Oak Park School of Folk Music set to present classes and concert on September 30

OAK PARK IL – Sixty years ago this autumn Chicago’s venerable Old Town School of Folk Music was born in a living room in Oak Park, Illinois. On September 30 five teaching artists from the School will celebrate the milestone anniversary by launching The Oak Park School of Folk Music as part of a full day of musical activities.

“Folktober Fest” will consist of morning classes, afternoon classes, a “Second Half,” the signature activity at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and an evening home concert in River Forest.

The event is sponsored by Music and Potlucks, a community organization dedicated to presenting cultural arts programs to support the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, Housing Forward and the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry.

Music and Potlucks presented the highly successful fundraising concert “Songs For Peace and Justice” in April.

“We feel the need to continue to nourish our community,” said Music and Potlucks co-director Stephanie Schrodt. “Across the board there is a lot of fear and concern. There are needs that must be addressed. We feel that music, and music education are important tools that can help bring our community together.”

“Music is the medicine our spirits need,” said Elizabeth Sweeney Backes, President of the Board of the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry. “Learning together, singing together and enjoying music together is the basis where positive, good things can begin to grow. We are absolutely thrilled to be presenting these very gifted Old Town School of Folk Music teaching artists for our second event of the year.”

Jason McInnes, an Old Town School Distinguished Teaching Artist, Peggy Browning, Maura Lally and Mark Mitchell members of the all acoustic Americana trio, The Pickin’ Bubs, and Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak will comprise the teaching faculty for the morning and afternoon classes, and provide the entertainment for the evening home concert.

“Oak Park is the perfect community for a program like the Old Town School of Folk Music,” said Schrodt. “We love the idea of a ‘pop-up’ school paired with a wonderful evening event. It’s our way of tipping our hats to a venerable Chicago institution in an important anniversary year, while also bringing some of that great energy out to the Oak Park-River Forest area.”

The classes will take place at the First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake Street. Morning classes include Youth Guitar (ages 7+), Guitar Basics, 5-String Banjo Basics, Fiddle Repertoire, and Finger Picking Guitar Basics. Afternoon classes include Improvise and Solo, Celebrating Tradition, Irish Fiddle and Singing Together: Melody and Harmony.

Registration for each class is $25. Those interested in attending should be prepared to bring their own playable instrument. Enroll through Brown Paper Tickets

Admission to the evening home concert is $20 suggested and by invitation.

For more information email musicandpotlucks@gmail.com. Information can also be found at www.markdvorak.com and www.facebook.com/musicandpotlucks.

Troubadour Mark Dvorak at Concerts On The Creek

ROCKFORD IL – In the turbulent 1960’s folk songs were sung on campuses and heard on the radio. Artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger recorded and performed to packed houses across the country.

For modern day troubadour Mark Dvorak the times haven’t really changed.

“People are looking for each other,” said the singer who performs in Rockford at Spring Creek UCC on Saturday, August 12 at 7:00 pm.

“Folk music and the people who make it have always responded in times of struggle and unrest. Our country and our communities are divided in many ways, but we gather to sing and to affirm all we share in common, and all we hope to achieve.”

Dvorak is busy at work on his eighteenth recording release due out later this year, “Let Love Go On.”

“I’ve been on the road all summer,” he said. “These songs say things that each of us is feeling, but can’t always express at work or the dinner table. And people are responding.”

Dvorak has performed in thirty-eight states and in parts of Europe and Canada. He has won awards for journalism and children’s music. In 2008 he received the Woodstock Folk Festival, Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lantern Bearer Award from Folk Alliance International in 2013. Last November he celebrated his 30th anniversary on faculty at Chicago’s venerable Old Town School of Folk Music, where he is artist-in-residence.

Spring Creek UCC is located at 4500 Spring Creek Road in Rockford. A free will donation will be suggested. Pizza and light refreshments will be available for purchase. For more information phone 815 979 1949 or visit www.springcreekucc.org.

For more information on Mark Dvorak go to www.markdvorak.com.


Steel Beam Theatre benefits from Old Town School of Folk Music connection August 11

(ST. CHARLES, IL) Since 2001 the Steel Beam Theatre has been St. Charles’ home for passionate, engaging, provoking and always entertaining professional theatre. But for an evening each summer, the intimate eighty-seat black box space has been transformed into a folk club featuring Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak.

On Friday, August 11 at 7:30pm  Dvorak returns to Steel Beam for a special concert, “Let Love Go On,” to benefit the award-winning non-profit organization.

St. Charles residents Mike and Phyliss Alberts made the connection four years ago. The Alberts are Steel Beam volunteers and also volunteer at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago where Dvorak has been on faculty for some thirty years.

