Ross Sutter

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Sutter Brothers to Perform at Literary Witnesses

Poet Barton Sutter and his brother, singer Ross Sutter, will highlight the ancient connection between poetry and music at noon Sunday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. "This Is the Day: Rejoicing Anyway" will marry Bart Sutter's poetry with Ross Sutter's arrangements of traditional folk songs.

Barton Sutter is the only author to have won a Minnesota Book Award in three categories. Ross Sutter has appeared on "A Prairie Home Companion" and at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Their appearance today is part of the Literary witnesses program.

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Best entertainment bets for Jan. 11-17

Saturday: Roving troubadour Ross Sutter will swing by the downtown St. Paul library to perform folk songs and children's music from early America and northern Europe. Sutter is a ubiquitous performer at museums, libraries and schools, but don't confuse that with ordinary. He is a masterful musician who plays, among other instruments, guitar, button accordion and bagpipes and who has a gift for telling stories. 11:15 a.m.; Central Library, 90 W. Fourth St., St. Paul; free; 651-266-7034 or

Duluth News Tribune

Best of Arts & Entertainment 2012

The News Tribune asked a bunch of writers, directors, instigators, filmmakers and administrators to submit an A&E highlight from 2012 — preferably something they were not involved with creating. This was Tony Dierckins selection:

“Duluth’s Bart Sutter released a new collection of poems this year, ‘The Reindeer Camps and Other Poems.’ I’m not much of a poetry reader, but I found this collection touching, thought-provoking and often hilarious. His dog poems particularly struck a nerve. But it was his book release that truly impressed me. He and his brother Ross performed … so instead of simply reading some poems (wonderful as they are) there was also music, sing-alongs, guest readings and a lot of laughter. Thoroughly entertaining.”

Tony Dierckins is a local historian who published “Lost Duluth” with Maryanne C. Norton in May. The book has 400 photographs and sketches and tells the stories of innovators who built the city. Barton Sutter released his book of poetry earlier this year and held a book release party with his brother at Somers Hall at the College of St. Scholastica.

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts Website

Education Award: Ross Sutter 

"For nearly 30 years, Ross Sutter has impacted Minnesota through his work with schools and cultural organizations. His school residencies are a lively excursion into diverse cultures, with an emphasis on student involvement. His influence has spread out from his home on Minneapolis’ Nicollet Island to communities large and small throughout Minnesota as well as elsewhere in the U.S. and in Europe. Sutter plays an array of folk instruments—guitar, bodhran, button accordion, dulcimer, bones—but is perhaps best known for his singular baritone voice, performing renditions of Irish, Scottish, Scandinavian, and American traditional and popular songs. Sutter nurtures a passion for the arts in schools and cultural organizations with his engaging performances and long-term residencies.

Sutter has performed on radio, television and at festivals, and works regularly in schools teaching the songs and folk dances that he has collected over the years. His rapport with children is extraordinary, but he also possesses the unique ability to thoroughly entertain the adults in the audience as well. His work is featured on the recordings Walking on Air, Up the Raw, Crossing the Shannon, Hunger No More, Songs By Heart, Over the Water, Ye Banks and Braes, and on his popular children’s CD, Mama Will You Buy Me a Banana?"

"My sophomore year of high school, Ross Sutter performed a folk song for one of my English classes. A few bars of the song stuck in my head nearly a decade before I heard them again – on a children’s CD I had purchased for my first child at A Scottish Ramble, an annual event in St. Paul. Ross Sutter quickly became a family favorite for his Celtic, Scandinavian and American folk melodies. We have kept in touch with his music ever since, bringing our kids (now numbering four) to his performances at festivals and fairs in Minnesota.

This month, he teamed up with the lovely Laura MacKenzie for a children’s show at the downtown St. Paul Central Library. The event was part of the weekly “Saturday Live!”series. Supported by Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, the program brings in musicians, storytellers, magicians and puppets to entertain and promote literacy.

Ross and Laura spun stories with their instruments – bagpipe, bones, antique concertina, and button accordion to name a few – and rich voices. Occasionally, they would sing in Gaelic.

An Irish dancer (Danielle Enblom) accompanied with her toes and heels click-clacking on a wooden floor. She taught the children a simple dance on the last musical number, holding my toddler daughter’s hand to guide her in the steps. Olivia’s older siblings might have joined in the dancing and familiar songs if there hadn’t been so many well-stocked bookshelves nearby.

Andy and Emily could only be coaxed to join in on “Aiken Drum”, the Scottish tune whose modern lyrics describe Aiken Drum as a man made out of various foods. Ross makes the song interactive by passing out shakers shaped like fruits and vegetables to the children. I’ve lost count how many home videos we’ve taken of the kids shaking things up with that plastic produce."

