Unsung Heroes: A Musical Celebration of Elder Farmers


On Sunday, April 24, 2016, 325 people joined 40 more musicians, choir members and volunteers to fill the Rondout Valley HS Auditorium for a concert celebrating in song the lives of elder farmers, our unsung heroes. SageArts and the Rondout Valley Growers Association (RVGA) hosted the concert.

The RVGA is a grassroots organization of farmers and neighbors working together to keep local farming strong.

Songwriters/Performers included Heather Masse, Mark Brown, Kelleigh McKenzie, Vickie Russell and Tom Holland who originated songs about the lives of elder farmers: Jackie Brooks, Frank Coddington, Wayne Kelder, Rima Nickell, Jack Schoomaker, Abe Waruch, Bill Wilklow and Eddie Cantine. The concert included special guest musicians Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Ralph Legnini, Eric Parker and Happy Traum, plus the Rondout Valley HS Choir. 


Rosario Agostaro, Superintentent of the Rondout Valley Schools, who attended the concert, said, “The Unsung Heroes event was truly inspirational to my wife and I. Words cannot do it justice.”

The Executive Director of the RVGA, Deborah Dewan, commented, “What an amazing and moving program! Like so many of the people who attended, I cried, I laughed, I just felt so blessed by the meaning of it all.” Becky Collins, the daughter-in-law of one of the elders, added, “The quality of the performances and the overall energy of the concert were unforgettable, and the day will be one I will talk about for a long time.”

According to Colette Ruoff, founder of SageArts, “This project really opened the eyes of our community to the lives of farmers who toil behind the scenes to bring us fresh local foods. The farmers shared their love for the earth, their sacrifices and losses, the big changes in farming over their lifetimes and the satisfaction of seeing things grow.”

The Concert was sponsored by Arts MidHudson, Ulster County Tourism, I love NY, and Ulster Savings Bank.

concertsTara Sollman