“I met Mark years ago when I was taking classes at the Old Town School,” said Mike Alberts who is the sound engineer for the August 11 show. “Those classes changed our lives and when we were discussing summer event to benefit the theatre, Mark seemed like the perfect fit. His shows are engaging, entertaining, rich and powerful.”

“Mike and Phyliss are my friends and have been faithful supporters of the Old Town School of Folk Music,” said Dvorak. “I have always been a big believer in grass roots community arts and the incredible work that takes place at the Steel Beam is very, very special. I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning this summer and to sharing some of my new songs.”

The fourth anniversary benefit concert will feature material from his upcoming CD release, “Let Love Go On” due out later this year. Dvorak who has called folk artist Pete Seeger, “an eternal inspiration,” used the opening lines of Seeger’s 1972 book The Incompleat Folksinger as the roadmap for his latest recording project.

“Seeger wrote: ‘I call them all love songs,’” said Dvorak. “‘They tell of love of man and woman, and parents and children, love of country, freedom, beauty, mankind, the world, love of searching for truth and other unknowns.’ I’ve had those words in the back of my mind for a long time. Even though our country and our communities seemed divided, people all over  are rediscovering how music and art can show us all the things, or at least some of the things we share in common. And I think that’s an important starting place.”

Tickets are $20 and can be reserved by phoning 630 587 8521 or visiting online at www.steelbeamtheatre.org. For more information on Mark Dvorak visit www.markdvorak.com.

Flying Cat Concert Celebrates Woody Guthrie’s birthday July 14

INDIANAPOLIS IN – Flying Cat Concerts welcomes Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak to the Propylaeum Carriage House, 1410 Delaware Street, on Friday, July 14 The concert begins at 7:30 pm.

When the singer-songwriter began his career in music, he knew right away he was in it for the long haul. Thirty-four years later he is still on the road and recording.

“At this stage of the game,” said Dvorak, “I feel like I’m doing my best work. I’m hoping to get a new CD out by autumn. I’m very excited about it. I’ve got some new material coming along, and I’m including a bunch of different things I like to do before a live audience.

“Mark has been on the road for a lot of years it seems,” said Joanne Smiddie-Brush, who is the music director for Flying Cat Concerts. “He’s has gained attention across the country following in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and Pete Seeger.”

Since 2009, Flying Cat Concerts has presented acoustic music in a variety of venues in the greater Indianapolis area, including concerts in private homes, the Music Room near Butler University and the Carriage House at the Indianapolis Propylaeum.

“Mark has been on our radar for a few years now,” said Smiddie-Brush. We’re thrilled that he’ll be joining us for a concert on Woody’s birthday.”

“He’s the real deal,” said Bau Graves, Executive Director of the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, where Dvorak has been on faculty for thirty years. ”Mark has made music his life and livelihood. His performances are elegant, rich and powerful. He is one of the Old Town School’s Distinguished Teaching Artists.”

Dvorak has performed in thirty-eight states and in parts of Europe and Canada. He has released seventeen albums and has won awards for journalism and children’s music. In 2008 he received the Woodstock Folk Festival Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lantern Bearer Award from Folk Alliance International in 2013.

General admission seating is $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Brown Paper Tickets are available at 1 800 838 3006. Online at BrownPaperTickets.com.

This Land Is Your Land comes to Schubas April 23

CHICAGO IL – Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport welcomes Old Town School of Folk Music artists Campeau and Craig, the Pickin’ Bubs and singer songwriter Mark Dvorak for a benefit performance on Sunday, April 23. The all-ages show begins at 7:00 pm. Each of the artists performs regularly at Schubas’ popular Acoustic Brunch, and the event will support the Old Town School, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary year.

“There is a wave of anxiety throughout our community,” said Peggy Browning, who writes songs and sings with the Pickin’ Bubs. “We wanted to create an event that would bring people together during these uncertain political times, and support the inclusive mission of the Old Town School.” Browning also curates the acts at Schubas Acoustic Brunch, and is on faculty at the school.

“The Old Town School unequivocally welcomes the participation of everyone,” said Bau Graves, executive director of the school. “Regardless of religion, country of origin, gender orientation or political persuasion, we don’t care where you came from or how you got here. We do care that every individual feels safe within our facilities and in every interaction with our school community.”

The concert is titled, “This Land Is Your Land,” and will feature Chicago folk veterans Fred Campeau and Mitch Thomas with Jim and Vivian Craig, who perform together as Campeau and Craig. Also on the bill are the Pickin’ Bubs, an acoustic trio whose sound is rooted in traditional music. Bau Graves will make a special guest appearance and Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak will open the show. The entire cast will close the evening together with a selection of folk sing alongs including Woody Guthrie classic “This Land Is Your Land.”

