This week: we're back live with the first of two bonus broadcasts from the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We'll welcome warmer Minnesota temperatures, along with guests Josh Ritter, Jon Batiste, violinist Pekka Kuusisto and cellist Eric Jacobsen, and comic Emma Willmann. Plus: a new Song of the Week from our host, Chris Thile, with a duo of duet partners, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O'Donovan, and the band (Rich Dworsky on keys, guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Alan Hampton, drummer James McAlister, and Gabe Witcher on fiddle). The Royal Academy of Radio Actors, Serena Brook, Tim Russell, and Fred Newman, will be with us for a few scripts and sponsors; we'll have a fresh crop of musician birthdays to celebrate; and the fine folks at Powdermilk Biscuits bring you the Powdermilk Instant Song Request. Tune in on your local public radio station or watch live (Saturday, 5pm-7pm Central Time) at!
Download the Song of the Week, "Comey's Waltz"
  • Josh Ritter

    Josh Ritter was on his way to follow in the footsteps of his neuroscientist parents when he discovered Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" in high school. Since then, this singer-songwriter from Moscow, Idaho, has released several critically acclaimed studio albums, regularly sells out venues such as the Beacon Theatre and the Fillmore, and has been named one of the 100 greatest living songwriters by Paste Magazine. His latest album, Sermon on the Rocks, was released in 2015. Wrote Mary-Louise Parker in Esquire: If you love music and have a device on which to play it, you should listen to Josh Ritter."
  • Jon Batiste

    "When you're born in New Orleans, you're either gonna get a trumpet or a piano or a drum," says Jon Batiste. The multi-instrumentalist actually hails from the nearby town of Kenner, Louisiana, but close enough: he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in piano from the Juilliard School and now is known to millions as bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He is Artistic Director at Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, teaches master classes the world over, and was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jazz Museum. Among his self-produced albums are Jazz Is Now and MY N.Y., the latter recorded entirely on the street corners and subways of NYC.
  • Emma Willmann

    Named one of the 10 Funniest Woman in New York City by Time Out New York, Emma Willmann has appeared at comedy festivals worldwide. Last year, she made her late-night debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and has also performed standup on Fuse's Uproarious, Seeso's Night Train with Wyatt Cenac, and more. Recently, this Maine native had the opportunity to record a set for the CNN series The History of Comedy. And later this year, you can catch Emma on MTV International's Vidiots and the web series Gay Girl Straight Girl. In addition to television, Emma has her own comedy show, The Check Spot, on SiriusXM radio.
  • Chris Thile

    Chris Thile, A Prairie Home Companion's new host, made his first appearance on the show in 1996. He was 15 and had already been playing mandolin for a decade. He'd also started Nickel Creek with Sara and Sean Watkins, and released his first solo recording, 1994's Leading Off. This Grammy winner now collaborates with many musicians in myriad styles and leads acoustic quintet Punch Brothers. Thile's solo albums include Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 (Nonesuch).
  • Richard Dworsky

    Keyboardist, composer, arranger, and longtime Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky has collaborated with such diverse musicians as Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Kristin Chenoweth, and Sheryl Crow. He has provided music for documentaries on HBO and PBS, and has released many recordings of original material, including his latest, All In Due Time.
  • Chris Eldridge

    Maybe it's the gene pool: Chris Eldridge's father was a founding member of The Seldom Scene, a groundbreaking group that guitarist Chris would join after earning a degree in music performance from Oberlin Conservatory. He went on to start award-winning bluegrass band The Infamous Stringdusters, and later to critical acclaim with Punch Brothers. He also plays in a duo with guitarist Julian Lage.
  • Alan Hampton

    Multi-instrumentalist Alan Hampton began his musical career in Houston, Texas, where he attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He continued at the New School in New York City, and finally the Thelonious Monk Institute in LA, where he studied bass with Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, and John Clayton, and performed internationally with Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, and Wayne Shorter. In addition to laying down tracks for numerous musicians, Alan's own recordings include Origami for the Fire (Ash Productions).
  • Sarah Jarosz

    Sarah Jarosz is a gifted multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, banjo), an expressive and distinctive vocalist, and an accomplished songwriter. The New England Conservatory of Music grad has carved out a solid niche where contemporary folk, Americana, and roots music intersect. She's been nominated for multiple Grammys; her latest recording, Undercurrent (Sugar Hill), won for Best Folk Album, and her single "House of Mercy" took the award for Best American Roots Performance.
  • James McAlister

    When James McAlister was a kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he played in church in his dad's gospel band. Now the Los Angeles-based drummer, producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist has worked with a host of artists, including Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Alexi Murdoch, Mike Andrews, and more. With Casey Foubert, he released the album Music For Drums -- using only drums, percussion, and software effects -- on the Asthmatic Kitty label.
  • Aoife O'Donovan

    With her ethereal voice and substantive songwriting, Aoife O'Donovan captivates fans and critics alike. She was lead singer of the string band Crooked Still and a featured vocalist on The Goat Rodeo Sessions, the Grammy-winning album by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Her own recordings include 2016's In the Magic Hour, follow-up to her acclaimed solo debut, Fossils. Her most recent release, Man In A Neon Coat: Live From Cambridge, is a collection of original songs and covers, recorded live at The Sinclair.
  • Gabe Witcher

    Violinist Gabe Witcher was barely school age when Bill Monroe invited him on stage to play a duet at a festival workshop. Gabe has been wowing crowds ever since, whether with the Witcher Brothers, the Laurel Canyon Ramblers, or Punch Brothers. In addition, Gabe is a sought-after producer, arranger, and session player, working with artists from Paul Simon and Elton John to Rosanne Cash and Willie Nelson.
  • Serena Brook

    After she picked up her diploma from the University of Minnesota Duluth, actress, voice-over artist, and Eagan, Minnesota, native Serena Brook was off to New York City, where she spent five years performing in Off-Broadway shows and with national and regional touring companies. Now living in the Twin Cities, she has worked with Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and 7th House Theater.
  • Tim Russell

    Mild-mannered Tim Russell one minute -- Obama, Trump, or myriad others the next. It's almost impossible to stump this man of many voices. Says fellow Prairie Home Companion actor Sue Scott, "He does a better Ira Glass than Ira Glass." A well-known Twin Cities radio personality and voice actor, Tim appeared in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
  • Fred Newman

    Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. Turns out, no one is more surprised than Fred that he's made a career out of doing what he used to do behind the teacher's back -- crossing his eyes, making sounds, and doing voices. He readily admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."
  • Eric Jacobsen

    Hailed by the New York Times as "an interpretive dynamo," conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative programming projects. He is a founding member of genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider and a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. Last year, he celebrated his inaugural season as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic. He is also co-founder, Artistic Director, conductor, and cellist of The Knights, and has led that inventive ensemble at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center to the Vienna Musikverein and the National Gallery of Dublin.
  • Pekka Kuusisto

    When describing Finnish violinist and conductor Pekka Kuusisto, critics and reviewers often use words like versatile, distinctive, uninhibited, improvisational, and fearless. He has collaborated with people across the artistic spectrum -- from electronic music pioneer Brian Crabtree to composer Nico Muhly -- and is Artistic Partner with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for the 2016/17 season. In 1995, he became the first Finn to win the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition. And in 2013, he was the recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize.