Meet the Board 


Nic Henges

President 

 Do you play an instrument? If so, what is it and how long have you played?

I play mandolin and started in 2005. My current instrument is a Breedlove Premier FF built in 2009 that I named Spruce Almighty. I bought the mandolin used from within our community. In addition to really enjoying the instrument, Breedlove has been really great to me. I have interacted with them over some repair work, and they very truly care about their instruments and the people who own them.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

It feels like we have found solid ground that not only is rooted in our mission but also very forward looking. As a community we’ve been doing some incredibly hard work, both in leadership circles but also on the ground level, and it feels like it is paying off. The ship is really sailing forward. I am so optimistic about our future and so excited to be a member of this community

How long have you been on the Board and what’s your position? I was appointed to the Board in November of 2016 due to a vacancy and began my current role as Vice President in 2017.

What’s your occupation or what type of work did you do? I am a Project Manager and audio engineer for a live event production company called Audio Logic Systems.

What are some of your hobbies or interests?

Mandolin and everything else to do with music, audio recording, snowboarding, motorcycles, and being with my family

Tell us about your family.

I married my wife Melissa in 2012 and we have a 3 year old daughter named Edith and a 1 year old son named Gabe.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

The first event I attended was the Winter Weekend, maybe in 2010. I was immediately interested in connecting with the community. My band, No Man’s String Band, became a member in 2012. I was and still am so fascinated with the role of musical traditions in our modern lives. At those first events I attended I saw people from various walks of life connecting over old songs and I had to know more. Before I knew it, I couldn’t get those ancient tones out of my head.

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

I love the Winter Weekend. For as big as the hotel is, all the activities seem just packed in around each other. The event has such an immersive feel. Since having kids, hanging out in the family area at the August Festival has also become one of my favorite activities.





Jason Juran (Jay)

Vice President 


Do you play an instrument? If so, what is it and how long have you played? Mostly I play guitar and sing; I’ve played guitar for about twenty years. My first instrument was trumpet (although it’s harder to get that in around the campfire). I can also play a little of the other bluegrass instruments, but fiddling in anything other than G, D and A gets above my pay grade. 


How long have you been on the Board and what’s your position?

I was elected a Member at Large in December of 2019.

What’s your occupation or what type of work did you do?

I am an attorney practicing primarily in civil litigation, business counseling and contracts.

What are some of your hobbies or interests?

When I’m not playing bluegrass and old-time music? You can usually find me boating and fishing on the frozen or non-frozen lakes in my neighborhood. I’m very into live music, travel, camping and am known to make a few homebrews to get through the winter

Tell us about your family.

I grew up around my mom’s side in New England. They were all Italian, so I ate well and had to learn carb management later in life. My dad’s side was spread between hell and breakfast, but I still spend a great deal of time around them. On that side we’re usually singing and picking tunes when we’re all together.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

I’ve been coming to MBOTMA events since I moved to town a little over 4 years ago and my friend/ bandmate Adam invited me to Winter Weekend. I’ve been a member since the moment I found out I could join.

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

It’s usually pretty hard to pull me away from the jams, but we’ve been bringing in some fantastic sets lately (you see Cleveland?!)

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

It’s great seeing some new faces at the festivals and attendance growing. The best part of the organization for me is watching new friends and generations meeting and learning to share music with each other. Everybody learns and communicates in their own way, but when it comes together, there’s nothing better. 




Robbie Podrug

Treasurer


Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

I don’t think I have a favorite. I think the committees do a stellar job of organizing the various festivals, giving each a personality of its own. It’s a monumental task to coordinate each of the festivals we put on, and hats off to the committees, and other volunteers, who invest countless hours doing so. The festivals just keep getting better and better!

Do you play an instrument? If so, what is it and how long have you played?

I play fiddle and sing. I have been playing for *ahem* 83% of my life.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

I moved to Minnesota 13 years ago and was drawn to the organization by the financial and sustainability challenges it was facing. Much of my career has involved adapting to new realities of financial landscapes, and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing organizations think differently and thrive. More and more, MBOTMA is attracting new volunteers with new ideas that fulfill the mission of the organization in new ways and will help ensure it’s around for a long time to come.


How long have you been on the Board and what’s your position?

Treasurer – four years

What’s your occupation or what type of work did you do?

I am a CPA, and Tax Director for Best Buy.

What are some of your hobbies or interests? I do mosaics, and love art festivals and museums, cooking, and playing music

Tell us about your family.

