By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Sheila Dutton never expected she would become a musician.
Her husband, Dean, was a tenured economics professor, and she saw music as a “true weakness.” Now the couple lead The Duttons, a multigenerational family of musicians who found fame thanks, in part, to appearances on the second season of America’s Got Talent.
“I never imagined I’d be in music, period,” she says with a laugh. “I am the most unlikely person in the world to be doing what we’re doing. I was slow to come around to the idea. I thought it was maybe a frivolous activity, going around performing for people.
“I had a series of experiences that really opened my eyes to the effect music has on people,” she adds without elaborating. “Then, after several of those experiences in the 1980s and 1990s, I supported what the kids wanted to do. My husband took an early retirement to do this full time.”
The Branson, Missouri-based band is currently in Mesa for its winter residency at the Dutton Theater Mesa at East Valley High School. The family has performed there since 2005, and in 2010, it partnered with EVHS to renovate and update its auditorium.
The Duttons have five shows during their time here, which began December 9 and wraps March 31. Christmas with the Duttons spread seasonal cheer from Saturday, December 9, to Saturday, December 23. This month, a variety show comes to EVHS from Thursday, January 18, to Saturday, January 27. Pickin’ and Grinnin’ showcases The Duttons’ favorite bluegrass and country tunes from Thursday, February 1, to Saturday, February 24. The band will “Duttonize” rock songs from Thursday, March 1, to Saturday, March 17, and it performs its most requested tracks from Thursday, March 22, to Saturday, March 31, during End the Season in Style.
The Duttons are skipping their New Year’s Eve shows this year because it falls on a Sunday, the day they do not perform.
“We feel honored to be able to do this because of the sweet experiences and the joy we feel, and the happiness that so many people experience when they come to our show,” she says.
“It leaves me with this feeling of humble gratitude, like how can anything so good happen? There’s something about the family that resonates with a lot of people. This has done so much for our relationship with our children. They knew they were loved because we practiced with them every day. It’s not the material things you do for your children. It’s the time we spent with the kids that has made a huge difference in our family.”