Artists and Alumni
The Slinger Area has a rich history of talented musicians and music instructors. Starting during the 2013-2014 school year, Slinger High School social studies students used the files at the Washington County Historical Society, the Slinger Advancement Association's Slinger Historical Album, a 2013 Slinger Music Alumni survey, and a list compiled by the Slinger Area History/Culture committee members as a starting point to find people to research and interview as they researched this question: How do we know that music is culturally and historically significant in the Slinger Area? While you will see the results of some of the research here, a good chunk of the learning experience was in the process itself. The interviews, the site visits, the discussions, writing workships, and the e-mails/phone calls all played a great role in the student learning experience. It was quite rewarding watching sociology and history students with music background finding out about the depths and origins of music in the Slinger Area currently and prior to their time at Slinger High School. We'll be continuing to add new information as we get it to bring out these rich layers. This is not a complete list. Some of these artists have extensive background information and some do not. There are also many quality artists, musicians, and instructors who have yet to be featured. The Slinger Area History/Culture Project committee brainstormed a list of people who, after leaving Slinger High School, have performed or instructed for a living or regularly, studied music in higher education, or seemed to have an impact locally with music even if they were not Slinger grads and just started contacting a people. Students reported what they collected figuring it could be added to later when people saw the website. Thank you so much if you are one of these artists that has contributed to this research.
Lead Student Contributors on this section of research: Jessa Ehlinger, Forrest Koslowski, Andy Klefstad, Tom Schellinger, Krischan Woehrer, Hannah Mrozak, Jenna Lee, Ben Lee, Andrea Jasperson, Michael Arts, Tony Koerner, Kristin Tuttle, Kristan Klahn, and Kathleen Enders.
The artists/alumni with a Slinger Area tie who are featured are listed in the school year they were added to the website. The following artists/alumni were added in the 2013-2014 school year:
Paul Spaeth, The Leverance/Rhode families, Bernie Schaefer, Lloyd Konrath, the Kachelmeier family, the Wolf family, Amy (Pierchalsk) Schultz, Howard Knox, the Gamache family (Jared and Kaleigh), Andy Crovetti, the Joe Neary Band (Joe Neary and Chris Halbauer), Kenny Brandt, Julie (Kostuch) Baskinger
Paul Spaeth (Pianist, Composer)
Paul in 2013 on a visit back to Slinger High School to discuss the origins of his music and the release of Redemption, his piano CD
Above, you'll hear an excerpt from two of Paul's songs that had a Slinger Area influence (December 2013 interview with Slinger students and staff).
“One of the biggest learning experiences of my career may have been when I was writing pieces for the band and choir at Slinger while in high school. My first experience with orchestration was at Slinger High School. The opportunity to write something, hear it performed, and get immediate feedback was so valuable. There is no way I would’ve gotten into USC if I hadn’t had the experience doing that.” (Spaeth, Dec 2013)
Click here for a story describing Paul's career, Wisconsin/Slinger area ties, music and spiritual roots, and the music for the film, Holy Man.
Click here for more specific information on Paul's college and early career pulled from a 2008 article/interview
Click here for Paul's general website.
Click here for Paul's Redemption website.
Click here for the official website for the film Finding God in the City of Angels (music composition by Spaeth).
Click below for a Youtube video created by student Ben Lee from Paul's visit to Slinger in 2013.
The Leverance/Rhode/Schuelke Families
"The first song I recorded was called the Robin's song, when I was 9 at my grandfather's along the Milwaukee River." (Spaeth, 2013). Click Soundcloud clip "Medley of Early Recordings" to the left for this recording (Courtesy of Paul Spaeth).
Slinger resident, Joe Mechenich, whose mother Marian frequently played music with Maury at area music venues , mentioned in a March 2014 interview that Maury and his mother and others would even play at block parties in the neighborhood they shared near Park Street in Slinger.
Mechenich corroborated what Maury said in his interview concerning some of the songs Maury Leverance and Marian Mechenich would play: Cowboy Sweetheart and Tennessee Waltz. "My kids would love listening to my mother yodel in Cowboy Sweetheart," said Mechenich.
