Get To Know The Members
[Mary Jane Kennedy] [Sarah Jean] [Chuck Elrod] [Wenny Elrod] [Veronica DeBusk]
Mary Jane Kennedy
Mary Jane was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Robert W. and Mary L. Schilling. She moved to Orlando, Florida at the age of seven. Her first introduction to the piano was at the age of four when she would sit in their home music room during her brother's piano lessons. She began the study of piano and began singing at a very young age. During her Junior and Senior High School years she was involved in Chorus. During this time she sang, directed and accompanied different school choruses. She was part of the cast for several musical productions including "Bye Bye Birdie, Annie Get Your Gun, Trial By Jury, and Madrigal Productions.
After graduating from High School she entered the School of Music at Florida State University as a Piano Major and Voice Minor. She sang with the famous Women's Glee Club under the direction of Betty Jane Grimm during her time at F.S.U. She had the opportunity to perform on local TV stations many times throughout her school years.
Upon receiving her teaching degree, Mary Jane taught in the Orange County School System as a Learning Disabilities Specialist for twelve years. After the birth of her sons, she opened her own piano and voice studio which she operated for eighteen years.
In July, 2002, Mary Jane moved to Elizabethton, Tennessee with her husband and youngest son. She met many members of "The Wataugans" (Tennessee's Official Outdoor Drama), and joined the cast for the 2003 season. After joining the cast she met Veronica DeBusk who was the leader of the Overmountain Singers, and joined the Singers as part of the pre show entertainment.
Ms. Kennedy's musical talents include vocals, playing piano, hammered dulcimer, lap dulcimer, Native American flute, bodhran drum and tin whistle. The Overmountain Singers has performed many of her original compositions including There Is A Baby (Christmas), Tales Of Old and Rainbow on the Morn.
She has been active in her community as Redeemer Lutheran Church's past Choir Leader and Music Director, Secretary for the Watauga Historical Association, member of the Elizabethton Choral Club, First Vice President of the Elizabethton Business and Professional Women's Organization and Executive Secretary of The Friends of Sycamore Shoals. She has also owned and operated Antique Hangups (Online Antique Store) since 1997, and Lessons 4 You (Online Education Site) since 1998. She was director of The Wataugans Pre-Show in 2005 and 2006, and for Liberty in 2007. In 2006 she was chairman of The Slagle's Pasture Bluegrass Festival. Mary Jane has also directed two student productions of a Patriotic Musical "America Sings". She was a co-founder of The Homespun Storytelling Guild in 2008. She is also the co-founder of The Front Porch Storytellers which was started in 2011.
Mary Jane is currently co director of The Elizabethton Historic Ghost Walks, and the Historic Christmas Walks. She is active in many story telling events throughout the community. She is also currently archiving Historic Papers for Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area and developing a research library for the park.
Veronica DeBusk was born in Middlesboro, Kentucky, the daughter of Jewell and Hasseel Hurst. She moved to Elizabethton, Tennessee in 1979. Ms. DeBusk has one son and two daughters and four grandchildren.
At the age of eight, an early entrepreneur, Veronica designed paper dolls and their clothes and sold the dolls for five cents and the outfits for a penny apiece to her friends! She had a good business going until the teacher caught her working on them during class - end of career!
At the age of nine while sitting in a church service, she had a special realization that singing would become an important part of her life. Veronica sang in the B.S.U. choir and Madrigal Group at Cumberland College in Williamburg, Kentucky. After her children were born she taught Art Classes in different mediums from oils on canvas to pen and ink with color washes. She enjoys being creative in her art and writing and is now designing her own Christmas ornaments and has continued her painting.
Veronica's musical talents include singing, and playing tin whistle, flute, and bodhran drum. Ms. DeBusk has taught piano and is currently teaching flute. She is an active member at the Oak Street Baptist Church, The Elizabethton Choral Club, and a member of the Watauga Historical Society. She has been a member of "The Wataugans" since 1994. The first appearance of singers as pre-show entertainment for the drama occurred in 1995 on Ms. DeBusk's suggestion. In the summer of 2003 she was introduced to Wenny Elrod by her director John Ruetz. Mary Jane Kennedy was introduced to her by another cast member, Theresa Phelps.
After that special summer, The Overmountain Singers began their journey together. Ms. DeBusk says she was truly blessed to have such gifted and talented ladies to work with. "It was meant to be! We feel like we have been together for a long time and enjoy bringing music, harmony, and history to others."
Wenny (born Wendolin Joette Creek) lives in Johnson City, Tennessee with her husband, Chuck. They are the parents of four sons and two daughters. Wenny began singing in public at age three and at age nine she began her studies in music with the piano, followed by the violin and clarinet. Wenny’s parents, Gene and Gwen Creek, sang together accompanied by her father’s guitar. The family sang whenever they were together, at home, in the car, etc. and the five children were soon singing with their parents in church and community performances. The family performed together for several years, with the grandchildren, as "The Radiant Energy Singers".
