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Trio provides perfect three-part harmony

June 19, 2010
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - The women of V.I.P. are in perfect three-part harmony, both on stage and off.

The Negaunee natives, Toni Saari and sisters Karen Dishaw and Barb Paquette, have been part of the local music scene for years in various bands and solo projects. Coming together to form V.I.P. has been a labor of love for them.

"We're into our third year of being together," Dishaw said. "It's almost three years since our first gig. Can you believe it?"

Paquette said: "It's our passion, this music. We're so fortunate to play the music we love."

"We picked up the guitars and started singing," Dishaw said. "And here we are."

The three laughed when they started ticking off their shared history: Negaunee born, St. Paul's Catholic School as youngsters, Negaunee High School as they got older...

Fact Box


Toni Saari

Karen Dishaw

Barb Paquette

Upcoming gigs:

n Interational Food Fest, Marquette, July 2

n Festival of Treasures, Ishpeming, July 2

n Old Towne Festival, Negaunee, July 3

n Ishpeming Summer Concert Series, Aug. 19

Take 5:

We asked the women of V.I.P. for a list of five musicians-musical groups whose one might hear one of their gigs. Their list:

n Eva Cassidy

n Pink Floyd

n Little Big Town

n Joan Baez

n John Mellencamp

But they each have their own musical history.

"I have been playing for 30 years," said Saari, who contributes vocals and guitar work for V.I.P. "I was a single for awhile and then got into various bands and duos. I guess I was floating between bands, you could say.

"I didn't have lessons but I knew if I didn't learn guitar, it would be tough to be in a band," she said. "I knew it would really help being a single, especially."

Dishaw broke into a huge smile when recalling her musical background.

"I picked up the guitar at age 12 and took lessons from Mr. A. Mr. A!," she said, referring to Gerald Anderson, who became Negaunee High's band teacher. "I was in the band Rockin' Ray for awhile and in a band with Barb called One for the Road. I was in St. Paul's Concert Choir, which was a great outlet for me.

"And I learned lots about music in high school from Mary Trolla," she said, referring to the school's longtime vocal music teacher.

For Paquette, her musical start came in high school chorus with Trolla as her teacher, too.

"I started singing with the chorus then was in Kickback for awhile and One for the Road," she said.

Dishaw said Saari recruited her for V.I.P.

"She said, 'hey girl, want to be in a band?' I told her 'my sister sings, too' and here we are," she said. "Barb and I have the sister thing going with harmony...

"And with Toni it all blends in," Paquette finished the sentence. "And here we are."

Saari said the first gig was at Ishpeming's annual Festival of Treasures back in 2007.

"We had to come up with a name and we said 'V.I.P.' and it has stuck," she said.

They joke about what the letters stand for: Violet Indigo Purple is one recent suggestion.

"V.I.P. doesn't really stand for anything," Saari said. "We had it on our first poster and it stayed with us."

The music the trio performs is an eclectic mix.

"We call it comfortable music," Dishaw said. "It's the stuff people can sing along with. They could be 20 or they could be 60, but we look out and they're all singing every song with us."

V.I.P. plays all sorts of gigs, from bar appearances to festivals to private parties.

"We do a lot of benefits as well," Saari said.

Originals are being written by Saari and Dishaw, together.

"They write some beautiful songs," Paquette said.

One more special touch came when Saari was shopping one day.

"We had talked about putting scarves on the mic stands. Toni found these beautiful scarves and said 'let's do it,'" Paquette said. "It's perfect."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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