Barb Schuelke, Maury's niece, remembers that Maury would play music under a tree at many extended family First Communions.
Maury Leverance (violin)
in a November 2013 interview, former Slinger postman and lithographer, Maury Leverance, explained to students how he got started in music, the Rhode family tie, his work in sonar while in the military, and his experiences in music in both the Slinger Area and Florida in his music career.
Click here and scroll towards the bottom of the list for the full interview.
(Maury, Jack Killeen, and Bernie Schaefer above)
-Submitted by Maury Leverance
In Maury's interview, he discussed playing with several area musicians including his wife, a favorite memory of playing for the fire department with a friend, playing with his friend Marian Mechenich, and his brother-in-law, Harland Rhode. Harland played in a band "Ramblin Red Rhode and the Roadhouse Rounders, according to his granddaughter, Elizabeth (ElizabethSchuelkeGrimm Blog Spot 2014).
Harland Rhode had four children (Steve, Barb, Dave, and John). Barb is a music director at St. James' Catholic Church in Menomonee Falls. She was interviewed for this project. Click this link for a summary of Barb's musical background along with notes on extended family. Steve's children are also musicians. The "Rhode Sisters" have been touring the nation with a show about their music family and mention this extended family's music background in this video (to the left).
This YouTube video (left) captures a promotion for their show in Elm Grove in December 2013 on The Morning Blend. This link is to a review.
More on the Rhode/Schuelke family here.
A note about Harland from his granddaughter, reaffirming the extended family music ties.
Bernie Schaefer (Schaefer Organ Company, Orchestra, Trumpet)
The Schaefer family was well known in the area for playing music and building organs. Bernie Schaefer's sister, Cherubim, helped start the music program at Alverno College. More in Church History on organs. Please visit the Slinger Advancement Association's Slinger Historical Album for more information about the Schaefer family background. Here is some transcribed text from a 1999 interview with Bernie and sophomore students Andy Klefstad and Tom Schellinger conducted at Slinger High School. Transcription by sophomore, Lea Mason in 2013. In an interview conducted with Bernie's daughter, Celeste Kainz, Celeste recalls working with her father assembling organs when growing up. "In the 1970s, everything but the pipes of the organs was built from scratch. My father was a technical genius." (Interview by Andrea Jasperson and Michael Arts, April 2014)
(Bernie, far right)
Photo of former organ company building on Oak Street today (2014). Submitted by Nate Grimm
Lloyd Konrath (Concertina)
Allenton native, Lloyd Konrath, was interviewed by Slinger senior, Forrest Koslowski in December 2013, and then gave a demonstration to a select group of Slinger students and teachers. Konrath mentioned his origins in concertina and how he chose to start the Concertina Jamboree (which he ran in Allenton for 26 years). Konrath was recently elected as President of the World Concertina Congress (2014). He was elected into the World Concertina Hall of Fame in 1999. Current Band teacher, Adam Kieckhafer, remembers his grandparents telling him stories of how Konrath and others would play concertina at a young age in Allenton and would attract quite the crowd.
The Kachelmeier Family
When speaking to area residents about musical families in the Slinger area, many people bring up the Kachelmeier name. The hope was to get several Kachelmeier's in the same room together, but that was not possible. However, pianist Diane Kachelmeier was kind enough to appear at Slinger High School on March 24, 2014 to discuss music and her family with several music history students.
A photo of Diane (above) when she came to Slinger High School to be interviewed by history/music students (March 2014)
Heather Peters (Vocal teacher at SHS, 2014) "I sang in the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus years ago......when I was in HS. Diane is an amazing pianist....watching her is what kept me coming to rehearsal. She is so calm and she can REALLY PLAY!!!!"
Anna Lou Becker (retired former teacher, 2014 interview) "Those Kachelmeiers were so talented."
