Small town grows big-city talent

Axtell native Russell Ronnebaum, who will be performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City during Easter, will bring his musical talents home with a free concert at 7 p.m. on Dec. 28 at St. Gregory Church in Marysville. He will be performing pieces from his new album “Winter Scenes.”
Axtell native Russell Ronnebaum, who will be performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City during Easter, will bring his musical talents home with a free concert at 7 p.m. on Dec. 28 at St. Gregory Church in Marysville. He will be performing pieces from his new album “Winter Scenes.”

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

Click play below to listen to a cut from “Winter Scenes.” Ronnebaum’s CD and sheet music can also be purchased on his website.

AXTELL — Russell Ronnebaum learned to play the piano here at the tender age of five, from a teacher who lived a mile up the road.

Next spring, he will be playing Carnegie Hall in New York City.

And though his musical talent has grown enormously in the intervening years, he hasn’t outgrown his Catholic roots.

Now the director of music at St. Francis Cabrini Church in Tucson, Arizona, Ronnebaum will be coming home to share his talents with the Marysville community with a free concert at St. Gregory Church on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m.

He will be performing pieces from his new album “Winter Scenes.”

Ronnebaum grew up in Axtell, a town of some 400 people.

“The first time I saw a piano was in my grandma’s basement at age three or four,” recalled Ronnebaum. “I always found it fascinating and wanted to figure out how it worked.”

In fifth grade, Ronnebaum began to play for Masses at St. Michael Church in Axtell and, as a high schooler, he juggled piano with violin, viola, saxophone, tuba and trombone. Playing six other instruments didn’t hold him back from excelling at each piano competition he entered.

Ronnebaum enjoyed growing up in a small town, but moved away to earn a bachelor of music in piano performance from the University of Kansas. He then went on to receive a master’s degree in collaborative piano at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The completion of his first album, he said, is an accomplishment that feels “monumental.”

“I’ve been working on it for over five years,” he said, “and I’m so happy that it finally came together.”

And he’s more than excited about performing at Carnegie Hall.

“Carnegie Hall is one of the best world stages, and I’m absolutely ecstatic to not only be performing on that stage, but to be performing one of my original compositions,” he added.

Although Ronnebaum has already achieved so much, he is “looking forward to writing much more music,” he said.

“I’m currently arranging a piece from the ‘Winter Scenes’ album for string orchestra. I’m also thinking about the next album, which will be concert pieces based on sacred music.”

Ronnebaum said he is also partnering with a piano teacher in Ohio to write a series of piano duets for intermediate piano students.

Leave a Reply