“The Old Town School of Folk Music is Chicago’s sanctuary for community, culture and arts education,” said Dvorak. “It’s the place we go to learn how to sing and play together. It’s the place we go to learn how to take care of each other. Pete Seeger once said, ‘Never underestimate the power of bringing harmony into the world.’”

General admission is $12 advance, $15 at the door. Advanced tickets can be purchased at  www.lh-st.com   Donations to the Old Town School of Folk Music can be made at the event or by visiting www.oldtownschool.org. For more information phone Schubas 773 525 2508.

Sing Along Concert in Forest Park to benefit Community Foundation, Food Pantry and Housing Forward

The first annual Oak Park River Forest Community Sing Along is set to take place on Sunday, April 30 at Doc Ryan’s, 7432 W. Madison, Forest Park. Music begins at 6:00 pm.

The event is called “Songs for Peace and Justice” and is sponsored by the Songs for Peace and Justice Fund held at the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation. Besides the Fund at the Community Foundation, the event will benefit two local community service agencies, the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry and Housing Forward.

“We feel there is hole to fill, and a real need to help nourish our community.” said Stephanie Schrodt of River Forest, who is co-chairing the event along with Betsy Backes and Liz Ziehl.

“Across the nation there is a lot of fear and concern for friends, loved ones, strangers, immigrants and for ourselves,” she said. “It is beautiful to witness the way music can transform the atmosphere.”

The concert will feature folk musicians Mark Dvorak and Jason McInnes, both from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Dvorak, who was named Chicago’s “official troubadour” by WFMT 98.7 FM, will be accompanied by the Power of Song Singers, a ten-member chorus which began at the Old Town School after the passing of Pete Seeger in 2014. McInnes is the director of the Young Stracke All-Stars, an ensemble of youth musicians aged 8 to 14. The group is named for Old Town School founder Win Stracke, who was a singer, early television star and music education pioneer.

“We wanted to create this opportunity for neighbors to connect and to give music and singing together the chance to work its magic,” said Schrodt. “We want to support our local agencies who continue to help our neighbors navigate through challenging times.”

All ages are welcome to attend. General admission to the event is a sliding suggested donation of $10 – $20. $25 suggested for families. The sponsors regret that the event is not wheelchair accessible. Doors open at 5:00 pm. For information and for sponsorship opportunities phone 312451-5101 or email musicandpotlucks@gmail.com. Visit the website at www.oprfcf.org.

Springing Ahead

Well it is quite busy here for Loretta Sawyer Acoustic Arts and for me personally…

WoodSongs/Loretta Sawyer Acoustic Arts was at Folk Alliance International Kansas City, MO
February 15-18th. Thanks to all who stopped by the trade show booth… artists, presenters, DJs. Great meeting you all!

Loretta at FAI 2017

Loretta at FAI 2017

Friday Feb 24th, Brian Ashley Jones was at Uncommon Ground/Devon-Chicago, Saturday Feb 25th brought the music of Tony Bennett at the Mercury Theater. I completed proofreading the new WoodSongs III book for Michael Johnathon, and it had me laughing and crying!

Thursday March 2nd  was my graduation class performance at the Old Town School of Folk Music… yes, I have been taking guitar lessons, now that I have the new Martin guitar I wanted to try it out. So I started again with Guitar 1 at OTS, it was a small class and we all had it going on, of course my instructor (Mark Dvorak) always has it going on. The class gave me structure and incentive and I am looking forward to the next session. I am sorry that there is not a picture or video of the event. They even had lights and microphones! I now have a deeper respect for those of you who make your life/living on the stage!

March 4th was the Annual Paul Seiwert Foundation Benefit for Children with Cancer. David Noll was at Two Way Street Coffee House in Downers Grove, Friday March 10th. Met David at the Folk Alliance Conference Region Midwest where he introduced his new CD Serenade to a Life.

Mark Dvorak filled the Acorn Coffeehouse at the Burning Bush Art Gallery in Wheaton, IL this past Saturday.  A very nice place for art and music.

Michael Johnathon returns to the Hickory Ridge Concert Series in Lewistown, IL this Saturday March 18.

Mark Dvorak will be a showcase artist at the Illinois Library Association Reaching Forward Conference in Rosemont, IL May 5th.  LSAA is doing a special promotion of this
to Illinois libraries.  You can find more information about this and Mark’s complete schedule at www.markdvorak.com

There are a couple of wonderful community music events being planned as fund-raisers for non-profit organizations.  Stayed tuned for more information!

Looking forward to Spring!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! A new year brings new bookings and promotion.

Loretta Sawyer Agency has been working on adding more shows to Michael Johnathon‘s schedule for 2017 and beyond.