I have one son, who is about to finish his Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology, at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. As for extended family, I have 25 first cousins, just like in the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” although I am not of Greek descent.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization? What attracts me to the organization is seeing what it means to its members. It is a community of people from all over the state, some rural, some urban, of various ages and other demographics. I am not aware of other types of organizations that pull the variety of people together the way MBOTMA does.

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

I don’t think I have a favorite. I think the committees do a stellar job of organizing the various festivals, giving each a personality of its own. It’s a monumental task to coordinate each of the festivals we put on, and hats off to the committees, and other volunteers, who invest countless hours doing so. The festivals just keep getting better and better!

Do you play an instrument? If so, what is it and how long have you played?

I play fiddle and sing. I have been playing for *ahem* 83% of my life.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

I moved to Minnesota 13 years ago and was drawn to the organization by the financial and sustainability challenges it was facing. Much of my career has involved adapting to new realities of financial landscapes, and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing organizations think differently and thrive. More and more, MBOTMA is attracting new volunteers with new ideas that fulfill the mission of the organization in new ways and will help ensure it’s around for a long time to come.




Shane Zack 

Secretary 


Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

Jamming. There is a part of me that thinks I should attend more stage shows or workshops, but in the end, I can't resist a jam.

What's a fun fact about you?

I have a two-year-old daughter and a five-year-old daughter who don't seem to be catching on to bluegrass at the pace I would prefer. I am thinking about re-recording the Frozen 2 soundtrack as a bluegrass album to see if that does the trick.

How has being a board member impacted you?

As a board member, you really get to see the amount of work, effort, love and care volunteers and members pour into this organization. You hear more stories, more perspectives, and see so clearly the relationship the community has to the music but also the people who make up MBOTMA. It is harder to see that as the average person going to a few festivals a year.



How long have you been on the Board and what position(s) have you held?

I have been on the board since the Fall of 2017.

What MBOTMA volunteer role(s) have you held in the past?

I have worked the ticket table, information tables, facilitated board retreats and offered mandolin workshops.

What occupation did you have or do you have now?

Currently I am that director of Enrollment and Tuition Aid for a small, independent school in St. Paul.

What are some of your hobblies and interests?

I like playing music, mostly bluegrass, in my band King Wilkie's Dream. I also like to bake, mostly bread, but cake and cookies too when the mood strikes.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

I am not sure exactly when I started attending MBOTMA events. It was at some point in highschool, either sophomore or junior year. I started playing bluegrass because I had a mandolin and didn't really know what to do with it. Everything just sort of went downhill from there.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

At the moment I am both excited worried about the pandemic and its impact on the music. I worry about the loss of revenue and laying opportunities for our bands, but at the same time I am pretty excited by the new and creative ways people have leveraged social media and technology to bring bluegrass and old-time music to larger and more diverse audiences. Really, this music was made by and meant for people going through hard times. The music was built for times like this and I am excited to see what it all looks like on the other side of this pandemic.

What would you tell a new MBOTMA member/volunteer?

Thank you for joining and thank you for your support. This music and organization provides meaning and connection for so many people. It can be life-changing and I am not sure where I would be without it. Thank you for making this possible.





At-Large Board Members: 


Penny Hillemann

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

Building back post-pandemic. I think it'll be a real time of opportunity as people will be so excited to get back together and have been reminded of how important this is to their lives. At the same time, we know that some have really been impacted and may not be in a position to support the organization for a while.

What's a fun fact about you?

I had a blog about birding and nature that I really loved working on for about 10 years: penelopedia.com (my first name is really Penelope).

How has being a board member impacted you?

TBD, but I'm looking forward to getting to know the other board members and offering a newbie's perspectives and energy to the organization.



How long have you been on the Board and what position(s) have you held?

Brand new -- coming onto the board in January 2021. No positions yet other than member-at-large.

What MBOTMA volunteer role(s) have you held in the past?

I'm newer, so I haven't done too much yet. I helped check people in at the front gate at El Rancho in August 2019. I've checked wristbands and helped with load-in at a couple of the other festivals.

What occupation did you have or do you have now?

I am the Executive Director of Rice County Area United Way, which is a small nonprofit. I previously worked in strategic communications and public relations (involved with writing, websites, advertising, brochures, annual reports, social media, publicity, planning, advising clients, etc.).

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

I've been a member for about three years (since 2018 or so), pretty much as soon as I started attending festivals thanks to a friend who told me I'd love them, and she was right. Supporting the organization that puts on these festivals totally made sense. And member discounts are nice, right?

