Bits 'n' Pieces: Orphan Train mainstay rolls on

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Orphan Train seems like an appropriate name for Aram Arslanian's band.

The 49-year-old Vancouver singer-songwriter, who released his fourth album last year, has worked with a variety of musicians in the group over the years. But the consistent thing about Orphan Train is his music and his playing.

"It's pretty much me, my songs, and whoever I can gin up to play with me," Arslanian said. "Right now I've been doing Orphan Train as a trio. It's kind of power pop. It's pretty rock 'n' roll. The three of us, we have a pretty big sound."

In the past, his albums have been more mellow, but his newest one, "Electric Junk," is a lot more rowdy and upbeat, he said.

Arslanian grew up in the Boston area, then moved to Los Angeles before ending up in Vancouver's Shumway neighborhood about five years ago. He and his wife, Sarah Arslanian, who are both professional musicians, were looking for a good place to raise a family; after checking out the city, they were hooked, he said.

"We bought a house about two weeks after checking out Vancouver," Arslanian said. "We love it. I love Portland, too, and I'm pretty ensconced in the music scene there, but Vancouver is just totally our speed."

Arslanian also runs a recording studio in town called Kingsley Garden Studio, where he's produced several other singer-songwriter acts from the region.

Orphan Train will play 9 p.m. Feb. 22 at Brickhouse Bar & Grill, 109 W. 15th St.

"I want people to come and dance," Arslanian said. "I love that. There's very little in the way of slow moody songs."

For more check out http://www.kingsleygardenmusic.com.

— Sue Vorenberg

Union senior named top state volunteer

"I saw all these kids doing all these amazing things," said Union High School senior Adam Griffis, 17, recalling his inspiration to join the Youth Council of the American Red Cross, Southwest Washington region.

That was four years ago, and since then Griffis has made many amazing contributions of his own: organizing blood drives at different schools and starting a Red Cross club at Union; fundraising for disaster services and teaching first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation to his peers and the community. Now, as president of the regional Youth Council, he spends about 10 hours a week overseeing everything about youth and the Red Cross in this area; he recently figured out that he's devoted a total of about 630 hours to the cause -- so far.

For all that, Griffis was just named one of two Washington State youth volunteers of the year by Prudential Financial and its Spirit of Community Awards. He won a $1,000 college scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in early May, where he's in the running to be named one of 10 national youth volunteers -- out of an original pool of 5,000 nominees.

"It's a lot of work, but it is highly rewarding," he said. "The great feeling of helping others is worth tenfold the amount of effort you put in."

Learn more at http://www.redcross.org/wa/vancouver. Click on Programs & Services to find the Youth Services link.

— Scott Hewitt

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.