Randy "Jausch" Schroeder wrote his first musical composition at age six. It was terrible.

As a teenager, he listened to Van Halen for about ten hours a day, and tried his best to transcribe "Eruption" for the violin. After failing repeatedly to do so, he switched from violin to guitar. He still couldn't play "Eruption," but he was hooked for good on six strings and fretted necks, on the nasty gnashing of feedback and the wiggly wonders of the the wang bar.

After ignoring rhythm throughout junior high school, he finally came to his senses after he was unceremoniously kicked out of his first band, Trance. What was this thing called rhythm? he wondered. What are the secrets of time? Thus began his lifelong journey into the mysteries of tempo, meter and syncopation.

At age 45, while listening to David "Holly" Hildebrand play a half-time shuffle, Schroeder fell to the ground seized by a mystical experience: he heard 6/9 time for the first time in his life, and was struck deaf and blind for twenty minutes afterward. Thus was he baptized into his own grey Mennonite inheritance. He immediately dropped his spacey prog-rock noodlings, quit his band (The Black Creek Canticles), and began to study Grey Mennonite Swing in earnest, tutored by Hildebrand, who holds the traditional bestowed title of "Holly" (sometimes translated as "swingmaster," though there is no good equivalent in English). (Find out more about 6/9 timing by clicking below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On May 13, 2015, Schroeder was granted the traditional Grey Mennonite Swing appellation "Jausch," signifying apprenticeship, in a GMS ceremony held in Steinbach, Manitoba. He continues to write music in the tradition, borrowing from old standards and infusing them with new sounds and styles. As ever, he is guided by his drummer and good friend, Holly. Though they live in different cities, the magic of the digital age keeps their music alive. 

A note about appellations:

"Holly" is an anglicized derivation of the Old Teutonic holegn, and a cognate of the Dutch hulst. The term signifies in multiple ways: "to cut"; "to prick"; "to poke"' "prickly"; "prickly as an evergreen"; "to sweep"; "to get into the wood"; "to peel the bark"; "to slice to the pith"; "blood-red as a berry." In the language of Grey Mennonite Swing, all shades of meaning are reorganized metaphorically within the domains of rhythm, so that one who is (or has) "Holly" is known to cut to the quick of time, to poke and prod with tempo, to make it bleed, to both unveil and cover "the bark" of rhythm. The mystical nuances of the word "tree" are all appropriate in this context, but most notably the suggestions thrown out by the conifer, which "holds its green" whatever snows and storms arrive.

"Jausch" is a disputed term. No one has offered a satisfactory explanation as to why it denotes apprenticeship within GMS musical culture. Benjamin Nikkel, in an essay called "GMS Appellations and the Indo-European Language Family," speculates that "Jausch" was originally a simple family surname that got caught up in the argot of GMS, and, for whatever reason, stuck. Since one of the seminal GMS musicians was the mandolin genius "Hangnail" Jakob Jausch, there is some merit to Nikkel's theory. However, as Finnish Musicologist Hilppa Harjula has noted, the surname theory would mean that Jausch went by the awkward name "Hangnail" Jakob "Jausch" Jausch, which is needlessly awkward and bizarre, even by the Grey Mennonite standards.

Stringed Instruments Room
Pumpkin Room Studio 
Porcupine Hills, Alberta

 

Check out some of the great historical GMS Musicians

(all from the golden age scene of GMS, approx. 1857-1906)

 

Opa Willy Nikkel

Anna "Holly" Neufeld

Tante Zuss

Uncle Zugg Knelsen

Jakob "Holly" Voth

Bighead Dilly Doerksen

Abram King Klassen

Ruby Sweet Sara Voth

Hangnail Jakob Jausch

Cornelius "Holly" Ginter

Holly "Holly" Suderman

"You can't hear it unless you've already heard it."

                                                      -Jakob Voth, on the riddle of 6/9 (Crooked Straight time)

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