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

Seeing my favorite local bands, gradually becoming more comfortable in jams, and just hanging out with great people who have become friends.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

Learning to play bluegrass banjo (very much a work in progress), getting out into nature, and birding.

What would you tell a new MBOTMA member/volunteer?

Jump in -- it feels good to help when you know the festivals can't happen without volunteers, and it's fun working with others to get something worthwhile done.





Mabel Houle 

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

The people, the community, and of course the music! It’s the only organization I’m aware of that is so family friendly and encouraging and supportive of musical ability at any level

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

I love late night outdoor jamming at the August Fest.

What's a fun fact about you?

I’m the sixth born child out of seven, and grew up singing a cappella gospel with my siblings.



How long have you been on the Board and what position(s) have you held? I just joined the Board in 2021 as a member at large.

What MBOTMA volunteer role(s) have you held in the past?

I’ve volunteered for a few different roles. Currently I’m the Vendor Coordinator for all festivals, have served on the Winter Weekend Committee for many years, lead the Saturday morning Kids Craft Activities at Winter Weekend Festival, load-in helper, and volunteer at the August Fest Family Area

What occupation did you have or do you have now?

I’m retired now, but worked as a project manager, and a business manager during my career.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I love to play music, hike, camp, and hang out with my family and friends.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

I first heard of MBOTMA in the late 1990s when a friend invited to join her family at the August Festival when it was held near Zimmerman MN. I’ve been enjoying this great community ever since.

How has being a board member impacted you?

I’ve just joined the Board, and am impressed with the warm welcome I’ve received.

What would you tell a new MBOTMA member/volunteer?

Just jump in and commit to a volunteer activity that interests you. It’s a great way to get to know other members better.






Dale Gruber 

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

The August festival is my favorite, and I love volunteering with reserved camping. Throughout the years different things were my favorite. Jamming until the early morning hours with others, the shows at the Main Stage, and meeting the entertainers were some of my favorites. Camping with friends while hearing good music at almost every hour was great. Now I also love Ranch House Live on Saturday Nights. I look forward all year to playing and singing with all my friends as Dale and the Nobodies.

Do you play an instrument? If so, what is it and how long have you played?

I play guitar and have played since I was 14 years old. I love playing bluegrass, but my favorites are old country classics. I also play Dobro. The festivals are the perfect place to jam and learn from others. 



How long have you been on the board and what’s your position?

I have been on the board for over three years and am a board member at large. I have also been volunteering in reserved camping for about 20 years. I have always tried to help in whatever ways I could.

What is your occupation and what type of work did you do?

I own a pallet company. I started it in 1985, along with my family, out of our garage with a hammer and nail. Everyone pitched in. We have grown quite a bit and now have 40 great employees. We have seen good times and bad times and weathered the storms. I have learned a lot through the years. I love what I do.

Tell us about your family.

I have a wonderful wife that I have been married to for 44 years. I love her more today than the first day I met her. We have 5 children, three girls and two boys. We have ten grandchildren with one on the way. My two sons work with me in the pallet business. Everyone lives locally and we are very close. Three of our children have a band named Blue Hazard.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you to the organization?

We went to our first festival in Zimmerman MN around 1992. We came with our friends Gene and Joy Johnson and are very grateful they introduced us to this community. Quality bands and the family area were what kept bringing us back. The fact that the festivals were very family-oriented and our whole family had things to do made it fun for everyone. Barbara and Gary Carlson were great at the family stage and helped instill a love for the music in our kids. The talent show is what kept them practicing all year long. It was their dream to one day win the contest and play a tweener on the big stage.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now? The organization is much better financially than when I came aboard. I look forward to the future and getting more known national bands. I also love seeing the young kids at the festival. They are the future of Bluegrass. 






Lucy Weberling

How long have you been on the Board and what position(s) have you held?

This is my first year


What MBOTMA volunteer role(s) have you held in the past?

Leading Yoga sessions at Augustfest


What occupation did you have or do you have now?

Retired USPS. Music teacher in public and private schools. Yoga teacher. Bluegrass, rock, old time bands



What are some of your hobbies and interests?

Travel, festivals, yoga, golf, grandson, baseball, hiking, swimming, history, meditation.


How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

Since 2005. I have good friends in MBOTMA . My interest in bluegrass festivals


What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

SPREADING THE WORD ABOUT MBOTMA AND THE EVENTS


Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

Picking, jamming with friends, shows, workshops.


What's a fun fact about you?

