If keeping with the traditional acoustic instruments which make up the core of the Bluegrass genre - Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, upright 'doghouse' Bass, and Fiddle - is your thing, Calabogie Road checks those boxes. All the band members are fluent with their primary instruments, and most are multi-instrumentalists. Read on, below, to learn more about Marten, Ian, Ruth, Mark and John.
I am an immigrant from the Netherlands, a 'real' Hollander, coming to the USA when I was almost 5 years old. In 1962, at age 10, my parents - especially my Dad - thought it would be a “...dream come true” if I, his eldest son, learned to play the violin. It would be proof to all the relatives back in the Netherlands that things were going well for us…I'd be studying the violin! Dad had a great feel for music and we three boys all had to first learn to play the harmonica! (My sister somehow got out of this!) My training was classical, but Dad added a twist. I'd have to play along with the local Gospel radio station and improvise on the tune, in whatever key it was played in, even if it was in between keys, and all without sheet music in front of me!
I played all through High School, as well as several years in the orchestra at Calvin College, where I was a student. I did cause some immense pain to my orchestra Professor at Calvin when several of us were given a chance to play a genuine Stradivarius and I played “Yackity Sax” instead of something from Beethoven! I continued with mostly classical music, in various groups and also performing in weddings and at Church, I started feeling an urge to play a different style of music.
In 1999 I met a young high school student, Luke Lenhart, who is a most gifted bluegrass instrumentalist! He coached me in the fine art of how to play bluegrass style. I traded my violin for a fiddle! I played with Luke's band for many years and now have the privilege of being part of the Calabogie Road Bluegrass Band.
My wife Dianne and I have three wonderful sons, three wonderful daughter–in–laws, and eight fantastic grand children! After I retired from my job as a P. O. With the Dept. of Corrections I opened up a coffeehouse, Mocha–N–Music, where over 2,700 music events were played! Now that the coffeehouse is closed, I get to play even more music!
Ian Tronsen is a young and very talented banjo player who we'd seen at a number of WMBMA jams, and twisted his arm to join all us 'seasoned citizens' and become a member of Calabogie Road. He is very accomplished and polished, having filled in with a number of area bands - including Gravel Ridge. Ian combines a traditional Earl Scruggs style of playing with tasteful 'contemporary chromatic' licks. He definitely brings the the average age of the band down, and he was as excited to be a part of Calabogie Road as we were to have him! In addition to his stellar banjo picking, he also is a fine singer and guitar player. You'll occasionally hear him doing some great versions of old Merle Haggard and Tom T. Hall tunes as part of our shows.
As an original member of Calabogie Road, Ruth is the 'Ma Barker' to these guys. Music has played a major part in her life for the past fift…ahhhh many years. A sister to seven brothers and a sister, an aunt to their families, a wife, a mother of two grown boys and two lovely daughters–in–law, a grandmother of five, a retired school bus driver of 24 years, she keeps busy with the family, sewing, painting, camping, bow hunting, sugar cookie baking and frosting, and her most favorite pastime - Detroit Tiger Baseball. A resident of the great state of Michigan all her life, she was active in the folk, Americana music scene until joining up with the West Michigan Bluegrass Music Association. She quickly became an active member holding the Secretary’s job for several years and was involved with their two annual festivals that are held in Lowell Michigan, at the Kent County Fairgrounds. Activities coordinator, leading voice workshops, being a judge for the Spring Song Writers Contest in 2009 - she certainly is no stranger to the happenings in the Bluegrass Festival world. Ruth plays rhythm guitar for the band, does much of the lead singing, adds harmonies for the guys in the band, and has written some of the band's original songs.
“I love playing music and traveling with these guys. We have a lot of fun together and I have met the nicest people around the campfires late at night at the festival jams. I know I’ll be meeting many more in the years to come. I hope you’re one of them. Come on out and visit with us, I’d love to meet you.”
One of the founding members of the band, John has always enjoyed Bluegrass music, and his appreciation of the music has grown since the inception of the band. Growing up listening to a wide variety of music has enabled him to finally sort out which is his favorite: bluegrass! "I always like to say that everyone loves bluegrass music; some folks just might not know it yet!"
Whether it's spending time camping with the grand-kids or fishing somewhere with a friend or the solitude of deer hunting, music is never far from mind for John.
"During the first nine years of the Patchwork Band - and now as Calabogie Road - we have traveled to so many interesting places and have met so many wonderful people. It has always been a lifelong dream of mine to do this. Even as a young aspiring musician, I knew that someday I would have the opportunity to make people feel good about something in their lives. Even if it may only be for a two-hour concert, it warms my heart to see the happiness on people's faces as they get lost in the music we present".
I grew up surrounded by music in the little town of Dutton, Michigan, though I really had been a 'closet musician' most of my life. My Dad used to play guitar and mandolin and there was always music playing on the radio in the kitchen or on the old record player out in the living room. As a small child I remember my Dad sitting in that same living room with his fine Gibson guitar singing Bobby Bare’s ’Detroit City.’
When I was maybe 10 or so my folks sent me to a guitar teacher for lessons. After three weeks he called them and said, "Don’t bother wasting any more of your money on lessons for Mark; he’ll never be able to play guitar with his tiny fingers and small hands."
I started playing again about the time I was a freshman in High School. I’d spin Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor records on my stereo in my bedroom and play along with them on an old warped guitar that used to be in the attic of our house. When I was in 11th grade I bought a second-hand guitar from a pawn shop and continued to play through the rest of my high-school years; mostly finger-picking in the Croce, Lightfoot and Taylor styles. After graduation I bought my first "good" guitar - a Hohner HG320 limited-edition flattop dreadnaught. I play that guitar to this day.
I started hanging out with my 2nd cousins Rick and Dave Williams (of the Williams Family Bluegrass Band) and learned to play some banjo and flat-pick and strum bluegrass rhythm. I remained a 'closet musician’ for 20+ years, playing in my home and helping out at church on occasion. (I figured no one would throw anything at me in church.) I bought an inexpensive mandolin about 15 years ago and taught myself to play that as well, and eventually bought a custom-made Silver Angel mandolin - which I play at all our performances.
My wife of 42 years - Julie - and I have lived just south of Dorr, Michigan since 1982 in a 120-year old farm house, where we raised our two children, a daughter and a son.
When not hunting and fishing or playing music, my wife and I enjoy camping, and at least one of my instruments accompanies me on those trips!
Thanks for checking into and learning about our band. We're so looking forward to meeting and playing for you sometime soon! Be safe and warm - and never grow old!