what would happen if they were subjected to 25 minutes! I hope the songwriters get a chance to hear this magnum opus version of their tune while being introduced to your family.”

Rob Smith: “Ken Burns better look out! Triple-threat Gregg Miner has just delivered a gorgeous 'River of Life' tapestry that pulls the heart strings with a lovely musical accompaniment. My hat's off. Well done, Sir G...”

Chuck Thompson: “This is the most amazing and wonderful family tribute in the world. Love the music. I am so moved by this.”

Nate Blaustein: “Have listened to the music several times. Wonderful.”

Michael Schreiner: “Thanks for sharing your history. Love the music. That’s one of my favorite movies. It is a story about family history like you have recorded here.”

Kevin Stevenson: “My goodness...I watched this with my six year old grandson in my lap. Moved to tears was I. I'm so glad to have met you, Gregg. Blessings on the next several chapters.”

Sean Woolley: “Loved this. Thanks for sharing this with all of us. Love to you all!”

Lou Alano: “Really nice music, Gregg. Very impressive and touching throughout.”

Tommy Loose: “Very impressive and very interesting! Thanks for sharing.”

Tom Cook: “OMG Gregg. You touched my heart this morning. So much history, so many paths, so much life! Beautifully orchestrated and put together. I especially enjoyed the Door County photo of sailing in the Butterfly. Also the pictures of award from Hoard’s Dairyman. Located right here in Fort Atkinson! Kudos to you and your family. And much love.”

Verlene Schermer: ”Wow Gregg! So beautiful! The music, the photos, and the stories! Thanks for sharing your family history and your amazing talents with us!"

Jake White: “Love your arrangements, Gregg! Beautiful.”

Randall Sprinkle: “Bravo Gregg, Well done.”

Karen Ashbrook: “So many wonderful photos! I love that song and use it at the hospital. I loved all your versions of it – never tiring! I particularly enjoyed the djembe version of it. Your Aunt Gladys was so interesting. I didn't realize you came from such a musical family! Thank you for sharing this.”

Rich Poser: “Wonderfully produced, performed and arranged. I especially like the way you've blended the archival photos with modern ones, the stories and the logical presentation. And of course the musical numbers.”

Dan LaVoie: “What an absolutely lovely video!!”

Kinloch Nelson: "Well that was absolutely fantastic! Beautiful! Beautifully put together, and lovely (!) playing. What a terrific tribute. Thanks for sharing this. Really - great playing and many interesting pictures."


Kelli Schneider (Jaci's sister): “Gregg, this was a fabulous video and I loved it! It was truly a fantastic peek into the past and the music fit perfectly. I watched it three times.”

Heather Schneider (Kelli's daughter): "Congratulations, Uncle Gregg. This video was amazing and thank you for sharing."

Robert Miner (my dad): “Dear Gregg, It’s June 24, 2021, our 71st anniversary and I just watched your video (w/o music). I can’t begin to say what an accomplishment this video is. It is a work of art and love. I didn’t tear up watching it but had a lump in my throat many times. Many of these old photos I had never seen and don’t know where they came from but I know Kris had a lot to do with that. You have made our family seem famous although we are certainly not, but very special I believe in many ways. Thank you immensely for your labor of love. I’m in awe of your work!!”

Barb Miner (my sister-in-law): “Well, I am almost speechless. I FINALLY had time to sit alone on the sofa, earbuds in, feet up, glass of water at my side (wishing it were wine or Champagne) and I watched and listened to your beautiful love letter to the family. I was able to see bits and pieces as you and Mark were emailing back and forth. I was so impressed with your earliest creations. YET, this finished product is truly a work of art. You have captured your family history in photos and genealogical facts and have put the most beautiful soundtrack to the whole presentation. What an incredible job of pairing the right tonality of the instruments to capture the mood, scene or people being represented. This is a treasure. Thank you for creating it and sharing it with all of us.”

Rick Heronime (Jaci's cousin): "The music blew me away! I ended up running it just as background music for a couple of cycles. Gregg, you are truly a musical genius!!!!"

Film out-take: an original postcard from Door County:

Our joint trip in 2009:

Yes, we found the same overlook!

Copyright 2021 Gregg Miner