Posts filed under Singer Bios

Meet the Sonnenberg Singers: Winfred Ressler

Meet the Sonnenberg Station Singers!

Winfred Ressler is from Kidron, Ohio and has been a part of Sonnenberg Station since its beginning in 2006. His hobbies--in addition to singing, of course--include sports, beekeeping, gardening, cooking (and eating), and spending time with his wonderful wife, Barb, and daughters, Olivia (22), Anna, (18), and Sarah (16).

When asked how he first started singing with Sonnenberg Station, his response was, "Willingly."
"For some reason, I love making music," Winfred says. "I've been involved in some kind of vocal group since high school. Being in Sonnenberg Station gives me the opportunity to not just sing, but to sing quality music, performing it well in many wonderful settings."

Winfred says that since their inception, the group's sound has improved and he believes it continues improving each year.

"Sonnenberg Station also feels a bit like a small group," Winfred says. "Living in a household full of women, it's nice to be able to get together with a group of guys."

Make plans to experience Sonnenberg Station Men's Ensemble at one of this season's performances.

Sunday, November 8 at 7pm: Maple Grove Mennonite Church, Hartville, OH
Monday, November 9 at 7pm: Fairless High School, Navarre, OH
Saturday, November 21 at 7pm: Berlin Mennonite Church, Berlin, OH
Sunday, November 22 at 7pm: Central Christian School, Kidron, OH
Monday, November 23 at 7pm: St. James Episcopal Church, Wooster, OH.

Concerts and details are subject to change. Please confirm dates, times, and venues before attending. Please check back here and at www.sonnenbergstation.org for updates. A love offering will be taken at each performance.

Posted on November 2, 2015 and filed under Singer Bios.

Meet the Sonnenberg Singers: Craig Strasbaugh

Craig Strasbaugh has been singing with Sonnenberg Station Men's Choral Ensemble for five seasons. Here, he shares a bit about himself, his family, and his love of music and life.
"I was a middle school transplant to Dalton, Ohio from the urban world of Tampa, Florida. Even though I currently live in Orrville, my roots are still stuck in the dirt of the family farm where I have been the 7th generation to reside and my girls are the 8th to explore and get dirty.
I met my wife Jenny (yes, we are Jenny Craig) working summers at Camp Luz, which continues to be a place of great importance to our family. In August, we added daughter three, Aubrey, to our household. Her older sisters, Elena and Marita, treat life as a musical and every book as a hymnal- leaving us grateful for them as well as in stitches over their productions.
Other than singing, I love to run, cook, play frisbee, crochet, color with a good box of Crayolas, and spend time with high schoolers and junior high schoolers (I seriously don't understand how people can NOT like junior high kids). Add a love for books and writing, and I practically have no time for a job.
I am now in my 5th season- I think- with Sonnenberg Station. I think I got pulled in out of desperation to fill a second tenor slot a few practices into a season, and they just haven't kicked me out yet. It has been a great creative outlet and group of guys to connect with.
Really, I just fell in love with choral music once I learned to read music as a seventh grader. Sonnenberg Station is such a fun group to grow with. We laugh as much as we practice (You could even say we should hush up and practice more. Sorry Tim!). Besides, it is one of the few places I spend consistent time with grownups, so it is a real treat.
I have not yet settled on a favorite song this season, but my daughters would say "Dirait-on" because they like when I sing it to them at bed time."
We invite you to see Craig and the rest of the singers of Sonnenberg Station Men's Ensemble at one of this season's performances.
Sunday, November 8 at 7pm: Maple Grove Mennonite Church, Hartville, OH
Monday, November 9 at 7pm: Fairless High School, Navarre, OH
Saturday, November 21 at 7pm: Berlin Mennonite Church, Berlin, OH
Sunday, November 22 at 7pm: Central Christian School, Kidron, OH
Monday, November 23 at 7pm: St. James Episcopal Church, Wooster, OH.
Concerts and details are subject to change. Please confirm dates, times, and venues before attending. Please check back here and at www.sonnenbergstation.org for updates. A love offering will be taken at each performance.

Posted on October 24, 2015 and filed under Singer Bios.

