“No Song Left Behind” …
that’s my hope. My part is keeping the songs going that have struck me over the years. A folk music fan my whole life, I worked over the decades as a promoter, artistic director, and broadcaster who listened to music all the time as part of my work (tough deal!). A lot of melodies and lyric lines stay with me, and I continue to listen and learn.
No Song Left Behind … there are so many great ones, and my joy as a singer and performer is to continually find the best ones and give them good airings, to let their voices be heard. “No Song Left Behind” is a call to action, too – I hope everyone can find great songs from their youth, and make them part of staying young.
I sing narratives and exciting pop songs from the 60s and 70s up to the present, many classics of the day. Images and sounds from American steelmaking and the Canadian wilderness, lovers looking ahead and looking back, rivers overflowing and an immigrant’s look home … musical reminders, guesses about the future and stories from the world over are all part of my performance. The songs include my originals and material from Canadian, American and British folk and popular songwriters. I play acoustic and electric guitars, long-necked mandolin and piano, singing of love, work, travel, history and fun in a melodic and rhythmic style influenced by both traditional and contemporary, all presented in a clear and engaging tenor.
I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, and traveled a lot to hear folk music at festivals and venues in the 1970s. Not ready to perform when I was younger, I did the next best thing and helped other artists. I booked clubs and concerts, had a folk music radio show, and managed artists (including Stan Rogers). I moved to Bethlehem, Pa., in 1980. After grad school, I did market research consulting for Martin Guitar, and managed the first years of Musikfest, 1984-1987.
And then …
My entrée as a writer came in 1998 and 1999 in the “Steel Festival: The Art of an Industry,” a multi-disciplinary homage to Bethlehem’s steelmaking heritage, produced by Touchstone Theatre. The Festival inspired my songs about life as a steelworker in Bethlehem – “The Guy Who Keeps It Going,” “Hello, Mr. Wolle,” a tribute to steelworkers in the ranks of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, and “Little Mexico, 1938,” the homesickness of immigrant steelworkers. I contributed two songs to the festival and the Days of Steel CD on Bummer Tent Records. Produced by Mike Krisukas, this CD featured Festival songwriters.
In 2000, I released a CD, “527” with eight original songs, including three composed for the Festival. I’m sure that several dozen have been sold over the years! But it has songs that I still play. My song “Penny Evans’ Daughters” from that record is part of a tribute CD to Steve Goodman, in a 2007 biography of the legendary Chicago singer-songwriter.
My favorite stages have included Godfrey Daniels, Rasputin’s (Ottawa), Yellow Door in Montreal, Musikfest, Mayfair, and many years at First Night (Bethlehem). In 2005, I performed in “The Last Cast,” a dramatic and musical celebration of the tenth anniversary of the end of steelmaking in Bethlehem, in Baker Hall of Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. In 2012, I was in Selkie Theatre’s sold-out concert-reading of Howard Zinn’s Voices Of A Peoples History Of The United States. In 2013, I was Musical Director of Selkie’s production of Occupy Your Mind, a dramatic rendering of the experiences of the Occupy movement in New York.
With so many friends ..
Over the years, I’ve developed a great duet with Michael London, who is also my teaching colleague at Muhlenberg College. We’ve played together at Mayfair and for audiences at Drexel University and on campus. One of our programs is “Songs in the Key of M” to relate to our management teaching. These days, Michael, Lee Daniels, my brother Daniel, and all the Coyotes are great musical companions.
In recent few years, I’ve been a soloist in worship settings. In Bethlehem’s Rosemont Lutheran Church, Pastor Jack Steltzer invited me to shape the musical part of some contemporary worship. I play material from my current and evolving repertoire, focusing on songs of the spirit, songs that are thought-provoking, inspiring, and challenging, to accompany the service. At Muhlenberg College, Chaplains Callista Isabelle and Janelle Neubauer have invited me to help with Chapel services.
In 2016 and then again in 2017, I organized and played in a tribute show honoring one of my songwriting heroes, Stan Rogers 1949-1983. With Dave Fry, Mary Faith Rhoads, and Rick Weaver, we did a great show to big houses at Godfrey Daniels. Our next date is at Godfreys on July 15, 2023.
Among so many musical collaborators, I still enjoy many Saturday nights with the Coyotes at various people’s homes with Neal, Jonnie, Bob, Lee, Judy, John, Stephanie, Mary Faith and other occasional visitors. In 2018 and again in 2019, I sang at Godfreys as one of the Saturday Night Coyotes.
I worked for years in the Lehigh Valley’s arts scene. I had a key founding role at Musikfest, Bethlehem’s summer music festival now in its 37th year, raised funds and helped produce recordings for the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and David Amram Jazz Quartet, founded and led Bethlehem’s Rose Garden Children’s Festival, produced concerts for Sing Out! and Bethlehem’s 250th Anniversary, and was Interim Executive Director of NPR affiliate WDIY-FM. I was on the boards of Sing Out! from 2007 – 2020, and I still volunteer with the Boards of New Bethany Ministries and Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.
I’m lucky to have a career setting where I can work my love of songs into my teaching. My full-time work is as Associate Professor of Business and Business Program Director at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. I have songs ready for many of the management classes I teach. For a few years, I taught a course to first year students called (of course) “No Song Left Behind,” and I sometimes play song sets for classes in English, History, and Foreign Languages.
These pages ©2023, Roland J. Kushner, last modified June 24, 2023.