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 Visit the website at

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

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

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:



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

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

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

“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.”

Old Friends reunite for Land Between the Lakes music fest

GOLDEN POND KY – Born of the heartland and raised in the river valleys, old-time country music will once again echo in the hills and hollows of the Land Between the Lakes on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12.

The 18th annual “Pickin’ Party” will take place on the grounds of The Homeplace, an authentic 1850s working farm and living history museum. The festival will feature the best of old-time music through workshops, picking sessions and energized performances of folk, string band, old-time fiddle, banjo and bluegrass music.

“Each year the Pickin’ Party has felt like a big family reunion,” said Cindy Earls, special events coordinator for the Friends of Land Between the Lakes. “We’ve enjoyed mixing up the music a bit, and we’re lucky that each year our friends from the Old Town School of Folk Music make the trip down to join us.”

Peg Browning, Maura Lally of Common Thread, and Chicago’s “official” troubadour Mark Dvorak are again among the featured performers.

Browning and Lally, who each play multiple instruments, have collaborated with fiddler Gracie Wallace of Bumpus Mills, TN and singer/guitarist Dixie Jones of Clarksville, to form Common Thread, a four piece vocal and instrumental group. The quartet recorded their first CD together, “A Bushel and a Peck,” in a rented cabin near Nashville, Indiana.

“We had a lot of fun recording our songs that weekend,” said Peggy Browning, who plays guitar, banjo and wrote a number of the songs on the disc. “Maura and I drove down from Chicago, and Gracie and Dixie headed north. Nashville is about halfway between and we got the whole thing recorded in four days. It’s just lovely to sing with Gracie, Maura and Dixie. We laughed so hard that weekend our faces hurt.”

Dvorak, who is artist-in-residence at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music will also be featured. Dvorak, who is a masterful instrumentalist and interpreter of traditional music, has performed at every Pickin’ Party since 1999. He began writing songs after visiting the Homeplace the very first time.

“It was so inspiring to come down here and be part of this gathering,” he said. “We just feel so lucky to have made so many friends, and to be treated like family each year.”

Dvorak was inspired to write “Old Friends,” a country song celebrating the friendships and music  he discovered in Tennessee. The song is the closing track on his most recent release, “Back Home,” a sampler of traditional, original and live performances.

“Old friends are the best friends,” he said.

The Pickin’ Party is from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm both days. The Homeplace is located at 4512 The Trace, about fourteen miles north of Dover. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for ages 5-12. The fee includes entry to the farm. For complete information on The Pickin’ Party, visit the Land Between the Lakes homepage at or phone 931 232 6457.

For more information on Common Thread, visit and for information on Mark Dvorak, visit

Seeger tribute, workshop at Old Town School April 24

CHICAGO IL – The Old Town School of Folk Music welcomes Chicago’s “official troubadour” Mark Dvorak, for a special concert and workshop honoring the legacy of American folk icon, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger. The 7:00 pm concert takes place in the Myron R. Szold Music and Dance Hall, 4545 N. Lincoln Avenue. The workshop takes place at 2:00 pm. Seeger was born on May 3, 1919.

The program features Dvorak leading the audience through some of Pete Seeger’s best-known songs, including  “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and others that have –become standard in the American folk repertoire. Perhaps no single person of the 20th century has done more to preserve, broadcast, and redistribute folk music than Pete Seeger. His passion for politics, the environment, and humanity earned him both ardent fans and vocal enemies since he first began performing in the 1930s.

In 1948 Seeger formed the folk singing group, The Weavers, which scored massive hit records. After the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, Seeger was a major force at the Newport Folk Festivals and became a promoter of upcoming talent.

His marathon-length concerts included Spanish songs, African-American work songs and spirituals, new protest songs and old folk songs, sometimes with rewritten lyrics. And he got everyone singing along, often in multi-part harmony.

