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How to win without winning

--- Contest entry turns into invitation to perform on A Prairie Home Companion

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published June 13, 2007, 1:04 p.m.)

"Whad'Ya Know," the "People's Pharmacy" has prescribed two hours to work "On Your Health" by listening to any radio "Here On Earth," sharing talk and entertainment "To The Best Of Our Knowledge" this Saturday, the day after "Science Friday." (Not much, you?)

At this point either you know exactly what that meant, or you've dismissed it as nonsense. In other words, you're a Wobegonhead, or you're not.

For those of you who are not, you're not alone. Jon Troast of Lake Geneva wasn't a true member until just recently.

Newcomers are safe and welcome with the warning that it is one of the most subliminally addictive head-groups out there. On the upside, it's an addiction you'll never be sorry you succumbed to.

For those who are nodding their Wobegonheads, Troast will perform live as A Prairie Home Companion leaves Lake Wobegon to broadcast at the Ravinia Pavilion in Highland Park, Ill., Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m.

A Prairie Home Companion, now in its 32nd year, broadcasts live every Saturday 5-7 p.m. It's a radio show of comedy sketches, music and Garrison Keillor's signature monologue, "The News from Lake Wobegon."

Keillor himself will introduce Troast to the international audience of 4 million who listen to the show each week, according to its Web site.

Troast earned the honor by first winning one. He entered a contest by submitting a song with the hopes of it being played on A Prairie Home Companion.

He didn't hear anything for weeks and all but dismissed the idea.

"Then the program manager called and said they liked my entry so much they didn't want to use me in that contest-they wanted me to perform for a show," Troast said.

Admittedly he wasn't a hardcore Wobegonhead just a few months ago, he said. He'd listened here and there and, naturally, hasn't missed a show lately.

He quickly understood the pull of the addiction.

"I relate to the witty dry humor," Troast said. "And I appreciate the way they've tapped into Midwestern culture. They hit a lot of stuff right on the head-not everybody in the Midwest, of course-but definitely people I know personally."

Troast will be prepared to perform several faves from his original repertoire including "The Most," "Probably Was Never Really Mine" and quite probably the demo that he originally sent for the contest, "The Dish and the Spoon."

The music

Troast is a lifelong Walworth County native who grew up in a family of nine with four adopted siblings and graduated from Faith Christian School in Williams Bay.

He describes his music as folk rock that can be "a little pop, bluesy, jazzy or country."

From his first exposure to making music with piano lessons from his grandmother, he's had music in his veins.

Even now with his guitar as his primary instrument, Troast goes back to piano to write-his core passion in the art of making music.

"I think empathy is one of the greatest attributes of a songwriter," he said.

"My goal is to connect with people and hopefully speak into their lives some, or just have a dialogue started from my music."

While he's very jazzed about the opportunity to play with a band of this caliber, Guy's All-Star Shoe Band, he's not content with his place professionally.

"I definitely want to keep going as far as I can," he said.

He currently performs nationally solo and locally with fellow local musicians Tim Angsten on bass guitar, Bill Angsten on guitar and slide guitar, Steve Vorass on drums and Thea Vorass on cello.

His most recent release and sixth project, Second Story, produced with Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay, Bebo Norman) is available along with much more information at www.jontroast.com.

Jon Troast upcoming performances
--- June 19th, 8 p.m. at Hogs and Kisses (full band show), 149 Broad St., Lake Geneva
--- July 7, 7:30 p.m. at Starbucks (with Josh Schicker), 685 W. Main St., Lake Geneva, 348-0491.
--- July 14 at the Midwest Acoustic Music Festival in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
--- July 25, 7 p.m. and July 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Milwaukee Ale House (full band show), 233 N. Water St., Milwaukee, (414) 226-2337, www.ale-house.com.

IF YOU GO
What: Prairie Home Companion featuring guest musician Jon Troast of Lake Geneva
Where: International broadcast live at the Ravinia Pavilion in Highland Park, Ill.
When: Saturday, June 16, 5 p.m.
Tickets: www.ravinia.org
Listen: Tune into 90.7 FM for A Prairie Home Companion live or as a rebroadcast Sunday, June 17 at 10 a.m.

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