Garrison Keillor was born in 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota, and began his radio career as a freshman at the University of Minnesota. He went to work for Minnesota Public Radio in 1969, and from 1974 through 2016, he created and hosted his popular variety show, A Prairie Home Companion, for some 3.5 million listeners on 700 public radio stations. Keillor has been honored with Grammy, ACE, and George Foster Peabody awards, the National Humanities Medal, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His many books include Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny, and The Keillor Reader (Viking). He is the host of the daily program The Writer’s Almanac and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, most recently, Good Poems: American Places (Viking).
For more than four decades now, Robin & Linda Williams have made it their mission to perform the music that they love, “a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism.” Today some might call it “Americana,” but these two revered music masters were living and breathing this elixir 20 years before that label was turned into a radio format. Robin and Linda’s stirring concerts have earned them a huge body of fans over the years, and their songwriting talents have earned the devotion and deep respect of their musical peers. The list of artists who have covered their original songs include some of the greats of country music, names like Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV, Tim & Mollie O’Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea and The Seldom Scene.
Aimee Mann is an American rock singer-songwriter, bassist and guitarist. In 1983, she co-founded ‘Til Tuesday, a new-wave band that found success with its first album, Voices Carry. The title track became an MTV favorite, winning the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist, propelling Mann and the band into the spotlight. After releasing three albums with the group, she broke up the band and embarked on a solo career. Her first solo album, Whatever, was a more introspective, folk-tinged effort than ‘Til Tuesday’s albums, and received uniformly positive reviews upon its release in the summer of 1993. Mann’s song “Save Me” from the soundtrack to the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia was nominated for an Academy® Award and a Grammy®. She has recorded nine studio albums, the most recent being Mental Illness, released in Spring 2017 under her own label, SuperEgo Records. On this eleven-track album, the Oscar®-nominated, Grammy®-winning singer remains a student of human behavior, drawing not just on her own experiences to form the characters in the songs but tales told by friends.
Loudon Wainwright III became a folk singer/songwriter in the late ‘60s, singing humorous and nakedly honest autobiographical songs that have made him a cult figure. His recording career started in 1970 and now includes 26 albums, among them the 2010 Grammy® Award winner for Best Traditional Folk Album, High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project. Wainwright’s songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright, and Mose Allison, among others.
Also an accomplished actor, Wainwright hit the screens early in his career playing Captain Calvin Spalding, the “singing surgeon”, on M*A*S*H and has appeared in films directed by Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Christopher Guest, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, and Judd Apatow. He was also the original musician/sidekick on The David Letterman Show. Additionally, Wainwright has co-written with songwriter/producer Joe Henry on the music for Judd Apatow’s hit movie Knocked Up, written music for the British theatrical adaptation of the Carl Hiaasen novel Lucky You, and composed topical songs for ABC’s Nightline and NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world – crossing genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop – Thomas Lauderdale founded Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fund-raisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks.
Featuring a dozen musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras globally. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998 under the direction of Norman Leyden. Since then, the band has gone on to play with more than 50 orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London. In its twentieth year, Pink Martini was inducted into both the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
Pink Martini is featuring lead vocals from China Forbes, a Harvard classmate of Lauderdale’s. They have written many of Pink Martini’s most beloved songs including “Sympathique,” “Lilly,” and “Over the Valley”. With Pink Martini, China has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She has performed songs in over twelve languages and performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Rex in Paris. She is thrilled to be back on stage signing every chance she gets.
Legendary singer-songwriter Graham Nash is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee-with Crosby, Stills, and Nash and with the Hollies. He was also inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and with CSN, and he is a Grammy® Award winner.
Nash’s passionate voice continues to be heard in support of peace, and social and environmental justice. The No Nukes/Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts he organized with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt in 1979 remain seminal benefit events. In 2011, Nash was instrumental in bringing MUSE back to the forefront with a concert to benefit Japan disaster relief and groups promoting non-nuclear energy worldwide.
In September 2013, Nash released his long-awaited autobiography Wild Tales, which delivers an engrossing, no-holds-barred look back at his remarkable career and the music that defined a generation. The book landed him on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and was released in paperback format in late 2014. While continually building his musical legacy, Nash is also an internationally renowned photographer and visual artist. With his photography, Nash has drawn honors including the New York Institute of Technology’s Arts & Technology Medal and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters and the Hollywood Film Festival’s inaugural Hollywood Visionary Cyber Award. His new studio album This Path Tonight was released April 15, 2016 to rave reviews.
In 1988, Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce, the “Jack O” and “Pierce” who make up the seminal acoustic duo, Jackopierce, were playing cover songs in a dingy club with a crummy PA in their hometown of Dallas, Texas. In a moment of young-musician desperation, they whipped up a tune on the spot called “Three of Us In A Boat” to elongate their set. That became a signature track for a decade-long career wherein the two-piece sold 500,000 records over six albums (two for major label A&M) and toured three continents, nine countries, and 44 states.