Irish American News

"Two of my favorite artists have tried their hand at a collection of Burns and have created one of the loveliest CDs I've ever heard. Ross Sutter and Laura MacKenzie have joined forces on this recording Ye Banks and Braes, Song and Music of Robert Burns and I'm so glad they did. Ross has a lovely strong voice and plays very solid guitar. Laura has a sweet voice which goes well with her sweet nature, plus she's a very talented multi-instrumentalist, holding forth on wooden flute, Scottish small pipes, Border half-long bagpipes, whistle and concertina. Ross is the creator of one of my favorite kid's CDs, Mama Will You Buy Me a Banana. Kids love that CD, and it doesn't drive adults crazy either. Laura has a list of wonder CDs to her credit including The Pinery that she teamed up with Daithi Sproule to record. Together these two great artists have created a monument to Burns' genius. Their treatment is gentle and precise and just bloody lovely."

Gustavus Library Associates Ex Libris, Volume 19:1

It’s not easy to pin down Ross Sutter. Presently performing as a vocalist and instrumentalist in Scotland, Ross is a popular local entertainer who may be found sharing his love of music and storytelling internationally, in a college concert hall, or in an elementary school gym. We are fortunate that Ross, along with his colleagues Cheryl Paschke and Marya Hart, will entertain us at this year’s Festival of St. Lucia on Thursday, December 8.

Ross Sutter grew up in a Scandinavian-American home listening to the tales and songs of the immigrant experience. His music reflects his roots and has grown to embrace the musical traditions of Ireland and Scotland as well as Scandinavia. Ross shares these familiar songs and stories from his youth as a folk musician and storyteller. He plays an impressive array of folk instruments—guitar, bodhran, button accordion, dulcimer, bones—but is best known for his singular baritone voice. His easygoing manner and storytelling ability are sure to please.

Ross has a degree in music education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He often intertwines music and education in his work in schools, where he exposes students to diverse cultures using the instruments, song games, and folk dances of a region to illustrate the traditions of the area. Ross has performed and taught traditional Northern European and American music and dance in communities, festivals, and schools throughout the country and in Europe for over 30 years. He is on artist rosters for the Minnesota State Arts Board and the COMPAS community arts organization. Ross has taught summer courses for the graduate programs in music education at the University of St. Thomas and has presented at conventions for the Minnesota Music Educators Association, the Organization of American KodalyEducators, the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, and the National Music Educators Association.

Highlights for Ross as a performer are appearing on A Prairie Home Companion radio show and performing at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. For the past two years he has performed at the Swedish Midsummer Celebration held at Battery Park in New York City and the Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks, California. He has two recordings for children and families and also a CD of Irish and Scottish songs titled Over the Water.

Pianist Marya Hart is a popular composer, accompanist, and musical director based in Minneapolis. The winner of two Minnesota Music Awards, Marya has worked with many Twin Cities musicians, directed music for several productions at the Great American History Theatre, and appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. Marya teaches regularly at the Children’s Theatre Company. Her recent credits include Twenty Days to Find a Wife, produced at the History Theater; Women of Troy, with the Frank Theatre; West Bank Story, with the Bedlam Theatre; and Fidgety Fairytales, produced by Open-Up Theatre.

Cheryl Paschke plays the fiddle and nyckelharpa and is a music educator and former fine arts specialist with the Minneapolis Public Schools. She was nominated as Outstanding Music Educator for 1995 by the String Teachers’ Association. She has played and performed with several groups from classical to ethnic and has been a member of the Mount Curve String Quartet for 25 years. During the 2000–01 school year she was on sabbatical leave from the Minneapolis Public Schools, during which she studied Swedish folk music and education practices for immigrant populations. Cheryl has been with the Twin Cities Nyckelharpa Lag for several years. She is an active member of the Finnish band Finn Hall and makes frequent visits to Sweden and Finland to perform, study, and collect music.

The Festival of St. Lucia is sponsored by the Gustavus Library Associates, so our conversation with Ross had to conclude with what he’s been reading. Currently he’s reading a lot of non-fiction, and his favorite author is Malcolm Gladwell, who writes for the New Yorker. His latest favorites by Gladwell are Outliers and What the Dog Saw. Ross is also hooked on mysteries by Donna Leon and anything by Alexander McCall Smith. He also loves any mystery by Minnesota authors William Kent Krueger and Erin Hart. He has been rereading the novels of Jon Hassler; the stories of Jim Heynen, including The Boys’ House; and the poetry of Bill Holm, Louis Jenkins, and, of course, his brother Barton Sutter, with whom he frequently performs in libraries and colleges around the state.

We are delighted to have Ross Sutter,  Cheryl Paschke, and Marya Hart join us at the Festival of St. Lucia. We anticipate a wonderfully moving and entertaining event. Perhaps you’ll hear a song or two from your childhood and will find yourself tapping your foot and humming along with this talented and imaginative trio.