Next Saturday at The State will be a night of collaboration for generations to enjoy.
Michael Ronstadt, a professional cello player and nephew of singer Linda Ronstadt, will be taking the stage with Serenity Fisher on Saturday, Aug. 16, at The State Theatre of Boyertown. Drift, a band comprised of Boyertown High School students, will be kicking off the night as the opening act.
“I love old theaters. I was so excited to be asked to play,” he said about Kevin Rhude’s invitation to perform at the historic theater. Rhude is the owner of The State Theatre of Boyertown.
“It’s a beautiful space; a nice atmosphere for people,” he said, describing the setting as intimate.
Ronstadt started to seriously study and learn the cello in 1994, though he been playing and performing for nearly twenty years. He received his MM in Cello Performance at University of Cincinnati College and his BM in Cello Performance at the University of Arizona.
“I do everything they didn’t teach me in school,” he jokes. “Music can go exciting, unexpected places.”
Raised by a family of musically-inclined individuals, Ronstadt described growing up listening to music, as he grew older he was able to play with his father and brother.
“They instilled that sense of freedom [in me],” he said, in regards to playing freely. “It’s an honor to be able to improvise [into] a wide variety of musical directions.” He says that freedom and ability has allowed him to make a living as a musician.
A native of Arizona, he spoke of playing with Mariachi groups in Ariz. “Cello playing developed unique improvisation. [As musicians] we always want to find a little corner in the musical world to make us unique.”
According to Ronstadt, his family— most particularly his aunt—has been his biggest influence.
She was successful “in a big way,” he said. “She showed me music can be a career.”
His father also became a full time musician. “Money wasn’t the most abundant thing in our lives.”
Ronstadt partakes in solo pieces as well as collaborations. This isn’t his first time with Serenity Fisher, an Ohio native, throughout the past five years.
“We’ve put together a repertoire of her material and my material,” he said. “She’s an amazing song-writer.”
One of Ronstadt’s cello students, Sam Duffy of Boyertown, is a member of the night’s opening band: Drift.
“He’s a really creative kid; he’s going to be a great musician to follow and watch for years,” said Ronstadt. Duffy is one of 12 students in the area that Ronstadt is currently working with.
“I’ve stumbled upon some of the best students you could ask for,” he said, describing himself as a “door-to-door cello teacher” and his students as “hard-working and dedicated.”
Ronstadt started playing cello in the eighth grade through private lessons, finding a teacher that would come to work with the family’s budget for the span of eight years. He found himself teaching 10 years ago as an undergrad in Arizona. Five years ago he moved to Phoenixville, Pa. and has since been teaching throughout the area.
It was in Duffy’s eighth grade year when he started working with Ronstadt, though had been playing prior.
“I wanted to be able to say ‘I play cello,’” he said, wanting to play a versatile instrument to express his creativity. “[The cello offers] a very unique sound compared to other instruments.
He “opened my eyes to what the cello can do. It improved my creativity in music and improv.,” said Duffy about Ronstadt.
“You can really create any sound with any instrument,” he said, adding that he’s interested in a wide variety of music. He favors playing cello renditions of popular songs, making them “new.”
Duffy is a member of the band Drift, for which he does vocals and plays bass, cello and piano.
The band also features Ryan Stifnell on guitar and vocals, Johnny Greaser on guitar and vocals and Austin Bright on drums. All members are students at Boyertown Area Senior High. They are currently focusing on recording, using social media to build their audience.
This isn’t Duffy’s first time performing at The State. “It’s difficult to get people out there—some venues do better than others,” he said. “The State is a great place; quaint. It’s a nice place to play with a good size stage.”
Duffy says he has never performed with Ronstadt before and finds it to be “pretty exciting.”
Ronstadt has performed at The Other Farm, formerly known as The Hard Bean Café, several times over the years. This will be his first performance at The State Theatre of Boyertown.