John Berquist


As one of the Upper Midwest's most respected folklorists, John presents concerts and programs that bring to life the heritage and lore of the Midwest. From lumberjack ballads to miners' laments, folk melodies from Scandinavian, Finnish and Slavic immigrants to songs about people and places, John shares a lifelong collection of music and stories with his audiences.

He plays the guitar, mandolin, 2 and 4 row button accordions, and he sings in a rich, warm baritone. His stories about the songs he sings, the people who sang them, and the heritage they represent are memorable vignettes of life in America's northern heartland.

A native Minnesotan of Norwegian and Swedish descent, he has toured Europe and has performed at festivals all across America. He has appeared on television and radio in Germany, Switzerland, France, as well as in the United States and Canada. He divides his time between his native northeastern Minnesota and Chicago, where he is the leader of Chicago's premier Scandinavian band, the South Side Swedes. He is an instructor with Chicago's After School Matters Program and is currently researching urban folklore among Chicago teens.

In 2002 he was invited to participate in the prestigious Norsk MusikVekke at Ål, Hallingdal, in Norway.He was a featured instructor and performer at the AmeriKappleik, America's largest gathering of Norwegian folk dancers and musicians, in Northfield, MN, last summer.

He is the former Folk Arts Program Associate with the Minnesota State Arts Board, has served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Program, worked as folk music consultant for the Cousteau Society, produced several public radio documentaries, and has been a folklife consultant for several television documentaries and films. He once taught Jessica Lange how to sing a Finnish birthday song for the film "Far North."

He has released 9 recordings, the most recent, "John Berquist and the South Sides Swedes: Scandinavian Music from Chicago." 

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