by Dennis Dalman
One of the hottest bands in the Midwest, the Andrew Walesch Big Band, will perform at the Pine Groove Arts and Crafts Festival at Saturday, April 5 in Sartell.
The two-part event is the annual fundraiser for the Sartell Music Association.
Walesch, a graduate of St. John’s University, is a big-band leader, singer, composer and arranger who has garnered rave reviews for his renditions of big-band-era music, including his tributes to the likes of Frank Sinatra and George Gershwin. He is also skilled in just about every other genre of music and has recorded two CDs. Walesch has performed in cities throughout the Midwest, including prestigious venues in Nashville, Chicago and at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis.
Walesch and his band will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 5 at Mulligan’s Event Center in Sartell. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Mulligan’s (320-656-9000) or on the Sartell Music Association’s website: www.sartellmusic.org. Mulligan’s is partnering for the event with the SMA so much of the proceeds will be donated to the SMA, which uses funds to give scholarships and to purchase needed supplies, including instruments, for the Sartell music programs.
The SMA is a non-profit group of parents, students and other residents. Its mission is to enhance the music curriculum in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District.
Part I of the Pine Groove Arts and Crafts Festival will take place from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., also April 5, at Sartell Middle School. It’s a free event for all. There will be lots of arts and crafts vendors at the event, along with many live musical performances by Sartell music faculty, students and by GREAT Theatre performers, including some that were in the recent epic production of Les Misérables. Also performing will be David Lumley, Sartell music teacher; the St. John’s Boys Choir; the Sartell High School Jazz Band; a Sartell faculty rock band; and the Sartell Community Band.
Arts-and-crafts vendors are still being accepted. They should contact www.sartellmusic.org. People may also donate to the SMA on that website.
Another performer that day will be Maureen Putnam, SMA board president who is widely known in the area for her musical talents. She was a member of the Les Misérables cast. Putnam is a former music director in Sartell and long-time piano teacher who is now liturgy director of Christ Our Light Parish of Princeton-Zimmerman.
Putnam also taught piano to Andrew Walesch, the star of the April 5 event at Mulligan’s. Walesch, she said, was an excellent student whose musical talents rapidly bloomed into his current success.
“There are two purposes for the Pine Groove Arts and Crafts Festival,” Putnam said. “We want to bring the experience of music and art to Sartell and other communities and we want to help support music in the Sartell school district.”
Like other SMA board members and supporters, Putnam has a passion for music. Indeed, music is a very strong bond in her family. Husband Tom Speckhard, a teacher at SJU, is a singer and member of the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. Their children – Aidan, 14, and Sophia, 10 – are also musically talented. Both play piano and sing. Aidan plays drums and Sophia plays violin.
Putnam is excited about the new energies of the current SMA board. Its members are Julie Barkley, an instructional leader at Discovery School in Waite Park; Patrick Moen, local attorney and violinist; Carol Mossey, a registered nurse and rehabilitation consultant; Royce Nies, a financial adviser; Pete Olson, a retired band director and principal for the Foley school system; and Melanie Zenzen, a nurse anesthetist at the St. Cloud Hospital.
Zenzen has a daughter, Emma, who is a ninth-grader at Sartell High School and who plays acoustic guitar and sings in the high-school choir.
“I like to support the arts and music in schools,” Zenzen said. “I’ve supported sports, too, and now I’m supporting arts and music as well.”