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Somerset kids to sing on Christmas CD

Students from Heidi Olson's kindergarten class are shown singing during one of the recording sessions at Ramblin Ranch, where they sang two songs for the upcoming CD "Christmas Jam."

Heidi Olson's kindergarten class has gotten the rare opportunity to brighten the Christmas season for thousands of people.

And they will be doing it two ways.

The Somerset Elementary School class will be one of 17 acts that performs on the holiday CD "Christmas Jam." The initial release of 5,000 copies of the CD is planned for Dec. 1.

All funds raised by the sale of the CD will go to area food shelves.

The CD was done at Ramblin Ranch recording studio in rural Osceola. It is owned by the husband and wife team of Ron Engen and JoAnn Stearns.

CD idea

It was Engen who came up with the idea to organize a CD that could be used as a fund-raiser. He woke up with the idea one morning and immediately began mobilizing help. After all, there was no music studio on their property. But within five days, they had the structure built and wired.

During those five days, Engen was also contacting acts to perform on the CD. Early in the process Engen decided to make it a holiday CD.

"The season lent itself to something charitable," he said.

And the idea to include the kindergarten class was a natural fit.

"Christmas is all about kids. Including kids (on the CD) was the most natural fit of all," Engen said.

That led them to contact Olson, because their granddaughter, Kaya Stearns, is a student in Olson's class.

Olson and Somerset Elementary music teacher Al Duerkop immediately went to work, teaching the kindergartners their songs. The students were already learning two songs "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" and "I Took a Lick on My Peppermint Stick," for their holiday program, so it was decided those would be the songs they performed for the CD.

"They were unbelievably excited," Olson said about the kids' reactions to singing for a CD.

Olson said she told the children that the CD would be sold so the money could be donated to people who need food and other things. The students grasped the concept of giving at the holidays, because they have seen the school's tradition of mitten trees and food drives to help those in need.

The students' involvement also met several of the goals of the School District's strategic plan, including community involvement and learning about careers.


The CD will go from the germ of an idea to store shelves in just over a month. Engen said that once word got out about a holiday CD, word spread quickly. On several days there was more than one act that visited their ranch to record their songs.

All the artists are donating their time, with one perk. JoAnn serves a home-cooked meal of the artist's choice.

"JoAnn is an amazing cook," Engen said. "This is definitely a team in the full sense of the word."

Engen said all songs on the CD are holiday music except one. That is a performance of "Amazing Grace" done by Paul Mayasich on the slide guitar.

Included in the CD are several original pieces. Another of the bands that performed is "God Johnson," one of the hottest bands on the Twins Cities music scene.

Engen said one of the numbers that will grab listeners' attention is a song by Betina called "Snow Angels." In addition to the vocals, she also played guitar and violin on the track.

The engineering and production of the CD have been handled by two local men with deep music interests. Somerset graduate Ryan Gunderson and Osceola graduate Kelly Cook took care of the bulk of the production work on the CD.

The CD costs $10. It will be available at Best Buy and Electric Fetus and Engen is hoping that they will be available at Starbucks. He said they will also be available at several local outlets, like Sportsman's Restaurant in Somerset. The CD can also be purchased directly by calling Ramblin Ranch at (715) 294-2499.

Ramblin Ranch

Music is nothing new at Ramblin Ranch. For the past four years Engen and Stearns have held a small concert on their property. They are planning for two concerts this summer. The first will be a blues concert. Later in the summer they intend to hold a bluegrass concert. While the concerts have grown, they intend to keep them to a limit of 500 people.

Engen, who has worked as a home contractor in Minnesota for 33 years, said they try to keep the concerts to a family atmosphere. They served breakfast for concert goers each year, including serving 1,500 pancakes last year.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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