Chicago’s Mark Dvorak has followed in the footsteps of Seeger as a musician, educator and community builder. Dvorak toured for six years with the the group WeaverMania! performing Seeger’s role as singer, storyteller and banjo player. 2016 marks his thirtieth anniversary as a faculty member at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

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

Dvorak will be joined by the Old Town School Folk Chorus, a ten-member group of Old Town School members and singers who have accompanied him for over twenty concerts since Seeger passed away in January 2014.

Members of the Chorus will also help Dvorak lead a ninety-minute workshop at 2:00 pm, “The Power of Song.” The session will present material from Seeger’s vast repertoire and rehearse participants to join Dvorak on stage for the second half of the show.

“We’ve sung a lot of songs together,” said Dvorak of his loose ensemble. “We’re ready now to include others in a sing-along tribute to Pete. We think it’s fitting. You can look up Pete’s biography and listen to his discography, but in his own words he said his goal was to, ‘Put a song on people’s lips, instead of just in their ears.’ And that’s what we’ve come back to the Old Town School to do.”

General admission tickets to the concert are $15, $13 for Old Town School members. Enrollment to the 2:00 pm workshop is $15. Participants must be available to perform with the Chorus at the 7:00 pm concert.

For ticket information or enrollment in the Power of Song Workshop visit or phone 773 728 6000.

Beyond the Driver: Chicago cabbie is a novelist and singer-songwriter

CHICAGO IL – Though Chicago’s Jack Clark earns his living as a cab driver, he has won awards for the books he’s written, and recently two of his original songs have been picked up by recording artist Jay Ryan, an American who’s been living in France for the past twenty-five years.

“I met Jack a couple of years ago at a gig in Montreuil,” said Ryan who fronts his own band, Jay & the Cooks. “While working on our album, I heard Jack sing some of his songs and I said to myself, ‘Why not ask him if I could use one or two on the record?’”

Ryan’s career in music began in Chicago in the late 1960s and led him first to Austin TX, then to New York’s lower East Side, and finally to France. “We added Jack’s ‘Cellblock C,’ and ‘Drinking and Thinking (About You)’ to our record. These are great songs,” Ryan said. “And Jack has plenty more waiting to be heard.”

Clark splits his time between Chicago and Paris, France. His private-eye novel, Westerfield’s Chain was a finalist for a Shamus Award in 2002. Nobody’s Angel is a mystery novel published in 2010 and features Chicago cabbie Eddie Miles. Clark landed an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, talking about that book, and his long career as a Chicago cab driver and writer.

Born and raised in the Austin neighborhood as one of seven siblings, Clark is a high school dropout who wanted to be a writer since he was sixteen, when his dad handed him a copy of Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm. His formal training is limited to the only college course he ever took – “Story and Journalism” at Columbia, chosen he said, because all the fiction courses were full.

Clark freelanced for The Chicago Reader for over twenty-five years and has also self-published several other books  “And I’ve a couple more books sitting at home which I’m hoping to get published,” he said.

“It’s been a real kick hearing my songs professionally recorded,” said Clark. “I’ve got more than forty songs written and hope more of them can be recorded someday. I’d also like to record my own CD.”

On Tuesday, March 29 Clark will perform a set of his original music at The Grafton Pub, 4530 N. Lincoln Avenue. Old Town School of Folk Music troubadour Mark Dvorak will also perform. The show begins at 9:30 and there is no cover.

The appearance is part of The Grafton’s new “Folk Tuesday” series, featuring performances, jam sessions and podcast recording sessions in their intimate fireplace room. For more information visit The Grafton online at, or phone 773 271 9000.

Chicago Troubadour Bound for Bluegrass State- Offering Community Music Programs

LEXINGTON KY – When folk singer-songwriter Mark Dvorak began his career in music, he knew right away he was in it for the long haul. “For me, folk music has always been a part of our  shared history,” said Dvorak, who is based in Chicago. “But it also gives us a language we can use to express ourselves, and to let others know what we are thinking and what we are feeling.”

“For years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to bring this music to more people. I’ve wanted to find the right situation where people can get into the songs, and also sustain myself as a touring musician,” he said.

