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In one of his poems, Billy Collins muses, "The trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry." Not a problem, Mr. Collins. Keep 'em coming. The works in Questions About Angels; Picnic, Lightning; Sailing Alone Around the Room; Nine Horses; The Trouble with Poetry and his other best-selling books have sparked a firestorm of interest in the art. He was twice appointed United States poet laureate and served as New York State poet laureate 2004–06. In 2004, he was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for humor in poetry. Horoscopes for the Dead, his newest collection, will be published by Random House next March.
A recognized authority on American music and musical theater, Rob Fisher spent four seasons leading the Coffee Club Orchestra for Garrison Keillor's American Radio Company. He is creator and artistic director of the annual Lyrics and Lyricist series at the 92nd Street Y. For his work as music director and conductor of the Tony Award-winning Encores! series at New York's City Center, he was presented the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Special Achievement. As guest artist, he has led major symphony orchestras coast to coast.
As a kid growing up in New York, Dick Hyman was classically trained in piano by his uncle, the well-known concert artist Anton Rovinsky. Then he got hooked on jazz by listening to his brother's record collection – Art Tatum, Bix Beiderbecke, and other greats. Now his remarkable career as a composer, arranger, pianist, organist, and more spans six decades, with a résumé that includes scoring soundtracks for Woody Allen films like Zelig and The Purple Rose of Cairo. He has recorded well over 100 albums under his own name. Recent projects include Thinking About Bix (Reference Recordings) and A Century of Jazz Piano, an Arbors Records set of five CDs plus instructional DVD.
The DiGiallonardo Sisters
The DiGiallonardo Sisters – Daniela, Nadia, and Christine – started singing together when they were kids Brooklyn. They still call Brooklyn home, and they still love stacking up those three-part harmonies. Nadia is a pianist, composer, arranger, and singer. She was music director and conductor for the 2008 production of Hair at the Delacorte Theater. Daniela teaches social studies at Brooklyn's Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted & Talented. And Christine is a singer and actor whose credits include Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare in the Park Festival), My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center), and Monica! The Musical (New York Musical Theatre Festival).
Growing up in rural Maine, Heather Masse sang hymns and folk songs around home with her family. Now based in New York, this New England Conservatory of Music alum is a one-third of the Juno Award-winning Canadian trio The Wailin' Jennys. She also heads up the Heather Masse Band. Her solo album, Song Bird,was released last year on Red House Records. The Jennys' latest is The Wailin' Jennys – Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House (Red House).
One minute he's mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he's George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. We've yet to stump this man of many voices. In other roles, Tim played the part of Al, the stage manager, in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and a detective in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
On APHC, Sue Scott plays everything from ditzy teenagers to Guy Noir stunners to leathery crones who've smoked one pack of Camel straights too many. The Tucson, Arizona, native is well known for her extensive commercial and voice-over work on radio and television, as well as movie and stage roles.
Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. He is author of the book (and CD/CD-ROM) MouthSounds. Fred admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."
Garrison Keillor was born in Anoka, graduated from the University of Minnesota ('66), and lives in St. Paul. He is the author of numerous books, including his latest, Life Among the Lutherans (Augsburg Books) and Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking).
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band is led by A Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky. Keyboard player, composer and improviser in any style, he also writes all the script themes and underscores. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.
Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world today. And he writes songs too – recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Freewayman (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat’s nine albums.
Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band, Sammy Davis Jr. – with whom he toured for several years – and the Minnesota Klezmer Band. He teaches jazz bass at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.
Peter Johnson (percussion) has played klezmer music with Doc Severinsen and jazz with Dave Brubeck. He was a drummer for The Manhattan Transfer and for Gene Pitney. He has toured the world, but he always comes back to home base: Saint Paul.
Andy Stein (violin, saxophone) has far-flung musical leanings: He was a founding member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen; he collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson; and he has recorded with dozens of artists, from Itzhak Perlman to Nellie McKay.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).