About the Band

About the Band

Although the musical skills of the band are impressive, you won’t see any big egos on stage—just teamwork and joy as the group brings the music to life.

Musician bios are below.  | For press kit, click here.


Jess Defrees

Jess is a founding member of A Sudden Tradition and we wish to honor and thank her for the many amazing shows we enjoyed together!  Now living in Idaho with husband, Nathan, we sorely miss having Jess for most shows.  Every now and then we get to perform together when Jess comes back for a visit.  If you catch her at one of our reunion shows, you’re in for a treat.

When people hear Jess sing, they stop in their tracks and listen. The range of texture and emotion in her voice is rare, moving from innocent wonder in one song to confident power in the next. Her live performances are a treat.

Jess first took to the stage at the tender age of four, wrote her first song shortly after that, and has been performing in musical groups ever since. Her vocal training covers classical to contemporary with an emphasis on folk, blues, and Americana roots.

Jess has had the pleasure of performing on live radio broadcasts, for PAC 10 sports teams, as well as many intimate venues. She draws inspiration from the likes of Gillian Welch, Patsy Cline, Joni Mitchell, and local musicians such as Laura Veirs, M. Ward and her fellow AST members.


Dennis Zelmer

“Dad played guitar and mom loved to sing. As a kid growing up in upper Michigan, way out in the woods north of Escanaba, traditional music came as naturally as trees and wildflowers.”

Dennis loved to watch the grownups playing in the neighborhood song sessions. When no one was looking, he would slip his dad’s guitar out of the case and just listen to the ring of the strings. Self-taught on guitar, Dennis has been playing since that early age.  He has been a lifelong performer and writer, with bands spanning country, jazz standards, acoustic rock, blues, folk and bluegrass. He plays guitar and mandolin for AST.

“The times I feel most alive are when I’m playing a show with friends. I think good music is about bringing joy to the room—that’s why I do it.”

Dennis is also known for mentoring and encouraging upcoming performers.  He is always eager to share his experience and skills with others.




Suzanne Chimenti


As a child Suzanne Chimenti was an uncooperative and uninspired piano student but her piano teacher mother eventually wore down her resistance which gave way to a lifelong passion for all things musical.

Suzanne went on to major in vocal music and music education at Portland State University and is now wrapping up a 30 year career in teaching choir for Reynolds School District. Prior to joining A Sudden Tradition, she performed for many years with the successful Portland variety band, “The Mighty Filberts.”

Suzanne is a multi-instrumentalist and song writer whose future plans are to spend the next 100 years trying to master any and all stringed instruments. Suzanne plays piano and claw hammer banjo for A Sudden Tradition.





Gary Schuh

Gary is a champion fiddle player. He has garnered state, regional, and national titles including: Junior and Young Adult titles at the Washington State Contest; 1992 & 1993 Northwest Regional Young Adult Champion; and 1993 Young Adult National Champion, as well as many other titles including wins at the Oregon State Fiddle Contest and other Regional contests. He was the fiddler for the Riders of the Rockin’ B Ranch for three years prior to becoming a teacher, and has been an instructor at the Ludiker Fiddle Camp, and other music camps for multiple years.

Gary is sought after for studio recording work and live performance with various musical artists across the U.S.


Nancy Christie


After a year as a music major in college, Nancy changed fields and vowed henceforth to only play the radio.  She kept this vow until middle age when she became hooked on bluegrass music. Nancy learned to play the upright bass from videotaped lessons and was soon happily thumping away at Northwest bluegrass jams and festivals. She was a member of the band “In the Grove” and is the regular bassist at the McMenamin’s Rock Creek Tavern weekly bluegrass jam in Hillsboro.

Nancy’s bass provides the foundation and drive for our music and we feel honored to enjoy her skills. Her straight-ahead playing style is deceptively simple, yet brings the music to life and punches it up in just the right places. Nancy is also a fine singer.