Meet the Sonnenberg Singers: Steven Zook

Steven Zook is one of Sonnenberg Station's new singers this season. He comes to the group from Canton, Ohio, where he lives with his wife Rhoda. The couple has four children: daughter, Nikita, lives and works in Pittsburgh; son, Jared, lives and works in Pendelton, Indiana; son, Ben, is a first year student at Eastern Mennonite University; and son, Andrew, is a freshman at Central Christian School in Kidron, Ohio. 

Steven says he enjoyed singing when he was growing up but has not had much opportunity to sing during his middle years. When Sonnenberg Station's director, Tim Shue, invited Steven to join the ensemble, it seemed like a good time to get back into music, something he believes connects him to others and to himself in a soulful way. 

"I have enjoyed listening to Sonnenberg Station in the past," Steven says, "and I'm looking forward to being part of a group that creates such sweet sounds."

His favorite song this season is "House of Peace" by Jim Croegaert.

We invite you to see Steven and the rest of the singers of Sonnenberg Station Men's Ensemble at one of this season's performances.

Sunday, November 8 at 7pm: Maple Grove Mennonite Church, Hartville, OH
Monday, November 9 at 7pm: Fairless High School, Navarre, OH
Saturday, November 21 at 7pm: Berlin Mennonite Church, Berlin, OH
Sunday, November 22 at 7pm: Central Christian School, Kidron, OH
Monday, November 23 at 7pm: St. James Episcopal Church, Wooster, OH.

Concerts and details are subject to change. Please confirm dates, times, and venues before attending. Please check back here and at www.sonnenbergstation.org for updates. A love offering will be taken at each performance.

Posted on October 24, 2015 and filed under Singer Bios.

Meet the Sonnenberg Singers: Matt Wenger

Meet the Sonnenberg Singers! 

Matt Wenger of Wooster, Ohio is one of the newest members of Sonnenberg Station. He joined after hearing the group perform and finding there was an opening this season for first tenor. 

"I was really inspired by a concert I attended," Matt says, "and I was excited when the opportunity came up to join. It is a rare chance for me to immerse myself in music with other men once a week in a way that is refreshing and inspiring and meaningful."

While Matt enjoys a few hobbies of his own, like running, swimming, photography, and writing, what keeps him most occupied is his family. Matt's a full-time, at-home dad of four children between the ages of two and 12. 

"My wife is a pediatrician who started a clinic for children with genetic disorders," Matt says. "We try to keep up with gardening and cutting firewood and signing all the school forms on time. So there's a little bit of everything going on at our house most of the time. Parenting is an ongoing revelation of how much growing up we need to do. I hope that our kids make it to adulthood without any major emotional trauma."

Matt really enjoys the poetry of Rilke and is excited about learning and performing this season's piece, "Dirait-on," written by the poet and arranged by Morten Lauridsen. He is also moved by the piece, "That Which Remains," based on the words of Helen Keller and arranged by Andrea Ramsey.

"Music is important because it speaks to the parts of our lives that other things cannot," Matt says. "It helps to fill the empty spaces and gaps in our lives."

We invite you to see Matt and the rest of singers of Sonnenberg Station Men's Ensemble at one of this season's performances. 

Sunday, November 8 at 7pm: Maple Grove Mennonite Church, Hartville, OH
Monday, November 9 at 7pm: Fairless High School, Navarre, OH
Saturday, November 21 at 7pm: Berlin Mennonite Church, Berlin, OH
Sunday, November 22 at 7pm: Central Christian School, Kidron, OH
Monday, November 23 at 7pm: St. James Episcopal Church, Wooster, OH.

Concerts and details are subject to change. Please confirm dates, times, and venues before attending. Please check back here and at www.sonnenbergstation.org for updates. A love offering will be taken at each performance.

Posted on October 24, 2015 and filed under Singer Bios.

Craig Strasbaugh: Within Zion's Walls

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Last Season, I was invited to sing with Sonnenberg Station for the first time. I had heard the group perform before and had been drawn to keep singing. In my first season with the group, we sang "Zion’s Walls." It is a strong, impassioned appeal for the whole family or community to gather to worship God within the walls of the Jerusalem Temple. The men of the choir stand in place of the people's patriarchs. They love to worship God together, and they pass that faith on through the generations.