Dvorak thinks he may have found a way with his latest project, the Community Concert Partnership, which debuts with civic and public performances in Somerset, Ludlow and Lexington beginning March 18.

“It’s pretty simple, really,” explains Dvorak, who is artist-in-residence at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. “This music has always thrived in small spaces. It has grown by being needed and used. It carries along with it the essence of our shared heritage and invites participation. Folk music is family music.”

On Friday, March 18, 7:00 pm, Dvorak will give a concert at the 3rd Friday Folk Coffeehouse series, Carnegie Community Arts Center, 107 Main Street, Somerset.

On Saturday, March 19, 11:00 am, Dvorak will give a free family performance at the Tates Creek Branch of the Lexington Library, 3628 Walden, Lexington.

He will then head north to Ludlow for a workshop and at 7:00 pm, an intimate evening concert at the Folk School Coffee Parlor, 322 Elm Street Ludlow. The workshop, “Acoustic Guitar Styles” takes place at 3:00 pm with a registration fee of $20. Admission to the evening concert is $5.

Dvorak returns to Lexington on Sunday, March 20 for two concerts at Sayre Friendship Village. At 1:00 pm he will perform in the Baunta Building and at 2:30 pm he will perform at Friendship Towers.

“He’s the real deal,” said Bau Graves, Old Town School of Folk Music executive director. “Mark has made music his life and his livelihood. He’s been a top faculty member at the school for more than twenty-five years. His performances are elegant, rich and powerful.”

Dvorak has released seventeen albums to date and performed in thirty-eight states, and in Canada, Ireland and Finland. His most recent CD “Back Home,” was released last summer and in 2013 he published his first book of essays and poetry, “Bowling for Christmas & Other Tales from the Road.”

Also in 2013 he was honored by Folk Alliance International with the FARM Lantern Bearer Award for his contributions to folk and community music. In 2012, WFMT 98.7 fm fine arts radio named him “Chicago’s official troubadour.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be coming back to Kentucky,” said Dvorak. “I hope to bring the Community Concert Partnership to other towns in the Midwest, and eventually involve other artists and feature different kinds of programs,” he said.

To learn more about the Community Concert Partnership, and for more information on Mark Dvorak, visit his home page at

The Life and Times of the Great Lead Belly in Rockford February 20

ROCKFORD IL – Rockford actor and singer David Causey and folk artist and writer Mark Dvorak of Riverside IL, will present “The Life and Times of the Great Lead Belly” on Saturday, February 20, at 7:00 pm. The performance will take place at Spring Creek UCC, 4500 Spring Creek Road, Rockford.

“David and Mark presented their Lead Belly show last year in Rockford,” said Concerts on the Creek music director Ron Holm. “It was a hit, and we thought naturally to bring them back for a Black History month presentation.”

“Lead Belly is an essential American artist,” said Steve Jones, president of the Rockford Blues Society, which is sponsoring the show as an arts-in-education presentation in four Rockford public schools. “Our ‘Blues in the Schools’ program has served thousands of students, and our goal is to help reconnect young people with our shared musical heritage.”

The show was adapted from a script developed by Dvorak in the early 1990s after he sought out and found the grave of Huddie Ledbetter, better known as “Lead Belly,” outside the small town of Mooringsport, Louisiana, in the in northwest part of the state.

Dvorak distilled his notes into a script which was produced into an audio documentary by WDCB 90.9 fm, Glen Ellyn IL. The show, “Lead Belly’s Legacy” aired in one hundred sixty cities and in 1993 earned Dvorak a Peter Lisagor for Journalism.

Along with Woody Guthrie, Huddie Ledbetter is regarded as one of the great American folk song composers and performers. Born in the late 1800s, Lead Belly was a song collector, an animated entertainer and a crack musician. Although he never achieved great success as a performer and recording artist in his lifetime, his songs and legend are inherently woven into the fabric of American folklore and folk music.

The evening will conclude with a folk sing-along and hootenanny. Admission to the concert is free, but a donation of $10 is suggested. For information on Concerts at the Creek phone 815 979 1949 or visit