Mark Dvorak continues to have a full schedule which he balances between traveling to concerts, teaching, and performing for library and senior events. Loretta Sawyer Acoustic Arts provides press releases for his various performances. The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago recently recognized Mark Dvorak with the Distinguished Teachers Award.

Chris Vallillo is busy with his program O’Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement which he is performing at libraries and historical museums.

The Folk Alliance International Conference is Feb 15-19 in Kansas City, MO. WoodSongs/Loretta Sawyer Acoustic Arts will be having a trade show booth there Feb 16-18 from 11am-3pm. Stop by and visit! Pick up CD samples, information on the WoodSongs Front Porch Association, and become a SongFarmer.  WoodSongs Coffeehouses and SongFarmer Clubs are sprouting up all over the country… folks are gathering to play music and sing songs!

I have signs on my desk that say PEACE and LOVE… and that is what I wish you!


Summer 2016

I Hate to See the Summer Go is an original song by Chicago Troubadour Mark Dvorak, and it’s all too true. Summer has been speeding by… so here’s some news to catch up on from Loretta Sawyer Acoustic Arts…

Last weekend I was on the road… driving two lane Wisconsin highways with corn fields and farms for scenery,  to two special music events…The Shawano Folk Music Festival in Shawano, WI, and then on to The Black Hawk Folk Society concert series in Mt. Morris, WI.  Both are wonderful community music events. Thanks to Black Hawk Folk Society for hosting Michael Johnathon; it was truly a special night.

Michael Johnathon has released two new CDs… SongFarmer (recorded on an iPhone) and The Dream which will be making its debut to radio for International Day of Peace  (Peace Day) on September 21.

I am honored to be a creative board member for the WoodSongs Front Porch Association. The annual gathering will be held at Shaker Village near Lexington,  Kentucky September 23-24. For more information visit www.songfarmers.org

Loretta Sawyer Acoustic Arts hosted a private showcase room at the SERFA in North Carolina Conference this past May thanks to all the artists who were part of the schedule; especially Brian Ashley Jones and Brad Cole for bringing their fan clubs and filling the room and to Freebo for closing out the room with a special jam. Next conference is FARM (Folk Alliance Region Midwest) in October in Iowa City, IA where the Uncorked showcase will be going for three nights. Looking forward to presenting exceptional talent!

Loretta Sawyer Promotions has sent the following CDs to radio, thanks to the DJs for the airplay.

Eric Lambert- 75 A Bow to Bob
Dave Rudolf – Let It Roll
Dave Rudolf- All Folked Up Vol. 3
Lambert & Walz-Self Titled
Curtis & Loretta – When There’s Good To Be Done
Rob McNurlin – The Gospel Guitar
Rob McNurlin – Blue Nashville Guitar
Common Thread – A Bushel & A Peck

On a personal note, my biggest news is that I bought a new guitar… A Martin 000 with a spruce top.  Not a high-end model but I never knew a guitar could feel so good. Looking forward to the songs I will bring out of it.

Enjoy the rest of the summer days and warm starry nights…

See you on Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/loretta.sawyer.9



Chicago troubadour returns to Ludington for three performances

LUDINGTON MI – Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak returns to Ludington for three performances July 20, 21 and 22.

Dvorak has released seventeen albums to date and performed in thirty-eight states, and in Canada, Ireland and Finland. In 2013 he was honored by Folk Alliance International with the FARM Lantern Bearer Award for his contributions to folk and community music. That same year he published his first book of essays and poetry, “Bowling for Christmas and Other Tales from the Road.”

“Mark has been on the road for a lot of years it seems,” said musician and Ludington resident Mike Lenich. “He’s a favorite in the Midwest and is gaining attention across the country. We’re really thrilled to have Mark back in town.”

On Wednesday, July 20, Dvorak will perform a FREE family concert at Ludington State Park, 8800 West M-116. Information at 231 843 2423 and online at www.visitludington.com.

On Thursday, July 21, he will perform from 5:00 – 8:00 pm at the Shagway Arts Barn, 5949 Shagway Road. General admission is $5. Information at 231 970 0222 and online at www.shagwayartsbarn.com.

On Friday, July 22, Dvorak will be featured at “Friday Night Live,” Ludington’s summer celebration that includes music, food and family activities. The event runs from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. Information at 231 845 6237 and online at www.downtownludington.org.

“Mark is a master musician and story teller,” said Nancy Miller, director at Shagway Arts Barn. We presented him last summer for a special event and can’t wait to have him back for this year’s series at the Barn.”

“When I began my career in music,” said the singer, “I knew I would be in it for the long haul. And at this stage of the game, I feel like I’m doing my best work.”

“He’s the real deal,” said Bau Graves, Executive Director of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. ”Mark has made music his life and livelihood. He’s been a top faculty member at the school for almost thirty years. His performances are elegant, rich and powerful.”