For me, "Zion's Walls" is a powerful song that leaves your senses buzzing at the end. That description could serve just as well to summarize my experience with Sonnenberg Station.

Sadly, I am missing most of this season’s performances, though I have practiced, and, even now, have my music near me. Yet as I type, I sit within the boundary walls between Jerusalem’s countryside and Bethlehem in Israel.

Today, I walked the streets of the walled, Old City of Jerusalem (Zion). Song bursts forth here in every Quarter, in every language, and from multiple religions. Here is a place people still gather for worship. I can now say that I have sung "Zion’s Walls" within Zion’s walls (and with all of the Sonnenberg Station men in my consciousness). 

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As I prayed and sang within Zion’s walls, I was struck by the fact that my singing and worship here are not an end unto themselves, but are indeed preparing me for prayer and worship and singing elsewhere.

God is now dwelling in hearts of flesh in you and me. And that is the faith that we invite others to participate in when we gather together and sing.

Craig Strasbaugh

Posted on March 21, 2014 and filed under Singer Bios.

Jeremy Braun: Singing as Therapy

Jeremy Braun has discovered what many since the beginning of time have experienced--that music can help us express what we have difficulty putting into words on our own. Singing with Sonnenberg Station has also helped Jeremy work through some difficult life experiences as well as celebrate life's joys.

 The Braun family

The Braun family

Jeremy grew up in Goshen, Indiana with his three brothers, Joe, Tim, and, closest to him in age, Marc, an accomplished piano and guitar player, and one of Jeremy's musical heroes who, like Jeremy, loved to sing. As a young boy, Jeremy sang in his church's children's choir and joined a barbershop quartet in high school, which he figures didn't sound nearly as good as they thought they were, but they had fun anyway. His earliest musical memory is of singing German Christmas carols after the family's Boxing Day meal in Canada.

"I still don't know German," Braun says, "but those Canadians sure can sing."

 Jeremy and Carli. 

Jeremy and Carli. 

He headed to Northern Michigan University and worked at Camp Friedenswald during college as summer staff and then, after college, spent a full year there as maintenance assistant. There, he met Carli, who was also a summer staff member, and they fell in love. By 2007, Jeremy had decided to move to Ohio to be near Carli, who was then battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. The two married and started a family, and the lymphoma surrendered. In 2013, Jeremy decided to add singing to the mix, so he joined Sonnenberg Station in the fall. 

For Braun, singing with the ensemble is a way to express a side of himself that he doesn't often show people.  While he admits to belting out a tune in the work van (he's an HVAC installer and pipe fitter), Sonnenberg Station gives him the opportunity to polish up a few pieces to share with people who want to listen.  He also enjoys the challenge of joining his voice with the voices of others who sharpen his skills.

"Sonnenberg Station has a great many singers with excellent tone and knowledge of musical theory, most of it that I can't begin to understand," Jeremy says. "This is humbling for me, and I hope I catch on quickly enough that they don't find out I have no clue what they're talking about in Latin, or how to count through the difficult rhythm sections."

 Jeremy and his brother Marc. 

Jeremy and his brother Marc. 

When asked to choose his favorite piece, Jeremy says it's difficult to choose. He's a sucker for mushy songs about loved ones, especially missing loved ones. Singing these pieces has been great therapy for Jeremy to work through devastating loss. His brother Marc, who was closest to Jeremy in age and someone he greatly admired, made the decision to leave this earthly life in 2012 after struggling for years with depression and bipolar disease, an illness that carries with it 10 to 20 times the suicide rate of the general population. March 9 marked the two year anniversary of Marc's death, something Jeremy struggles to process and accept. And yet, it continues to shape him in ways he finds it difficult to define. 

"Marc was my role model, and now he's no longer here, which just sucks," Jeremy says. At this year's Frohliche Dorf, Jeremy introduced a song that puts some of his feelings into words. "Wanting Memories," a piece in Sonnenberg Station's repertoire this season, is one he can relate to well.  

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"It speaks of missing a person who said they would help us through life but is no longer around. The refrain repeats this, but the verses transition from longing to the realization that this missing person abides within me, declaring, 'I know that I am you, and you are me, and we are one.' That line grabbed me right away.