Other Diane Kachelmeier links: Milwaukee pianist,
Linda Kachelmeier website (click here)
The Wolf Family (Bernie and the Jolly Lads and more)
Please click on this link and you will be directed to the Wolf Family website. Photos to the left and right are of the Wolf artifact display at Community Night (2014). Left=Karen Klink Wolf and Werner Wolf
Amy (Pierchalski) Schultz (Slinger Alum, singer, keyboard, guitar, Framing Amy)
Amy with Slinger sophomore interviewers in a visit back to Slinger HIgh School in March of 2014 (Above). Framing Amy on stage at Rainbow Summer (below)
Side story: One of Amy's student interviewers for this project was Hannah Mrozak, an aspiring musician in her own right. See this link for more about Hannah. Look for more about Hannah at a later date in her own section.
Students were shown various links from Amy's Framing Amy days prior to interviewing her in March of 2014. At the interview, Amy discussed her origins in music, her mindset as she overcame various obstacles early in her career, her choice to withdraw from college to focus on playing music, touring with Eric Benet and others in Gerard and getting a chance to head to LA, and her eventual decision to create the band, Framing Amy, which would record CDs and have a strong local following before gaining national prominence.
Amy discusses a job that changes her outlook on life: Link to job story and post-college
Amy tells the girls about how she built her career and why she made the difficult choice to turn her back on an offer to sign a contract to go to LA: Link to offer story
Students' story about Amy
Soundcloud audio about origins of Framing Amy
“He basically said you look the part, but I’ll be blatantly honest with you...you can’t sing. So that was the pivotal moment of my music career. I said you know what? I’m going to take what you just told me, and I’m going to use that as fuel.” -Amy (Pierchalski) Schultz
Howard Knox (West Bend River City Irregulars and River City Blaskapelle Band, Cedar Ridge Choir, St. Luke's Music)
Howard Knox visited with Tony Koerner (sophomore), Michael Arts (senior), and a sophomore history class during the 2013-2014 School Year to discuss music, cross country, World War Two, and life. Knox, an avid storyteller, is active in pastoral music, the West Bend City Irregulars, River City Blaskapelle Band, and the Cedar Ridge Choir.
Click here for a document written by Koerner.
Click here for a link to Howie in the Blaskapelle band.
Click here for a link to article written by Micheal Arts.
The Gamache Family
Jared and Kaleigh periodically collaborated and helped with a 2014 video specifically created for the Slinger Area History/Culture Project to show some of the impact of people, places, and things in the Slinger Area on their lives. In addition, there a video online of solo work (like the video above) from an opera performance in Thailand by Kaleigh.
Jared Gamache (2007 grad, vocals, guitar) and Kaleigh Gamache (2009 grad, vocals).
Jared has recorded several solo CDs with the help of fellow Slinger alumni, West Hefter and Zach Paine. Jared appeared regularly at SE Wisconsin clubs between between 2010 and 2015 in a band called Red Light Refugees.
Kaleigh studied vocal performance and opera at UW-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts and also Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. She performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Chorus (accompanied on piano by Slinger alum, Diane Kachelmeier). Experiences include working with the Skylight Theatre in Milwaukee, Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay, Opera Siam in Thailand (2015), and various performances in NYC since receiving her undergrad degree.
Click here for Kaleigh's website, which includes audio and video links. Click here and here for an article about a May 2015 performance in Sturgeon Bay with TAP and here and here and here for an article about her role in Powder Her Face with Skylight Theater in Milwaukee.
Andres Crovetti (Multi-instrumentalist)
Andy Crovetti, above, during a student gig at John Harbor's Coffeehouse in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin in 2009 while he was a senior in High School
Crovetti, a music graduate from University of Minnesota, has been active in several Twin Cities bands including Matra, the Jana Nyberg Group, Jazzland Wonderband, Sound Color Theory, and the Tasty Tones. See links below.
He also toured with the Dallas Brass Band.
Click here to listen to Sound Color Theory.
Click here to listen to The Tasty Tones.
Click here for an interview about Matra.
"I play drums and all types of percussion, including xylophone, marimba, timpani, tambourine, triangle, and anything you can hit with a stick or with your hands. I also play a little guitar, piano, and saxophone."