Wenny’s ancestral heritage is rich with musical talent from the forests of Germany to the Isles of England and Ireland. Her ancestors came to America settling in the Pennsylvania pasturelands and the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. She was deeply influenced by her maternal grandfather, Frank Honeycutt, who was always playing jazz and the blues on their family piano as he bounced her on his knee. Wenny continued in this musical tradition under the direction of Juanita Ruetz performing music from the classical to folk. Juanita introduced her to the local theatres in Johnson City and Jonesborough where she performed in such musicals as "Oklahoma" and played Rosie in Juanita’s production of "Bye Bye Birdie".
Wenny put her first original compositions on paper in 1971 through the encouragement and inspiration of Alan Spendlove. With support from him, her family and many friends since then she has continued to develop her songwriting talents. Wenny and her family enjoy music with Alan and Lindy’s family when they visit out in Utah. Thank you Alan for believing.
Chuck and Wenny were invited to participate in "The Wataugans" at Sycamore Shoals in 2003 by Jon Ruetz who introduced them to Veronica DeBusk, leader of "The Overmountain Singers". Now Chuck and Wenny join Veronica, Mary Jane, and Suzanna Kulikowski in sharing the music and history of this area and America’s beginnings.
Wenny teaches an early morning seminary class at University High on the campus of E.T.S.U. and She works for CASA of Northeast Tennessee. She is also serving on the J.C.H.A. Board of Commissioners, the Relief Society of the Watauga Ward (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Watauga Historical Assoc. committees, and other community service.
Charles A. Elrod, "Chuck", is a Virginia Gentleman, born in Pulaski, Virgina and transplanted to Johnson City, Tennessee at the age of seventeen. He completed his senior year at Science Hill High School where he was involved in theatre. Chuck then attended East Tennessee State University (E.T.S.U.) becoming a participant in the WETS AM lab class under the direction of Dr. Frank (1967-1968) before joining the U.S. Air Force, where he did see the world.
A year after Chuck's return to the states he became involved in theatre with Nils Cruz at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre where he met his wife-to-be, Wenny (Thank You, Nils). A year later the happy couple were married and a year after that their first son was born. They are presently the proud parents of six children and two grandchildren.
Chuck gained his love of storytelling at age nine, while attending a Sunday School class in Virginia, taught by "Doc" Harmon. "The way Doc told those Bible stories, he made them so real that it was like seeing a movie in your head. Doc said he was a veteran of three wars and he used his own experiences to make the Bible come alive for those of us in class", Chuck says.
Now, as a true lover of world and political history, Chuck enjoys learning about the events of the past and sharing them with others. This shared interest has led Chuck and Wenny, along with their family, into such activities as the play "Toward the Setting Sun", by John Ruetz, where two of their sons have also participated, and Tennessee's Outdoor Drama, "The Wataugans", in which their four year old granson joined them, and the annual Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough.
In the house of Elrod music and storysharing are a family adventure!
Sarah Jean Miller
Sarah Jean is the newest member of the Overmountain Singers. She is a talented musician who accompanies The Overmountain Singers on her violin. Sarah Jean joined the cast of The Wataugans in 2006 and Liberty in 2007. While her primary instrument is violin....she also enjoys playing the bagpipes!
Sarah Jean is originally from Ohio where she grew up playing classical violin. Along with playing various musicals, plays and concerts, she was Assistant Concertmaster in the Wooster Symphony Orchestra (in Ohio) and was a performer in the WSO since 1978. Sarah learned the bagpipes at the age of 25 and was in the College of Wooster Marching Band as a piper. She also was in the MacGregor Pipe Band which was a competing Pipe band in Canton, Ohio.
Before moving to Tennessee in 2003, she sold her violins vowing never to play classical violin again! After settling into her new home with her husband Art, she discovered "Bluegrass" music and other venues of "fiddling". She bought a fiddle through her bluegrass teacher, David Yates, over the internet,(it has a better sound than any of her violins did) and started exploring this new venue. The absolute joy that Fiddling has brought into Sarah's life has been tremendous. She is the fiddler for The Overmountain Singers and the Two Step Bluegrass & Country Band.
She has performed in many pre-shows for Liberty (formerly The Wataugans), the Outdoor Drama at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton. These performances included playing the Bagpipes as well as the Fiddle!
Sarah Jean and her husband Art, who plays piano, regulary perform for various churches and functions in the area. They play regularly for their church services. Their music is inspired by the wonders of a greater being and the beauty of East Tennessee.
Sarah's husband Art is employed at a local Bank in Elizabethton and they have two sons. Her son Joe, lives in Chicago and is married to Nita who is from Romania. Joe has a Masters Degree in Marriag and Family Counseling and is employed by a school system in Chicago. Art's son Rick is attending Ohio State University and is pursuing a law degree.
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