Jess Baldwin’s voice has been described as “world class,” “effortless,” and “pure beauty.” She inhabits diverse musical worlds in the recording studio and on stage, singing soul, funk, jazz, Americana, musical theatre, classical, and more. She appeared on NPR’s Mountain Stage in 2013 with The Fields of Gettysburg, was a quarterfinalist in the 2015 and 2017 American Traditions Competition, and won Best Cover Song in the 2015 and 2017 Ohio Music Awards. As a singer-songwriter, her voice leans toward soulful styles with southern roots. In addition to her own songs, she loves to write music for texts by modern poets. When she’s not singing, Jess is a voice specialist. She works with singers across the region and helps train voice teachers to work with singers in popular, commercial, and contemporary styles of singing.
(Inductee – WV Music Hall of Fame)
Since 1991 Bob Thompson has been pianist, and regularly featured artist on West Virginia’s NPR syndicated radio show, Mountain Stage. For the past twenty-four years he has also been co-producer and host of Joy to the World, a Holiday jazz show, broadcast on public radio stations nationwide, and heard internationally on the Voice of America. In October 2015, Bob Thompson was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
Bob makes his home in Charleston, West Virginia, and has enjoyed a long and active career as a performer, composer, arranger, and educator. For decades he has played at festivals and venues around the country, and has also taken his music to Europe, Africa, and South America.
Bob Thompson’s resume includes guest appearances on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, on National Public Radio, and BET on Jazz with Ramsey Lewis. His recordings on Intima Records, and Ichiban International, received high recognition on the jazz charts, with several reaching the top-ten. His recent recordings, Bob Thompson “Live” on Mountain Stage, and Smile, with the Bob Thompson Unit, are on his own label, Colortones
Employing wry humor, dexterous guitar work and drawing on a rich variety of life experiences, Todd Burge has emerged as one of West Virginia’s most prolific singer/songwriters. Burge, has played everything from Alternative Rock (63 Eyes, The Larries) to Contemporary Folk, performing concerts at festivals and in venues as diverse as CBGB’s & Joe’s Public Theatre in NYC, The Country Music Hall of Fame, The Kennedy Center, and of course, literally hundreds of clubs including the obscure, to the world famous Caffe Lena, Club Passim and Music City Roots. He has been a repeat guest on NPR’s Mountain Stage and has been called the “West Virginia’s premier songwriter”, by its host, Larry Groce. In 2014, Burge wrote 13 songs for a musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare. Burge, who might be known by many for his method of writing songs from the perspective of odd characters, humans, bugs and animals (listen to Building Characters produced by Don Dixon of R.E.M fame) released an album of very personal songs in 2015 entitled Imitation Life. The recording was produced by long term collaborator and two time Grammy winner, Tim O’Brien. The album includes his original song, Change (For Clean Water) which features Kathy Mattea on backing vocals. In 2016 Burge released “Live at Mountain Stage 2006-2015”. The 17 track CD features his many performances from the popular NPR radio show and podcast. It also captures the essence of his live energy and, at times hilarious storytelling. Burge resides in Parkersburg WV with his wife Lisa and their children, Will and Sophia.
Eric Gnezda is the creator and host of the American Public Television series, Songs at the Center, broadcast on 150 stations nationwide. The series features accomplished singer-songwriters performing “in the round” before a live audience. The weekly, half-hour program showcases three-to-four artists, and includes interviews and short features.
An award-winning songwriter and Emmy-nominated television journalist, Eric and his work have been featured on media around the world. He is a recipient of the Ohioana Citation for Music Composition, joining Michael Feinstein (American Songbook), Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane), and Chip Davis (Mannheim Steamroller).
Also a keynote speaker and memoirist, Eric performs for audiences across the country, from convention centers, to concert halls, to small clubs, including regular appearances at Nashville’s iconic venue for songwriters, The Bluebird Café. He is currently adapting his memoir, The Safe Life, into a one-person stage show. He has released four CDs, including his latest, Songs of Hope in a Changing World.
Eric has contributed commentaries to NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the ABC Radio Network, and was a columnist for The Columbus Dispatch. As a television journalist, He earned an Emmy nomination for his retrospective on the Munich Olympic massacre, produced in Europe for American television.
Sadie Johnson, a student at Marietta College, first picked up the guitar at the age of six and has since developed into an inspiring blues guitarist, composer and performer. Recently opening for Delbert McClinton, she has numerous individual and ensemble jazz fest awards. Sadie is also a compassionate leader with a heart for children and music therapy, serving as a representative for Blue Star Connection, an organization that provides instruments to children with cancer and other illnesses. https://www.facebook.com/sadiejohnsonband/
Olivia Martinez, 16, is a sophomore at Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland. She has been writing songs for two years and enjoys performing at local venues. When Olivia is not playing her guitar, she can usually be found ballet dancing at Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. This summer she will be attending Interlochen Center for the Arts on a partial scholarship. https://www.facebook.com/olivia.martinez.7965692
Grace Matombe, from the Congo, is a student at Marietta College. Her passion is Gospel music, of which she says, “If music heals the soul, Gospel music heals the spirit, the heart, the thoughts, and the soul.” She plays and writes on the keyboard. https://www.facebook.com/gracematombemusic/
Hunter Rich, 18, cut his songwriting teeth in his native Columbus, Ohio, and will be attending American University in the fall. He plans to travel the world raising awareness of various humanitarian issues prevalent in today’s society, and harnessing music as a universal language to promote peace, prosperity, and well-being for all cultures. hunterrichmusic.com.
Sienna Stocky, 18, writes and performs songs with hints of Celtic influences while sporting a youthful American edge. She first sang on stage at a music festival in the hills of southeast Ohio when she was just four years old. Ever since, she has made a deliberate effort not to emulate other artists and has developed a sound and style which is compelling, recognizable, and all her own. https://www.siennasongs.com/
Songwriting in the Spotlight is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically.