Over the past 19 years, siblings Annie, Alex, Benjamin, Gretchen, Jeremiah and Camille Wolaver have hit it big in the Christian arts scene as the Annie Moses Band.
The classical crossover group has performed in spaces as diverse as Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry with a mix of musical styles ranging from gospel to folk to bluegrass.
They have now expanded their horizons to include children’s television programming. Their show, “The Wonderful World of Benjamin Cello,” debuted its second season in October through KIN Media. It is an entirely family owned and operated endeavor, with all the Wolaver siblings and their spouses as the production team and lead actors.
Ranging in ages from 24-37, several of the siblings are married and have families of their own. And when they first became parents and were looking for suitable TV shows to share with their children, they weren’t satisfied with what they found.
“A lot of kids’ shows nowadays have badly done techno-pop music, or are highly politicized, or have messages that aren’t exactly Catholic-friendly,” said Benjamin Wolaver, who entered the Catholic Church with his siblings and their parents on Easter Sunday in 2013. “We wanted something better for our kids and for other Christian and Catholic families. We wanted something with the charm of ‘Mary Poppins’ and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ yet still was educational and had Christian messages to share the faith with kids.”
The Wolavers pitched their idea to a few secular networks, “and none of them accepted it,” Benjamin said. “They were especially turned off by its overtly Christian themes.”
So they purchased an old warehouse just outside of Columbia, Tennessee, and turned it into a film studio to work on the show’s episodes. KIN Media, an organization that broadcasts Christian and family-friendly programs, took on the Wolavers as their clients.
Wolaver himself, the cello player in the Annie Moses Band, plays and was the inspiration behind the show’s title character. His siblings and siblings-in-law, along with close family friends, play the other characters in the show. Their parents, Bill and Robin Wolaver, are the executive producers.
The show is about Benjamin Cello exploring the Land of the Baptized Imagination with his friends, where they learn about the world that God has created.
“There are three different settings in the Land of the Baptized Imagination,” Wolaver said. “There’s the Endless Book Tower, which is all about stories and literature. There’s the Hoedown Barn, where we learn about earth science. And there’s Pennywhistle Park, which is all about music and the arts.
“It’s really all about exploring the goodness of God’s creation,” he said.
It is important for parents to help kids form their imaginations in the faith, Wolaver said.
“Studies have shown that even elderly adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s can still remember things they learned as kids, even though they’ve basically lost all other cognitive functions,” he said. “With “Benjamin Cello,” we share Christian truths that we hope will stay with our young viewers their whole lives.
“The songs we incorporate into the show are either original Christian songs we’ve written ourselves or classic hymns that we’ve adapted to share with children,” Wolaver said. “This is what we want shaping their minds and hearts. We want to give them something so precious and so sacred that not even old age or Alzheimer’s can steal it from them.”
He highly recommends that young families consider watching Benjamin Cello with their kids. “Come and experience a show that is winsome, tactile, and beautiful in its representation of Catholicism,” Wolaver said. “It’s screen time you won’t regret.”
All who are interested can stream episodes of the show at benjamincello.com.