Soprano Ellie Dehn has appeared in many of the world's leading opera houses, from the Metropolitan Opera and Teatro alla Scala to the San Francisco Opera and Bayerische Staatsoper. But her love of music started during her childhood in Anoka, Minnesota. She sang in her high school choir and played flute in the band and orchestra before college at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and graduate school at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. These days, she calls New York City home. At the piano: John Churchwell.
Massachusetts-born, LA-based Erica Rhodes is known to many for her starring role in the popular Web series "Upstairs Girls," which posted more than 200 webisodes. She has also appeared in motion pictures, including Go West, Javatown, and the 2008 indie horror film Plague Town. Among her recent projects are the films Killer Eye and Big Sky.
In 1959, a young Martin Sheen borrowed a few bucks from a local priest, left his Ohio home, and headed for New York. Since then, he has piled up Emmys, Golden Globes, and other accolades for his performances in movies such as The Subject Was Roses and Apocalypse Now, and on television for his role as President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's The West Wing. Current projects include The Amazing Spider-Man, in theaters this summer, and the book Along the Way, written with his son Emilio Estevez.
Growing up in Indiana, Jearlyn Steele sang with her siblings as The Steele Children. One by one, they moved to Minnesota and started singing together again. Now music is the family business. Jearlyn also hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis. Her most recent solo CD is Jearlyn Steele Sings Songs from A Prairie Home Companion.
In the 1980s, Jevetta Steele — along with her family group, The Steeles — toured the world in the musical The Gospel at Colonus. The show had another successful run at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in 2010. And many remember Jevetta's Academy Award-nominated performance of "Calling You," from the film Baghdad Café. Among her solo albums is 2006's My Heart.
Singer, songwriter, fiddle player Sara Watkins was only eight when she, her brother Sean, and Chris Thile started the genre-bending, Grammy-winning trio Nickel Creek. Two decades later — with Nickel Creek on indefinite hiatus — she struck out on her own. Her first solo album, Sara Watkins, was released in 2009. Her latest, Sun Midnight Sun (Nonesuch), came out earlier this year.
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 Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, and Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny (Viking), and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, including Good Poems: American Places (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. Nobody's Fault (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's 10 albums.
Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band and Sammy Davis Jr., with whom he toured for several years. He was first call for dozens of touring Broadway shows, including the first presentation of The Lion King. Gary teaches 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.
Richard Kriehn is principal second violin for the Washington/Idaho Symphony. But it's not all classical all the time; he is equally at home playing bluegrass fiddle and mandolin. He was a member of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and the bluegrass group 1946.
Saxophonist Kenni Holmen is a member of The Hornheads, a Twin Cities horn ensemble, and one of the areas' most active recording and touring musicians. He has performed or recorded with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Glen Miller Orchestra, Gladys Knight, and the Reverend Billy Graham, to name a few.
Trombonist Michael B. Nelson is the leader, arranger, and trombonist for the top-flight Twin Cities horn ensemble The Hornheads. In addition to performing with the likes of Doc Severinsen, Chaka Khan, and Lenny Kravitz, he has composed and arranged for Prince and other international artists.
Trumpeter Steve Strand has done commercial jingles for the Minnesota Twins, Macy's, ESPN, and the Minnesota Wild. More visibly, he is a member of Twin Cities horn ensemble The Hornheads. He has toured and/or recorded with Prince, Chaka Kahn, and many others.
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."
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.
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).