One of the hardest-touring bands of the ‘90s, Jackopierce slipped under the mainstream’s radar to earn a widespread following on college campuses with their pleasant acoustic folk-pop. Honing a charmingly simple, low-key sound centered around vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars, the two developed a strong local following around the Dallas area. In 1991, they self-released an eponymous first album on their own Rhythmic Records, and embarked on a grueling touring schedule that helped cultivate a national collegiate following. Their debut album, Bringing on the Weather, was produced by T-Bone Burnett, who added extra instruments to flesh out their sound. Virtually ignored by the mainstream media, the album nonetheless sold over 100,000 copies. After a five-year breakup, in 2002 the duo reconvened as Jackopierce. Today Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce have a renewed creative vigor, mutual respect, and deep gratitude for their Jackopierce heritage.
The Capitol Steps began as a group of Senate staffers who set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them. The group was born in December, 1981 when some staffers for Senator Charles Percy were planning entertainment for a Christmas party. Their first idea was to stage a nativity play, but in the whole Congress they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin. So, they decided to dig into the headlines of the day, and they created song parodies & skits which conveyed a special brand of satirical humor.
In the years that followed, many of the Steps ignored the conventional wisdom (“Don’t quit your day job!”), and although not all of the current members of the Steps are former Capitol Hill staffers, taken together the performers have worked in a total of eighteen Congressional offices and represent 62 years of collective House and Senate staff experience. Since they began, the Capitol Steps have recorded over 30 albums, including their latest, What to Expect When You’re Electing. They’ve been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS, and can be heard twice a year on National Public Radio stations nationwide during their Politics Takes a Holiday radio specials.
She is both a 20th and 21st century musical and cultural icon known the world over simply by her first name: Aretha. The reigning and undisputed “Queen Of Soul” has created an amazing legacy that spans an incredible six decades, from her first recording as a teenage gospel star, to her current RCA Records release, ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGS THE GREAT DIVA CLASSICS.
Her many countless classics include “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain Of Fools,” “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”; her own compositions “Think,” “Daydreaming” and “Call Me”; her definitive versions of “Respect” and “I Say A Little Prayer”; and global hits like “Freeway Of Love,” “Jump To It,” “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” her worldwide chart-topping duet with George Michael, and “A Rose Is Still A Rose.”
The recipient of the U.S.A.’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal Of Freedom, an eighteen (and counting) Grammy Award winner – the most recent of which was for Best Gospel Performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith” with Mary J. Blige in 2008 - a Grammy Lifetime Achievement and Grammy Living Legend awardee, Aretha Franklin’s powerful, distinctive gospel-honed vocal style has influenced countless singers across multi-generations, justifiably earning her Rolling Stone magazine’s No. 1 placing on the list of “The Greatest Singers Of All Time.”
Celebrating 40 years since their founding in 1977, New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band has taken the traditional foundation of brass band music and incorporated it into a blend of genres including Bebop Jazz, Funk and R&B/Soul. This unique sound, described by the band as a musical gumbo™ has allowed the Dirty Dozen to tour across 5 continents and 30 countries, record 12 studio albums and collaborate with a range of artists from Modest Mouse to Widespread Panic to Norah Jones. Forty years later, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is a world famous music machine whose name is synonymous with genre-bending romps and high-octane performances.
In 1977, The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club in New Orleans began showcasing a traditional Crescent City brass band. It was a joining of two proud, but antiquated, traditions at the time: social and pleasure clubs dated back over a century to a time when black southerners could rarely afford life insurance, and the clubs would provide proper funeral arrangements. Brass bands, early predecessors of jazz as we know it, would often follow the funeral procession playing somber dirges, then once the family of the deceased was out of earshot, burst into jubilant dance tunes as casual onlookers danced in the streets. By the late ‘70s, few of either existed. The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club decided to assemble this group as a house band, and over the course of these early gigs, the seven-member ensemble adopted the venue’s name: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Black Violin is the blend of classical, hip-hop, rock, R&B, and bluegrass music. Live, they are accompanied by their incredible band, featuring ace turntable whiz DJ SPS and a drummer. Named one of the hottest bands at SXSW in 2013, Black Violin was invited to perform at Bonnaroo and returned to SXSW this year to SRO crowds.
“Black Violin works hard, but makes it all look like play… Sometimes they play with the intense seriousness of orchestral soloists; at others they fiddle as if at a hoedown; at still others they strum the violin and viola like guitars.” New York Times
Since starting Black Violin a decade ago Wil Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester have performed an average of 200 shows a year in 49 states and 36 countries as far away as Dubai, Prague and South Africa, while appearing at official NFL celebrations for three Super Bowls and last year’s U.S. Open in Forest Hills with Jordin Sparks. Their groundbreaking collaboration has seen them play their music for everybody from the troops in Iraq to both the official President’s Inaugural Ball and the Kids Inaugural in Washington, DC, where Barack Obama himself gave each a hearty hand-shake. Individually and together, Black Violin has collaborated with the likes of P. Diddy, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin and The Eagles.