Four-time Grammy winner Eugene Friesen is active internationally as a cellist, composer, conductor and teacher. He has worked and recorded with such diverse artists as Dave Brubeck, Toots Thielemans, Betty Buckley, Will Ackerman, Joe Lovano and Dream Theater, and has been featured in concerts all over the world with the Paul Winter Consort, with Trio Globo (Friesen, Howard Levy and Glen Velez), and in his popular CelloMan performances for children and families. A pioneer in the teaching of improvisation to classically trained musicians, Eugene has led workshops throughout North America and around the world. His book, Improvisation for Classically Trained Musicians (Berklee Press) was published in 2012. Friesen’s compositions include “Glory” for the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, “Under the Sun” and “Soul of the White Ant” for Los Angeles’s Pacific Serenades chamber music series, “Songs of Dedication” for College Community Church of Clovis, Calif., and dozens of compositions for string orchestra, string ensemble, and solo cello. He is an artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and on the faculty of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories. Her short stories have been collected in her new book, Tender. She is the recipient of the William L. Crawford Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Samatar holds a Ph.D. in African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she specialized in modern Arabic literature. Before going back to school for a doctoral degree, she lived in South Sudan and Egypt for 12 years, where she became proficient in Arabic. Samatar joined the English faculty at California State University Channel Islands in 2013. She is nonfiction and poetry editor for the online journal Interfictions. Samatar is interested in world literature, African literature, fantasy and science fiction, feminism, and all strange and subversive forms of writing.
Becca J.R. Lachman is a poet, singer-songwriter and educator. In 2015, after a decade of writing and teaching part time at Ohio University, she started a new career with her county’s seven-branch public library system as the communications officer. Lachman is the author of two poetry collections, Other Acreage (Gold Wake Press) and The Apple Speaks (Cascadia Publishing House), and the editor of A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (Woodley Press), which celebrates and wrestles with the legacy of Stafford’s life and work. Her writing and teaching have received support from the Ohio Arts Council, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network. Her work has appeared in Image Journal, Ohio Today, Consequence Magazine, MennoMedia’s Upside Down Living Bible series, Brevity, and So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art. As a musician, Becca has been a Melodious Accord workshop participant under the direction of Alice Parker, a fellow at the Johnny Mercer Power of the American Popular Song festival at Northwestern University, has published choral music with Heritage Press, and has written musicals and musical revues produced in northeast and central Ohio. She is a grateful graduate of Otterbein University (BA), Ohio University (MA) and the Bennington Writing Seminars (MFA). Raised in Kidron, Ohio, she now lives in Athens, Ohio, with her husband, Michael. She is and a member of Columbus Mennonite Church.
Carl Bear is the director of music at First United Methodist Church in South Bend, Ind., and a freelance worship consultant. He has a PhD in Liturgical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., Bear’s studies and music ministry in a range of Christian traditions have taken him across the continent. He has, over the past decade, called the West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, and Ontario home.
Sarah Kathleen Johnson is the worship resources editor for the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee, giving shape to the collection intended to replace Hymnal: A Worship Book and supplements around 2020. Originally from Waterloo, Ontario, she currently lives in South Bend, Ind., where she is working on her PhD in Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame. When she is not studying religion or planning worship, Johnson practices yoga, reads fiction, and bakes.
James (Jim) Heiks taught choral music in the Appleton, Wis., public schools for 30 years. During those years he started a men’s singing movement in the high schools resulting in varsity men’s choruses of 80 to 90 voices in each school. He is also the founder of the Appleton Boychoir, which will celebrate its 38th anniversary this spring. He was part of the Goshen College music faculty from 2004 to 2007. During that time he formed the Goshen College Men’s Chorus, directed the Chorale, Parables, and taught music education courses. From 2007 to 2015, he served as fine arts coordinator for the Appleton Public Schools, and adjunct professor of music at Lawrence University. In 1987 he led the Appleton Boychoir on a Mission of Peace to the former Soviet Union. His choirs have performed in Russia, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Estonia, and Norway. As a student and colleague of Alice Parker, he has collaborated with her on a new folk songbook series for children published by GIA Music: “Alice Parker’s Hand-Me-Down Songs” and “Alice Parker’s Hand-Me-Down Ballads.” He produced a CD of the first songbook, distributed by GIA Music, with singers from the Goshen College Community School for the Arts. Now retired, Heiks has recently formed the Lawrence University Academy of Music Young Men’s Chorus, and also started a small men’s chorus at Rawhide Boy’s Ranch, a residential care facility for at-risk young men.
