2018 LINE UP
The Walking Roots Band
Festival co-hosts the Walking Roots Band are back to celebrate music and faith with their signature style of folksy acoustic string-band music with generous portions of lyricism, harmony, humor, and love -- as well as a few dashes of Appalachian rap thrown in for good measure. With a loyal local following and growing fan-base from pockets throughout the east and Midwest, the Walking Roots Band is sure to delight, entertain, and do the soul good.
Ted & Co. with the Walking Roots Band
Ted Swartz is a playwright and actor who has been mucking around in the worlds of the sacred and profane for over 20 years. Ted fell in love with acting and theater on his way to a traditional pastorate in the Mennonite church, a denomination not usually thought of as a hotbed of theatrical opportunities.
Coupling theater and seminary education, Ted became a theologian of a different sort. He discovered that at the intersection of humor and biblical story we often find new or different understandings of Scripture.
Ted’s love of acting, comedy, and collaboration with creative partner Lee Eshleman took him to performances in 45 states in the US, Canada, as well as shows in Kenya and Japan. Ted & Lee became known for a quirky and gently askew view of life, building a loyal following.
Despite the tragic loss of Lee in 2007, Ted continued the search for the intersection of comedy and faith, grief and loss deepening that exploration.
He is the creator or co-creator of over a dozen plays, and continues to perform and write across the US and abroad.
In addition to acting in solo and multiple cast original shows, Ted is an accomplished speaker and teacher, melding theater and comedy with issues of creativity, theology and faith in a profound and engaging presentation.
On Friday night at Sing Me High Music Festival, Ted teams up with the Walking Roots Band for an experimental radio show format laugh-fest inspired in part by Prairie Home Companion and wholly reflective of the creative minds behind Ted & Co. and the Walking Roots Band.
If you love country gospel music, just wait until you hear Virginia ’s own one-of-a-kind gospel group Southern Grace. The southern gospel background of these musicians combined with their love for country music will leave you wanting more. These four talented local Shenandoah Valley musicians will put a twist on your favorite gospel hymns.
Southern Grace is comprised of four members: Kenny Williams (bass guitar; lead vocals), Larry Kyger (electric and steel guitar), Tim Nicely (keyboards, vocals) and Joe Shifflett (drums).
Honeytown is a fun and upbeat four-piece group of talented musicians from Kidron, Ohio featuring Tim Shue, Nate Gundy, Kevin Himes and Toby Hazlett. The band's eclectic musical mix, original compositions, unexpected arrangements and their tightly-blended harmonies have won them a fan base all over the midwest. Their varied instrumentation ranging from fiddle to banjo, washboard to bass uke, accordion to percussive trash cans takes their audiences by pleasant surprise.
Honeytown has performed their unique blend of unpredictable folk Americana, rock and roll and progressive bluegrass for conventions, conferences, weddings, benefits, barbecues, house concerts, coffeehouses, and as the showcased musical guests for the Summit Choral Society's Bluegrass Mass, The World Beloved in Akron, Ohio. They were the featured adult worship band at the National Mennonite Church Convention in Columbus, Ohio in 2009.
John Schmid is the founder and director of Common Ground Ministries, based in Berlin, Ohio, with a focus on prisons in the Ohio Corrections System. In a typical year, John ministers in more than 50 prisons, 30 churches, four to five camps, six evangelistic crusades, 40 banquets, a street fair or two, several weekend seminars, as well as numerous concerts and living rooms.
A unique blend of country/folk/gospel and a touch of the contemporary has gained John fans in a wide variety of settings, including prisons, embassies, high schools, rest homes, churches, army bases, and concert halls. His honest, genuine voice is easy to listen to and his message reaches everyone through humor, true life stories, a love for people, and a wide selection of songs (not to mention the Holy Spirit).
John was singing in a country western band at the time of his conversion in 1972. God changed his desire for stardom in Nashville to ministry. He went to school, then overseas, back to church ministry and now back to singing (this time for Jesus). Make sure not to miss the man many know as "the Mennonite Johnny Cash."
Jim Croegaert is a singer and songwriter who has performed and toured extensively in a number of settings. Croegaert was a member of the Heard (then the Wylde Heard) and later, Hope, which gained some following as an early pioneer in the Christian contemporary rock world, though he wouldn't have claimed Christ at the time. Later he "turned toward Christ," attended seminary, and became a chaplain, while continuing to write and perform. One of Croegaert's songs featured on a Grammy-Award winning album recorded by Sandi Patty. Read more about Croegaert's fascinating life on the about page of his website, and be sure to catch his engaging set at the 3rd annual Sing Me High Music Festival.
Life changed a lot in 1959 when my mother died. She had been a teacher, and my own teacher for those periods when my leg necessitated surgery or therapy. But of course more importantly, she had been, was, is, my mother. High school was a rough time for me, made bearable by some good friends, and by playing and singing rock-n-roll in a lively (and pretty good) band, The Tempests.