I can remember being really young and hearing a drumline at a parade, and I distinctly remember being able to feel the drums' vibrations in my chest. My sister started piano lessons and when my parents figured it was time to start me on an instrument, I chose drums.
The music programs at Slinger Middle and High school definitely influenced me to keep up with music as I got to play more and more in school. I started picking up new instruments, played in marching band and jazz band in high school and kept studying privately all the way through, eventually deciding to make music my career path.
I am and have been a part of many musical groups. The bands that I play with regularly are a jazz quintet named "Soundcolor Theory" and a funk group called "The Tasty Tones" of which I am the leader/manager. I also regularly drum with a traditional Dixieland Jazz band named "The Jazzland Wonderband". I work as a freelance drummer/percussionist in the Twin Cities area, which has led to inclusion in various other groups as well.
I think the Slinger area has a great musical culture that fosters growth in musicians. While I was in Slinger, it was "cool" to be in band or to have any kind of musical talent. Sports and academics definitely had their spots in the social world, but it always seemed like people gravitated toward the musical kids and everyone wanted to play in band or be in choir." (November 2013, Interview with Andy Crovetti)
Andres' Crovetti's website
College recital photo from Mercedes Crovetti
Photo by Jazzland Wonderband
Joe Neary (vocals, guitar) and Chris Halbauer (drums) performing in Milwaukee in July 2014.
(Photo by Nate Grimm)
Joe Neary and Chris Halbauer (of Joe Neary and the Middle Ground)
Joe and Chris and The Middle Ground covering "Story of My Life" by One Direction from Milwaukee (above). The Middle Ground appearing on Nashville Radio to sing "Lake Michigan."
2008 Slinger Alumni, Joe Neary and Chris Halbauer, have been playing regularly in the Milwaukee area with their band, the Joe Neary Band. You may see them advertised in 2014 as Joe Neary and the Middle Ground with an appearance at Summerfest 2014. Neary, a percussionist while at SHS, picked up the guitar in 2010. Halbauer, a percussionist while at SHS, studied music at UW-Eau Claire. The Joe Neary Band played in Austin, Chicago, and at the Yellow Phone Conference in Milwaukee. They were busy in 2014-2015 school year playing college campuses across the country. The band won a 2014 WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) award for New Artist of the Year. As of November 2015, they were in Nashville, TN. Here they are in Nashville.
Joe (spring 2014) worked at Hal Leonard Corporation in sales. "Hal Leonard Corporation is the largest music publishing company in the world. I set up our products on-line for companies like Best Buy and Amazon. My previous experience in sales and my passion for music helped me get this job."
Chris (spring 2014) worked at White House of Music in Waukesha. "I basically handle on-line communication with customers, sell and repair drum and percussion equipment, and handle the store's E-Bay Account."
Here is a link to Joe and Chris' e-mail interview with senior musician/sociology student, Andrea Jasperson (2014). Here is a link to Joe's interview with senior, Brenna Redd, after they moved to Nashville (2015). Brenna was studying concept of "place" in lyric innovation and also innovation trends in music.
And a link to their Reverbnation site.
During the 2017-2018 school year, The Middle Ground disbanded. Joe and Jordan Burmeister, another original band member, formed a new group called Double Camp and released new music in 2019 and 2020. Click here for a sample. Click here for Double Camp on Facebook.
The first professional video created by The Middle Ground, "Shots of Heaven." (Above). Official video, shot during the pandemic, for "Smoke and Mirrors" by Double Camp (BELOW).
Kenny Brandt (Saxophone, Clarinet, Concertina)
Photo by Leah Stadel, 2014 Community Night
Town of Hartford resident and retired Town of Addison business owner, Kenny Brandt, played in his family band as a child. He learned concertina, clarinet, and saxophone. As he got older, he fronted the Kenny Brandt Band and played many picnics, weddings, and dance halls in the area. "At one point, we were playing six nights a week," Brandt said in an April 2014 interview with SHS sophomore musicians/historians, Kristin Klahn (sax) and Kathleen Enders (clarinet). Eventually, Brandt and his band even were asked to go to New York to record a Pepsi commercial and nearly appeared on the David Letterman Show. He shared his fond memories of his career in music with students, tips for being successful as a musician, and how he's evolving as a musician today with new technology available.