Sadie Gustafson-Zook is a versatile singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose pure voice and hummable melodies balance with blunt lyrics to create honest and serenely cheerful music. Originally from Goshen, Ind., Gustafson-Zook has performed alongside Garrison Keillor on “Prairie Home Companion” in 2015; shared the stage with The Steel Wheels; toured with the Theory Expats, performing at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in 2015; and frequently collaborates with Boston-based mandolinist Ethan Setiawan. She was the 2011 award-winner of the New Song Showcase at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival with her song “Unless I Loved,” and was a finalist in the 2015 Anabaptist Songwriting Competition with her hymn, “You are the Love.” In 2017, she graduated from Goshen College with a degree in music and a minor in communication. Besides music, Gustafson-Zook enjoys photography, drinking tea and listening to other people’s conversations. Her latest project is a 2017-release solo album, produced by Ethan Setiawan, highlighting her original songs.
Karen Newe, of Pasadena, Calif., has balanced years of professional graphic design with freelance illustration and fine-art printmaking. Her design work has included advertising, editorial, publishing, and corporate non-profit work for World Vision. She has designed and illustrated books for storyteller Melea Brock, including Right-Side-Up Stories for Upside-Down People, Coming Home, and Step Inside, as well as multiple CDs. Additional book illustration includes It’s Time: Explore Your Dreams and Discover Your Gifts by Diane Noble, and Coming Home to the Body by Christine Valters Paintner of AbbeyOfThe Arts.com. Her fine art work is rooted in printmaking—lithography, woodcut and monoprint. She uses printmaking methods in mixed-media works with themes of feminine presence and spirituality. Always interested in the overlap of art and spirituality, Newe has taken many workshops blending these pursuits, most recently in the arts and spiritual direction. She has also led art-making workshops for church retreats, and serves in liturgical design and aesthetics for Pasadena Mennonite Church in Pasadena.
Brenton Good creates work in conversation with the history of art, drawing inspiration from modern art movements such as Minimalism and Bauhaus inspired formalism. This strict adherence to rules and control is coupled in Good’s work with chance occurrences and controlled accidents. The resulting image has a dual nature that combines a meticulous sense of color theory with the organic nature of cracked sidewalks, coffee stains, and landscape. These two poles are meant to exist in a constant state of conversation, friction, and interaction. Brenton has been working for years in both printmaking and painting. Having spent his childhood in Lancaster, Pa., recently he has begun to investigate the areas of overlap between modernist abstract painting and Mennonite quilt patterns. Good received his MFA in printmaking from the University of Dallas in 2005 and is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where he is also the chair of the Department of Visual Arts. He has exhibited artwork internationally, and has his prints and paintings are part of a number of collections, including the University of Alaska, Anchorage; Bilkent University in Turkey, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Good is also a published author; his writing has appeared in publications such as the journal Image, the UTNE Reader, and numerous exhibition catalogues.
“Painter-farmer” Paul Buxman, of San Jose, Calif., has spent more than 40 years painting the vineyards, haystacks and fruit trees of the San Joaquin Valley of California. Working mostly in oils, he is known for his use of color and impressionist style. Following in the plein air tradition of the French Impressionists, Buxman works on location to capture the effects of light and air on the landscape. The artist grew up on a farm in Reedley, Calif. He earning a fine arts degree at Wheaton College in Illinois, studying under Carl Steel, he returned to his hometown to teach, first at General Grant Junior High and then at Miramonte Elementary School, where he also served as principal for six years. In 1980, Buxman decided to devote himself to full-time painting and farming at his Sweet Home Ranch. When his son Wyeth developed leukemia, Buxman devoted himself to cleaning up the San Joaquin Valley’s water, soil and air quality. He is the co-founder of California Clean, a group of farmers committed to sustainable, presticide-free agriculture. His work as an environmentalist has been documented by National Geographic; and American, Canadian and Australian Public Broadcasting, Bill Moyers, and California Heartland. As an artist, his work hangs in private collections, large and small, throughout the United States, and also in the chambers of the California State Senate and the U.S Senate in Washington, D.C. His work has been exhibited at the Fresno Art Center, The Hanford Art Center, The Haggin Museum in Stockton, The Bakersfield Art Museum, The Modesto Art Museum, The Great Valley Center in Modesto and the Villa del Sol d’Oro in Sierra Madre, California.
Johnny Wideman is a playwright and actor, a member of Playwrights Guild of Canada, and a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for his work in theatre from Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo. He received an Honours Bachelor of Arts in drama from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, where he studied playwriting under Guillermo Verdecchia, and at the University of Sussex, U.K., where he focused his research on politically oriented theatre and practitioners. His screenplay GODART was awarded “Best Low-Budget Feature Film” at the Toronto Independent Film Festival and “Official Selection” at the Polish Independent Film Festival. In June of 2011, Wideman started Theatre of the Beat which has since performed his work over 220 times across the U.S. and Canada, including: This Prison Or: He Came Through the Floor, Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft, Forgiven/Forgotten, A Bicycle Built for Two, This Will Lead to Dancing, and Yellow Bellies. As an artist and activist, Wideman strives to use theatre to create an environment for dialogue where the audience is left feeling the need to digest together.