I am very eclectic and love adventure and exciting fun. Love to be physically active.


What would you tell a new MBOTMA member/volunteer?

Let's make this the best year ever, be a part of the MBOTMA team






Jim Franczyk

How long have you been on the Board and what position(s) have you held?

I just joined the Board in January of 2022. Looking forward to working with everyone!

What MBOTMA volunteer role(s) have you held in the past?

I helped the crew in the MBOTMA administration tent at the August Festival at El Rancho Manana about 4 years ago.

What occupation did you have or do you have now?

I retired from the Minnesota Department of Human Services in the fall of 2010 after 35+ years. I am a Social Worker. During those years, I was a human services planner, a research director, an evaluator and a program manager. I worked in health care eligibility quality assurance, programs serving persons with disabilities, and other programs too.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I have been playing music with friends since high school. My instruments of choice today are the mandolin, the guitar, and the fiddle. Other interests include trout fishing, kayaking, boating, camping, hiking, cross country skiing, turkey and grouse hunting and road trips (e.g., parks, trout streams, music festivals, etc.). When at home, I like to bake bread.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

I have been a member of MBOTMA since the early 1980's. I came to Minnesota from the UW in Madison with folk music, bluegrass, blues and country in my soul. It's all still there.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

It's great to see how MBOTMA has grown over the years. Organizationally, it knows well what its mission is and how to accomplish its goals. It has successfully organized many festivals and music events over the years and promises to do more in the future. MBOTMA is serving the community of musicians and music fans very well!

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

Yes. The Showcase Tent and the Workshops. I've learned a lot from the folks on the stage, and from the workshops too.

What's a fun fact about you?

I was once a Philosophy major in college. When my Dad (a blue-collar worker) asked me what kind of job I intended to get after I graduated, I had no answer for him. So I changed my major. But to this day, I am a philosophical person.

How has being a board member impacted you?

I am quite impressed with the dedication of all the board members. I expect to learn a lot from them.

What would you tell a new MBOTMA member/volunteer?

Have fun!!! Play if you have an instrument! Jam! Listen to the words and the rhythm of the songs. And find out as much as you can about the origin and history of the music.



Phaedra Johnson

How long have you been on the Board and what position(s) have you held?

I’m a newbie- I joined the Board this month (January 2022).

What MBOTMA volunteer role(s) have you held in the past?

I’ve volunteered at many MBOTMA events, starting in 2007. I first got involved with hospitality and set-up at the Homegrown Kickoff when my husband (Matt) was the Stage Manager and did that for a few years. Since then, I’ve helped out at the Winter Weekend, August Festival, Fall Jam, Cabin Fever, State Fair competition, and the Flannel Fundraiser. I can’t list all the roles I’ve had over the years, and some are fairly miscellaneous (i.e., just running around taking things to people) but it includes working at the Front Gate, Beer Sales, and at Hospitality, to name a few.

What occupation did you have or do you have now?

I am a Principal (Director) in charge of leading a small US-based research unit in a global clinical research organization. I’m a health outcomes researcher by training and have been in this field for almost 20 years.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

It really depends on the season. In the summer I love to garden and be outdoors as much as possible and in the winter I enjoy doing arts/crafts, baking, reading, and some outdoor activities (snowshoeing, cross-country skiing). I don’t play any instruments or sing, but I love to see live music.

How long have you been part of MBOTMA and what brought you into the organization?

I’ve been involved for almost 15 years and it’s all due to my husband, Matt, who has served in a variety of roles over the years.

What excites you about MBOTMA right now?

I’m really thankful that MBOTMA events continue to go on, despite all of the challenges over the last two years. Darcy, Dave, and the Board have put a lot of thought and effort into keeping the lights on and have even secured some additional funding through a grant. I’m excited to join this great group of people and be part of the planning for the next few years, to help continue on with MBOTMA’s mission.

Do you have a favorite festival or activity at a festival?

August Festival is now my favorite fest! There is something there for everyone.

What's a fun fact about you?

This isn’t so much a fun one, but I do get asked to pronounce and/or spell my name on a fairly regular basis (it’s Phaedra, pronounced Fay-drah).

How has being a board member impacted you?

That remains to be seen! Please ask me again in a few years :)

What would you tell a new MBOTMA member/volunteer?

Thank you for joining! You are going to meet so many amazing people! All are welcomed and appreciated here.




Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Association
P.O. Box 16408, Minneapolis, MN 55416

info@minnesotabluegrass.org

601-651-3694   

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