Native New Ulm musicians reunite

NEW ULM – Three native New Ulm musicians who have gone their separate ways reunited for the holiday season again Saturday with a little help from their friends on their Road Less Traveled Tour at the New Ulm Event Center.

Brenda Zitzman and Jason Hoffmann now live and perform in Nashville, while Jay Kalk lives and performs in Minneapolis. Hoffmann and Kalk still do road gigs on occasion while Zitzman, who toured 35 states and eight foreign countries with the band “Mustang Sally,” years ago, now spends most of her time in Nashville.

“It’s better for me that way now,” said Zitzman, who stays in shape volunteering for “Girls On The Run Nashville,” an after-school program designed to use the benefits of running healthier living for girls in the third through eighth-grade.

Last year, Zitzman worked as an Opryland tour guide in Nashville and said she enjoyed the experience. “It was silly but fun. I greeted lots of Minnesota and Canadian tour groups,” she said. “They’d ask me if I could sing and I’d sing a few lines of country music for them.”

Hoffmann, who moved to Nashville and performed and recorded with a number of musicians before landing a house gig at the Wild Horse Saloon, a 66,000-square foot live music and dance destination that draws nationally and internationally-known musicians.

Hoffmann has toured the U.S., performing with NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Gwen Sabastian and as a backup singer for Country Music Awards (CMA) Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton.

This year, he did the first Christmas show of the year this year at Opryland, a production that included a merry-go-round and large Christmas train.

His other gigs included opening for the Florida-Georgia Line country western band at Myrtle Beach, S.C. and in Rock Springs, Wyo.

Hoffmann said unions are a bigger issue for musicians in Nashville than some other places. Dues of several hundred dollars a year can provide musicians with benefits including health insurance and a pension plan.

“Unions can help in other ways too,” Hoffmann said. “One gig didn’t pay me right away, but I got a check three years later.”

Kalk and Hoffmann were part of the Minnesota Music Award-winning Reggae band “3 Minute Hero” that produced three albums and toured the midwest from 1997 to 2000.

Still a member of the band, Kalk said a new double album is coming out next year. His tour stops include Patrick’s in St. Peter, Bunker’s in Minneapolis and Fargo establishments.

Kalk’s musical travels have taken him across the U.S. and to Europe and Asia. He’s lived in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Honolulu before settling in Minneapolis.

Johnny Cash music is his trademark. Kalk tours with the Church of Cash band set to perform Sat. Feb. 1. 2014 at the New Ulm Event Center.

On Saturday night, lead guitarist and vocalist Gregory Spear of Mankato and drummer Kevin Eckstein of New Ulm helped round out Kalk, Hoffmann and Zitzman in their country and rock music.

“Reuniting here for the holidays is a great, annual event for us that we plan to continue. It’s just too much fun for us not to do it every year,” Kalk said.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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