Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Lifeworks Rock of Ages Band Rocked This Cause!

Submitted by: James Houck, Lifeworks marketing assistant

Lead singer Sam Bisanz and keyboardist/backup vocalist Ron Stearns were the first of the band to arrive for the show on November 12, 2011 at the Grain Belt Bottling House in Minneapolis. As performing members of one of many prestigious Minnesota acts in the Rock the Cause lineup, they were given the VIP treatment with backstage wristbands and entry into the auspicious greenroom- the waiting area backstage, stocked with free beverages and

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Hangin' out in the green room before the show

comfortable furniture; a coveted place where bands gather their mental and creative prowess before taking to the stage. Sam and Ron took their rock star thrones seated across from a couch squeezing in Farewell Milwaukee, an emerging Minneapolis band who just recently had a song released on the Cities 97 Sampler. Jon Ehresmann, McNally Smith College of Music guitar performance student, was also relaxing amidst the chill backstage setting with his band mates. Jon is participating in a newly pioneered work study relationship between McNally Smith and Lifeworks by leading the Lifeworks Rock of Ages Band. 

Not long after Sam and Ron arrived, the other lead singer, Peter Goldberg came in abruptly with a boisterous swagger and jolly grin, sporting a red bandana tied around his head and a deer skin jacket. He made eye contact with Sam, smiled widely, and proclaimed with vigor, “Hey! I want to introduce the Bruce Springsteen Song!” Sam and Peter exchanged excited conversation while watching with wide eyes as musicians like the members of Murzik, Communist Daughter, and Grammy Award winning songwriter Kevin Bowe came in and out of the green room. Ron huddled in close to his band mates with an eager smile, taking in the excitement.

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Scott Herald, Rock the Cause CEO and Lifeworks director of sales

Scott Herold, director of sales at Lifeworks, and Rock the Cause CEO, came backstage and was warmly greeted by Peter as the man who made all of this possible. Scott hosted the event as the house MC, introducing bands and communicating the core information of the event. With an excited smile, Scott said to the band, “I’m going to introduce you to someone.” As Scott left to retrieve his mystery guest, Sam said quietly with a boyish smirk, “I hope it’s a hot girl.” Perhaps even better than a hot girl, Scott returned a few moments later with Adam Levy, lead singer/songwriter of the Honeydogs! Another surprise visit, this time from Lifeworks president and CEO, Judy Lysne helped to rev up the bands spirits as she warmly supported the crew with kind and enthusiastic words of encouragement.

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Lifeworks president and CEO, Judy Lysne, with client Peter Goldberg

As the show time neared, the guys became restless. The gravity of the scale of their performance was clearly evident. They realized that they were about to perform on a big stage complete with lighting effects and a smoke machine, in front of the largest audience of their career. Sam announced to the room that he was beginning to feel nervous. Peter advised, “Just block everything out and focus on the lyrics.” Meanwhile, Ben Lubeck, principal songwriter and lead singer from Farewell Milwaukee, was quietly tuned into the conversation. With a compassionate smile, he said softly, “Yeah, once you get out there and start playing, all that will go away.” Ben’s reassurance seemed to put the guys at ease, while the excitement mounted.

Andy Thornbrough, the other band leader from McNally Smith and drummer for the group, came back to the green room to check in with everyone just as the last member of the band arrived, Brittany Thorsen. Brittany gave Andy an excited handshake with a big smile as she took her rightful seat in the greenroom. Andy visited with the crew briefly and then went back out to the stage area to finish setting up. As Andy left, Sam yelled out after him, “Find me some girls!” It was evident by this time that Sam’s nervousness was beginning to dissipate, and that he was embracing the “rock star” persona. Just before the band took the stage, Sam excitedly stammered, “I’m in a building I’ve never been in before, with a bunch of bands I’ve never heard of…but it all rocks!”

As the Lifeworks Rock of Ages Band took the stage, they were met with abundant crowd applause. Here they were, rehearsed and led by two top notch, professional musicians, performing in the artsy Northeast neighborhood amidst a stage in the historically rich Grain Belt Bottling House, in the company of many amazing, established Minnesota acts, and raising money for people with disabilities and musicians in need. It doesn’t get any more rock star than that!

