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.