2018-07-05 / Music Scene

SPOTLIGHT on Music

Following a Son’s Footsteps
By Mark Gorman

There’s really nothing new about sons following in their fathers’ musical footsteps. The sons of Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle and Hank Williams are all now famous musicians. But this week’s featured musicians add a twist to this age-old formula of the father paving the way for the son: this son is a busy professional musician and now the father is following in his footsteps.

Meet Chris and Phil Vaillancourt.

Chris, the son, picked up the guitar by chance. He was taking private piano lessons when there was a glitch in his course schedule at school. “I was accidentally assigned to guitar class at Portsmouth Middle School in eighth grade. I wanted nothing to do with the guitar, that is, until I picked one up on the first day of class,” he said. “From there, I spent three months trying to convince my parents to switch me from classical piano to guitar lessons with Peter Piltz.”


Mark Gorman is a retired high school guidance counselor and guitarist-vocalist who performs locally each week. Mark Gorman is a retired high school guidance counselor and guitarist-vocalist who performs locally each week. Chris’s progression from beginning pre-teen to accomplished professional guitar player has been steady and fun to observe from afar. He now plays in three local bands and also does solo work at local venues.

The guitar journey of his dad has been more of a winding road than a straight line. “I got my first guitar from my sister [because] she didn’t play it,” Phil said. “I was all self-taught. I stopped playing after high school and didn’t pick it up again until 2005.”

Watching his son’s progress has been lots of fun for this proud dad. “When Chris picked up his first guitar, he knew that would be the rest of his life. By the time [he] was 14, he was playing at nightclubs and opening up for local rock bands. I still go to many of his shows and always enjoy all of the talented people he plays with.”

In a few weeks, for the first time, father and son will be appearing on the same local stage, albeit in different bands. Both will be performing in the NIMFest concert series, with Phil’s band opening up for his son’s group. Phil will be playing with The Island Rockers, while Chris is performing with Zoink Gulag and the Galactic Shag.

“Now that I have a son that plays well, I have to step up my game,” Phil said. “With some lessons from Chris and friend Rand Bradbury, it has morphed along to being so much fun, complete with butterflies.”

Chis celebrates his dad’s musical progress and is cheering him on. “I’m glad he’s surrounded by excellent and experienced players. It gives him the incentive to practice.”

To Go

WHEN: Sunday, July 22, 3 - 6 p.m.

WHERE: King Park gazebo, Wellington Avenue

ADMISSION: Free

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