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The Lifeworks Rock of Ages Band performing at Rock the Cause on November 12, 2011

John and Andy expertly conducted the group, keeping the tunes cranking and the flow moving. John filled out the bands harmony on guitar and backup vocals, adding warmth and depth especially on the Eagles, “Take It Easy”.  Andy kept everything tight with his percussion and backup vocals, holding down songs like Alabama’s, “I’m In a Hurry”, while at the same time, sharing a keyboard with Ron!  

Peter and Sam were in full form, bending and gesturing their bodies to reinforce the strong emotional presence of their performance as they shared the expressive front man experience. Sam punched through the sound on Paul Simon’s, “Like a Rock”, and Peter brought home the high notes on Prince’s, “Raspberry Beret”, a crowd favorite.  Ron’s ear to ear grin wavered only as he broke into song, glazing the band’s sound with backup vocals and keyboards, driving the tempo of Springsteen’s, “Dancing In the Dark”. Brittany helped move the percussive section of the band alongside Andy, and like Ron, lit up the stage with her ever present smile. She helped the band swing Bill Haley and Comets, “Rock Around the Clock”, which had the crowd up and dancing.

“Music affects us all on a deep and primal level…it’s in all of us.”

It’s safe to say that the Lifeworks Rock of Ages band stole the show. After their performance, the audience roared with cheers and applause. The Lifeworks Rock of Ages Band and Rock the Cause made history with the first program of its kind. After the show, Jon was asked how he felt about working with the band. He replied, “I’ve learned a lot more than they have. It was a phenomenal experience.” John seemed genuinely touched by participating in the band. In working with the group, he began to see how people with disabilities may have some limitations to deal with, however, “…they are amazing in other ways.” This experience not only allowed John to assist Lifeworks clients, but also helped solidify his belief in expression through music, “Music affects us all on a deep and primal level…it’s in all of us.”







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Where in the world is Rodrigo today?

Lifeworks volunteer, Rodrigo

Submitted By Kath Pengelley, Lifeworks volunteer and advocate coordinator

Late last April, I placed a volunteer opportunity on the Hastings United Way e-volunteer network  for an activity assistant. I never know who will respond to these requests and am always appreciative of the responses. However,  I was surprised when the volunteer who responded came all the way from Guatemala. Meet Jose Rodrigo Moll Duran.

Rodrigo is on an extended visit in the United States to practice his English speaking skills. He has friends in Hastings and could not think of a better way to learn English than to volunteer in an English speaking community. He also has a huge personal commitment to giving back and helping others. 

 He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering in Guatemala and plans to go on to graduate school in Aachen, Germany, to obtain his Master’s degree in Medical Engineering. Rodrigo’s ultimate goal is to work in the field of Tissue Engineering. He is fluent in Spanish, German, and wants to perfect his English. He saw my posting on the e-volunteer network and thought he would check us out.

“Your clients are so open. They have so many interests and they want to know about me and my culture. They like to participate. I have taught them some of my words and they have helped me with yours.” 

We have enjoyed our international guest enormously and are happy to spend time talking, learning, and sharing with him. Our Hastings clients say that they are benefitting more than Rodrigo when it comes to learning about the Guatemalan culture, language, customs and celebrations. I asked Rodrigo if he had experienced any surprises during his time at Lifeworks, and he said, “Your clients are so open. They have so many interests and they want to know about me and my culture. They like to participate. I have taught them some of my words and they have helped me with yours.” 

 I asked Rodrigo what obvious differences he sees in services for people with disabilities comparing Lifeworks to services in Guatemala. His previous experiences are exclusively with children, so his comments were limited, but he did say that in general people with disabilities in Guatemala are not as comfortable expressing their feelings, thoughts, or needs. I guess those self advocacy classes that we have been offering are helping.

In November, Rodrigo will be returning to Guatemala to take the graduate school entrance exam and then hopefully make arrangements to move to Germany. As he jets off to his next adventure, we wish him well and say, “Adios amigo.” We hope that as he travels the world, he will remember us and perhaps one day return to teach us about German culture, language, and customs. Thank you Rodrigo for volunteering at Lifeworks. We wish you well. 

If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Lifeworks, please call me. Kath Pengelly 651-365-3720 or send me an email

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