Julie (Kostuch) Baskinger
Alum Julie Baskinger currently works at Prairie Music Academy after studying music at Lawrence University and the University of Oklahoma and after holding various faculty positions at several New Jersey music institutions. Andrea Jasperson conducted an e-mail interview with Julie in March 2014.
Q. Who or what were your influences as to why you chose a career in music?
A. Hmmm....that's actually a tough question! I believe I largely chose this path on my own, but I was definitely inspired by those who taught music around me. They always seemed so happy! I was so blessed to have marvelous, happy, music-loving people around me every day. That's probably what made me want to do it every day of my life, too!
Q. Were you in the High School band, and what was your favorite kind of music to play?
A. I was definitely in the Band...and choir, Nightwatch, Vocal Jazz, Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble, Theory Class, musicals -- anything I could possibly take that was offered! I loved every bit of music I had the chance to play or experience. If I had to pick a favorite....I probably drifted most to jazz and broadway because I enjoyed the collaboration with other students.
Q. Were there any setbacks or challenges you had to face to pursue your career?
A. Oh definitely. Going to Lawrence was a big wake-up call for me. Everyone surrounding me was so incredibly talented, and it seemed like learning for them came so much easier. I struggled, clawed, and grasped my way through college. I had been a straight-A student in high school, and after my first term at Lawrence, I had a 3.0. That wasn't good enough for me. I wound up hiring writing tutors and rethinking the path my career would take. Thankfully, one of my professors sensed I had a gift for working with students. After failing my upper level jury to debilitating performance anxiety the first go-around, I thought about what she said. I switched studio teachers and dropped my Spanish major to focus 100% on music. That made all the difference. Though the first two years were very challenging and often upsetting, I wouldn't change that experience for anything. It has made me the teacher and musician I am today.
Q. We understand you went to Lawrence University to study music. Can you explain a few of your favorite or most important moments in your growth as a musician after leaving Slinger?
A. I had a fantastic opportunity to study for 10 weeks in London. I was the first student to "enroll" at the Guildhall School of Music strictly for piano lessons while taking my classes at the LU London campus. Yet again, I was surrounded by the best musicians in my generation. You can't beat being able to practice alongside the Thames River every day! I also was the first recipient of an internship at the New School for Music Study in Princeton, NJ in 2003. This school was really the birthplace of piano pedagogy, and I had the opportunity not only to teach, but to dabble in the music publishing world, and to see first hand how a non-profit organization is run. In 2002, I won the Oklahoma State Collegiate Piano Competition. That was a big deal, because I was starting to perform at the same confidence level I did when I was in high school.
Q. How did you come to work at a music academy?
A. After marrying my husband in NJ, we decided to make plans to move here in order to raise a family. Sam (husband), is a computer software engineer. It was crucial he find a stable job first before I could begin looking. Once we knew he'd be working in Madison, I started to look for work at a music school. I had enjoyed the "academy" environment in Princeton, and quite frankly, it's easier having the students come to you verses recruiting them yourself! How fortunate I was to find Prairie Music Academy - which was founded and today still managed by another Lawrence University graduate!
Sukawaty, a 1961 graduate, could certainly be placed in the music educator category as well as artist/alumni. In his interview in May 2014 with sophomore's Jaden Zurn and Sydney Deselm, he spoke about his origins in music, his mentor Sr. Romilda Simon, and tips for leading a successful life in music and other areas. Mike's teaching took him from Slinger to the Hartland School District, where he taught for 28 years. He most recently has worked as an administrator in the Waukesha School District.
"If you're really thinking, and you do something over and over again, you'll get it. You don't need to have huge talent, you need to have huge work ethic." Mike Sukawaty
Click here for a link to an interview excerpt.
Click here to hear about Mike's audition and inspiring words for the students.
Also, you will find another link on the Sr. Romilda Simon section.