Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 24, 2011

At the Fair: Hometown talent takes the stage

Pleasanton sisters Jenny and Ashley pursue singing, acting career

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Jenny and Ashley Cooke won't be your typical Pleasanton teenagers at the County Fair. They're going to be onstage singing and playing guitar, one of many stops for them at fairs and festivals across the country.

"Our voices are pop country," said Jenny, 15, in a telephone interview from Nashville last week. "It's really cool because it's not a recognized genre but it's like Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift. They've paved the way and we hope we can be one of those people in the future."

They both sing and Ashley, 13, plays the acoustic guitar.

"I do a lot of melody and Ashley sings harmony," Jenny said. "Since we're sisters, our voices mesh so well together. We can break it down in parts, it works out."

They've have been performing for years on TV, in major league ballparks and, more recently, on their debut EP, "Songs About You."

"This is our first year performing at festivals," said Ashley. They had just been onstage in Kentucky, Ohio and Florida.

The singing saga began when the girls were little and the family lived in Wisconsin.

"I saw the movie 'Annie' and I fell in love with it," recalled Jenny.

At the age of 5 she would perform for family friends who stopped in, and finally entered an acting competition in Chicago.

"I won a full paid scholarship to Hollywood when I was 9," Jenny recalled. "So I went to L.A. and signed with managers. I did commercials with Disney, Nickelodeon and Fox."

"I was there for the ride," Ashley said. "When I saw her, I wanted to do it as well. I did Nintendo commercials and taught myself guitar and starting writing some songs."

Although they started out singing and are now acting, they're hooked on both.

"My favorite thing I've done so far is filmed a music video, in Laguna Beach this last February," Jenny said. "We got to be on camera but we got to be singing -- there's not anything that beats making a music video."

The video, "Beach Weekend," has been featured on teen sites and music blogs as well as being added to GACTV.com and TCN.

The family has two rules as the girls pursue their singing and acting careers: The grades must stay up and they must spend family time together every weekend.

"We do an online school because we are in a different place very week," Jenny said.

"At one period we moved away to L.A.," Ashley said. "Just these last six months we've moved back to Pleasanton."

Their mother Beth travels with them while dad Dennis remains in Pleasanton and commutes to Newark for work. But each weekend the family is reunited, including their three dogs, a teacup yorkie named Brooke Cooke; Sammy, a small purebred poodle; and Benji, also small, that the girls lovingly describe as "a total mutt."

They attended Vintage Elementary and Pleasanton Middle School before their careers took off so they have plenty of friends when they are home in Ruby Hill.

"Every Friday I like to go downtown, and hang out at High Tech and Coldstone Creamery," Ashley said. "Also Meadowlark Dairy."

"It's the best ice cream I've ever tasted," she added, explaining that she has now done taste tests all over the country.

"We have a movie theater at our house, and we have friends over to watch movies and play pool," Jenny said. "We're also really grounded in our church, Cornerstone Church in Livermore."

When onstage they like to dress simply but in outfits that make a statement, they said. Since they're the same size they share their clothes, which is fun although can be somewhat confusing to those working with them, they added with a laugh.

Jenny and Ashley performed at the Alameda County Fair on Wednesday and will be on the Bandstand Stage at 6 p.m. June 29 and 30. Share in the fun as two of Pleasanton's own bring their sound back home.

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