This five piece bluegrass ball of fire featuring vocals, banjo, fiddle, guitar, bass and mandolin appears here regularly on the 2nd Thursday of the month- except when they don’t. Its various members have been involved with traditional music locally, regionally, and nationally for many years.
The Pioneer’s lead singer and guitarist, Jerry Wicentowski, has been described by country music historian Bill Malone as “One of the finest singers in bluegrass music”. Jerry has also performed and recorded with such bluegrass greats as Tim O’Brien, Andy Statman, Byron Berline, Tony Trischka and others. Mike Schmidt of Spring Green, Wisconsin, is the group’s banjo player. This former French horn player has been a Nashville session musician and member of the popular Wisconsin-based bluegrass bands, Alive ‘n’ Pickin’ and the Piper Road Spring Band. He also performs occasionally with his wife Lori. Bruce King of Art Stevenson and High Water – also formerly of Alive ‘n’ Pickin’ – is on mandolin. Bruce and Mike are veterans of the Great Northern Bluegrass Festival in Mole Lake, WI – performing there every year from 1977 to 1982. Fiddle player Paul Kienitz is a member in good standing of regional bluegrass favorites, The Nob Hill Boys. Bass player John Jirak also has played banjo with various folks in the northeastern WI and Madison areas, most notably with the Green Bay based Fox River Flyer. As a bass player, he’s performed shows with the Chicago Bluegrass Band, Miltown Ramblers, Krause Family, Old Cool, Spare Time Bluegrass Band, Bob Steeno and The Old Truck, and Down From the Hills, and currently Madison’s newest, Kettle Moraine.