"It's difficult to sing sometimes," Jeremy says, "but it's good to express these feelings through song.

"Truth is," Jeremy says, "I just love to sing, and this group enables me to do just that. I feel like so much of our popular music is made great by recordings and computer calibrated intonation, but Sonnenberg is raw.  A cappella singing is such a naked expression of art that it becomes intimidating to perform sometimes, but when the performance is strong, it feels great." 

Jeremy lives in Dalton with his sweet children and his beautiful wife, who has been cured of Hodgkin's lymphoma. And, whenever he gets the chance, he grabs the opportunity to lift his voice in song, whether sharing it with an audience at a Sonnenberg Station concert, or singing for himself alone in the work van, because music is a significant and healing part of Jeremy Braun's life. 

Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Singer Bios.

Bill Seymour: Why I Love Singing About Clowns (even though I hate clowns)

Bill Seymour.jpg

I love singing with Sonnenberg Station for several reasons. I'll let you in on a few of them here. 

First, Tim Shue is one of the finest musicians I have ever met, AND he is an extremely enjoyable director to sing under.

Second, the men of Sonnenberg Station are incredibly talented, and we like to have a lot of fun, even as we are serious about making excellent music.

Third--and I am assuming this is true of all of us -- I love hearing the laughter and joy of the audience when we get something right, when they feel like we have connected with them. That's a pretty cool feeling. For this reason, Johnny Schmoker has to be a favorite, because the audience laughs with us so well. Otherwise, I hope never to have to sing it again.

Okay, there is one more reason--Travis Pauli has an awesome face when he sings, and no one puts more effort into singing well than Travis.

Speaking of Travis, he and I were talking at practice the other night, and we both agreed that our motivation for singing is pretty shallow. We recognize that there are words in the songs, and sometimes those words are deep, meaningful or even worshipful; nevertheless, the ones we enjoy are the ones with fun tenor lines. I could more easily hum a few bars of my favorites than I could quote the lyrics. A piece I really like to sing is the one where the basses start out "hum, humm, hm hm hm. Do bat deee." No clue what the title is.

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But really, I think the piece I've liked most is the one I like the least. "Send in the Clowns" has lyrics that do not attract me at all, and I find the melody schmaltzy, and I'm afraid of clowns. The arrangement we sang a few years back, though, was out-of-sight good with lush chords and big sound. That was fun.

I majored in voice performance and pedagogy at Heidelberg College in the 1980s. Soon after, I felt and followed a call to ministry, and music took a seat to the side. Sonnenberg Station helps fill the need in my soul to make great music. I like it when we sing a straight-up classical piece, because it feels right in my wheelhouse, but I appreciate it more when we sing (and we usually do) songs in styles I have little experience with because I learn new things and grow musically.

 Seymour as a singing lad. 

Seymour as a singing lad. 

This season, our concert music is the hardest we've had since I've been with the Station. It's vocally difficult, especially for guys like me pretending to be tenors. There are complicated chords and rhythms and lines. Yet, I have never been as excited for a season as I am this spring. If we get this right, it will be fantastic. Of course, there is always a chance that we could crash and burn, and that adds to the fun. But we won't. In fact, I think we'll sing better than ever this spring.

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 Bill Seymour and his wife Allison. 

Bill Seymour and his wife Allison. 

Bill Seymour has been singing with Sonnenberg Station since the 2011 spring season, predominantly as second tenor, although, he says, when director Tim Shue wants to torture him, he jumps up to first tenor. He also likes to join the low basses when they go over a part because "they are real men and I like to pretend."

"One season," Seymour says, "they let me play the egg for a song. Oddly, I have not been asked to do that again." 

Bill Seymour has lived in Ohio since 1983, but grew up in Connecticut. Seymour has been married to Allison, who hails from western New York, for 25 years. They have two boys, 21 and 15. For the past 10 years, Seymour has served as lead pastor of Orrville Mennonite Church. Prior to that, he served churches in Millersburg and Canton. 

One fun fact. about Seymour's Sonnenberg career. "Tim enjoys trying to get me to mess up words and entrances during at least one concert every season."

You can catch Sonnenberg Station at any of this season's upcoming concerts. Hope to see you there! 

Posted on February 17, 2014 and filed under Singer Bios.