NEW ULM - Two Nashville musicians with local roots, who have traveled the world, said leaving their hometown gave them perspective to appreciate it.
Brenda Zitzman, a 1996 New Ulm Cathedral High School graduate, Jason Hoffman and Jay Kalk 1993 New Ulm High School grads, all dreamed of becoming professional musicians. They fulfilled their dreams and came home for the holidays and a free acoustic guitar performance Saturday at the New Ulm Event Center.
"After seeing the world and learning about places where people told me nobody cares much about their community, I'm proud to come from a place where people stand up for their heritage and culture," Hoffman said. "It's good to see New Ulm has changed too, but in a positive way. The New Ulm Event Center is really a beautiful place."
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
New Ulm native musicians from left, Jay Kalk, Minneapolis; and Brenda Zitzman and Jason Hoffman, both of Nashville, perform Saturday night at the New Ulm Event Center before a full house.
Hoffman attended Minnesota State Universities in Mankato and Moorhead before joining Kalk in the Minnesota Music Award-winning 3 Minute Hero, an upbeat Reggae band that produced three albums and toured the midwest from 1997-2000.
Moving to Nashville on a whim, he found himself performing and recording with several artists. He got a steady house gig at the Wild Horse Saloon.
For the past decade, he's been touring the United States, playing bass with NBC's "The Voice" contestant Gwen Sebastian, a backup singer for CMA Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year, Blake Shelton.
Hoffman's tour has taken him from the Florida Keys to the mountains of Montana, California and many other places.
"Playing at South Padre Island, Texas is my favorite spot," Hoffman said. "They give you a condo on the beach. We haven't been in a hurricane down there yet, but some friends of ours were down there when a hurricane hit. It nearly blew them away."
His latest gig is with "Beer Thirty," an acoustic guitar band that plays rock and country cover tunes.
With the all-female band "Mustang Sally," Zitzman toured 35 states and eight foreign countries including Zurich, Switzerland, one of her favorite foreign spots."
"Switzerland is really a beautiful place," Zitzman said. "But it's very expensive. You could spend more than $100 for one meal at a nice restaurant."
Zitzman said she enjoyed performing in Belgium, another place she also found very attractive. Her European tour included visiting Germany, where she said she felt more at home than in other foreign countries.
Several years ago, Zitzman and Mustang Sally came to New Ulm for a performance.
"Band members really enjoyed coming here," she said. "They kept calling New Ulm 'Happy Town USA' because people here were so nice to them. When I was younger, I wanted to get out and see different places. You have to do that to get perspective. Then I realized how special this place is."
Jay Kalk recorded, performed and toured with many artists including "Go Jimmy Go, Warsaw, Poland Brothers, and Church of Cash, a Johnny Cash Tribute Show." He recently appeared with the band at the B & L Bar in New Ulm.
Kalk's musical travels have taken him across the country, Europe and Asia. He's recorded more than a dozen albums with various artists. Kalk has lived in Los Angles, Phoenix, and Honolulu, before recently moving to Minneapolis.
Kalk said he formed a Johnny Cash tribute band while in Hawaii that became instantly popular.
"Soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan really wanted to hear something American, so they really came out for it," said Kalk, who sounded very much like Cash in the group's rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues."
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org