After graduation it was off to college for a year, then on the road with my old band. What times those were! Turbulence at home and abroad, internally and externally. We headquartered close to Madison, which was a hotbed. Close friends ended up in Vietnam, while I joined others in protesting a war we knew was wrong. The band played on, experimenting with the many things available to us in those times, not all of them good for us. Our band was named the Heard, then (when Phillips Records signed us) the Wylde Heard. Despite our recording, we still found it necessary to cover songs by the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Byrds, etc., We could generate a good following, and make a quite comfortable living, but it was not very satisfying, and under the influence of all the things swirling within and without, even less so. When we disbanded, I eventually ended up in a group of musicians also playing especially in Wisconsin who, like myself, wanted to do original music.
The band eventually became known as Hope. We settled in the LaCrosse area, home to some of the members. None of us would have anticipated that the band we were beginning would become one of the first “Christian Contemporary” or “Jesus Rock” bands. There were no such categories, and none of us would have considered ourselves Christians when we began, although we shared an ill-defined but real spiritual hunger. When we finally turned in the direction of Christ, life changed. My own life began to heal; my quest had both ended and begun anew. I stepped onto a road that runs “ever onward.”
Valerie & Taylor Bess
Valerie and Taylor Bess are founding members of the late Port Harbour, a Harrisonburg-based band known for their unique blend of lyrical indie rock. Incredible musicians and vocalists, the couple are a dynamic creative force. In addition to writing and arranging much of the music for Port Harbour's debut album, Wake, the pair also designed the album artwork and produced the project from start to finish. Since Port Harbour's members dispersed and the band went on hiatus, Valerie & Taylor Bess have been exploring new sounds and styles. In addition to being fantastic musicians, Valerie contributed to the design of the Sing Me High Music Festival logo and Taylor engineered and produced the Walking Roots Band's latest album, Hark! A Walking Roots Band Christmas.
Since forming in the fall of 2013, Good Company, a six-member a cappella ensemble based in Harrisonburg, has performed regularly in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. Their debut album, Awake, was released in 2014, and they released a much anticipated Christmas album in December of 2016. With a wide repertoire encompassing everything from early music to contemporary pop arrangements, spirituals to classic 70s rock, and even a few original compositions, Good Company hopes that everybody can find something to enjoy and connect with in the music they share. A staple of the Sing Me High Music Festival, Good Company returns to the stage to delight audiences once again in 2018.
Reunion Vocal Band
Reunion Vocal Band (RVB) is a composite of 1960s and '70s Mennonite musicians, singers, and songwriters hailing from seven different states and one Canadian province. With an emphasis on tight vocal harmony, their repertoire features a variety of styles including folk, folk-rock, gospel, country, rock, and a bit of jazz. RVB has recorded two albums available on CD and tape. Initiated by James R. Krabill, the group formed in 1989, and has been meeting annually to jam ever since. RVB also plays in concert at least once a year.
The group’s roots are varied, but a number of its members were part of “Rebirth” at Eastern Mennonite College (now EMU), making two national tours and four recordings under that name.
Sadie Gustafson Zook and Ethan Setiawan
Sadie Gustafson-Zook is an accomplished young fiddler, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who plays in a large variety of styles from folk to swing to irish. She released her first CD, Melange on which she is backed by her parents, accomplished folk musicians Les and Gwen Gustafson-Zook. On Melange, Sadie overlays varied rich instrument tracks with tight harmonies and melodic vocals. In 2011, Sadie won a first-place in the New Song Showcase at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas with her song "Unless I Loved."
Ethan Setiawan is an Indiana-born, Boston-based musician and mandolinist who thrives on creative collaboration with others. For Setiawan, the passion lies in the synergy that happens when a group of unique individuals come together. While first and foremost an acoustic mandolin player, Setiawan also performs on mandocello and electric mandolin. Deeply invested in making the mandolin a larger part of music that it’s not normally found in, he’s situating funk and jazz on wooden instruments; one such outlet is the Ethan Setiawan Band, a group of musicians from Goshen, IN performing Setiawan’s music as well as “music not meant for the mandolin”. He’s also a member of Boston-based bluegrass groove band OctoPladd. n 2014, Setiawan won the National Mandolin Championship. These days, you can find him dividing his time between Boston, where he attends Berklee College of Music on a full ride scholarship, and his home community of Goshen Indiana. Last summer, Setiawan and Gustafson-Zook toured with a bassist under the name New Branch, and they made a Shenandoah Valley appearance at the Redwing Roots Music Festival.
As a newly formed Shenandoah Valley trio, Willow Run dances between borders of americana, country, and indie-rock with a minimalist approach. Folks who were thrilled to discover Valerie & Taylor Bess at last year's Sing Me High Music Festival will be not be disappointed in this year's gem unearthed by festival planners.
Brunner Bluegrass is a 6-piece band whose mission is to use music to share the love of Jesus with the world around them, and they do it with music featuring bluegrass, gospel and country influences. Tight harmony, banjo, guitar, dobro, mandolin and acoustic bass make up the group's string-band sound. Based in the southeastern Pennsylvania town of Souderton, the group shares its love of music in a variety of venues and settings, including community events, churches, camps and personal concerts. Brunner Bluegrass also figures into the musical heritage of festival hosts the Walking Roots Band, as Brunner Bluegrass dobro player Jerry Yoder is the father of Walking Roots Band songwriter and mandolinist/guitarist Greg Yoder.