Meet the Creators
DR. RICH MELHEIM
WRITER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Rich Melheim is the initiator of Luther the Rock Opera. An ordained Lutheran minister, international educational systems pioneer, amateur neurologist, publisher and faith entrepreneur.
With a BA in Journalism, a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctorate in Semiotics and Future Studies, Rich has striven to design, test, and implement faith incubation systems that pull parents into the core of the process for over three decades. He is the author of 25 books, producer of 23 record albums, writer of 500+ songs and 275 of skits, writer/producer of 6 musical comedy stage plays, and developer of thousands of family faith resources at:
Rich has taught 1000+ conferences in the US, India, South Korea, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia and Australia, and been featured as a parenting and educational consultant on CNN (Atlanta), 100 Huntley Street (Toronto), Good Morning Egypt (Cairo), ABC (Sydney) and 50 network news shows across the USA from WNBC (New York) to KTLA (Los Angeles).
Rich began the Luther project a decade ago when he was asked to create a guerrilla marketing campaign and Cross+Generational study guides for the movie Luther starring Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov.
Along with writing the story for Luther the Rock Opera, Dr. Rich created the orchestration templates for the small and full stage versions, and sang the voices of Jan Hus, Cardinal Aleandro and numerous background vocals.
MICHAEL BRIDGES AND GEORGE BAUM (Lost And Found)
The first time Rich Melheim heard the band Lost And Found and tried to explain them to his wife, he told Arlyce, “They’re kinda like Beavis and Butthead on Lutheran crack.”
Over their 29 years on the road, Rich spoke at a dozen events where Michael and George were the featured band, and came to love and marvel at their:
Insanely addictive music
Infectiously powerful lyrics
Endearing improv wit and stage presence, and
Simple, profound, solidly Lutheran theology
They played in all 50 states and numerous countries. They won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Twice.
They released 17 albums, performed about 5,000 concerts, drove over a million miles, and flew about 4 million more.
Then in 2015 they decided it was time to get real jobs and feed their families.
They were saying their goodbyes on their website, writing things like:
"Michael has taken a job with a music-app start up. George thinks this means he is going to get paid for listening to Spotify, but Michael insists it's an actual job, with bosses and a desk and stuff like that."
"George has been applying for positions at churches, though nothing is solid yet. Michael thinks this means he will be working one hour a week, but George insists he might end up at a church with more than one service a week, so it could be twice that much."
About that same time, while sitting with them in a tavern in Boulder, Colorado after they donated a free concert to launch Faith Inkubators “Killing Sunday School/Birthing Cross+Gen Worship” movement, Rich found out they were retiring from the road work and planning an international conference in Wittenberg for Luther’s 500th Reformation Jubilee Festival.
So Rich got to thinking out loud – as he often does – and, yeah, he told them it would be a sin for their talents to go to waste and their fanatic fan base to be deprived of their gifts and their daughters’ generation to grow up with only the legend of their marvelously maniacal ministry with Lions eating bodies but not swallowing souls, and slinkies, and Somebody’s Babies and Rising Up. Rich thought their retirement was a disaster for the church.
Simul justice et disaster…
Here comes “Luther the Musical” in time for the 500th Reformation Jubilee of Luther nailing it.
SET DESIGNER, ARTIST
Jonathan Koelsch was the lead colorist for the 2003 movie versions on the Luther Graphic Novel, and came back on board in 2016 to finish the project and design the set, 3-D props and animations for the play. The award-winning illustrator, discovered his love of art and storytelling while reading his first comic book at 7 years old.
Jonathan's clients include many advertising agencies, national corporations, and institutions, but his passion is sequential storytelling, including graphic novels, storyboarding and animation. Presently he is animating and co-directing Even in Death, a short film. He storyboarded Hollywood films in production now in Oklahoma, including Gosnell, and The Washita Valley. Jonathan worked directly with Hollywood actor and director William H. Macy, storyboarding the movie Rudderless, starring Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Selena Gomez, Felicity Huffman, Lawrence Fishburne and Bill Macy himself. He has storyboarded many commercials for Target, Carl’s Jr., the OK State Regents, Cambria, and many others, and has designed many illustrated characters for entities like the OKC Thunder (NBA). Jonathan illustrated several published graphic novels, including !Hero® the Rock Opera graphic novel, and COTU®, the Auto-B-Good® comic book. Jonathan has illustrated children’s books, including Ditch Witch Jack for Ditch Witch Int., Sooner Born, Sooner Bred for the University of Oklahoma (OU), and recently finished Pistol Pete and Me for Oklahoma State University (OSU).
Learn more about Jonathan at jkArts.com and @jkArts (Twitter)
VOICE OF MARTIN LUTHER
Peder Eide sings the lead role of the stormy monk, Martin Luther, in the Luther the Rock Opera. With power, pathos and emotional punch, Peder brings the reformer from his terrifying electrical storm, through his haunting demonic despair, to his death-defying stance at his trial.
With two decades on stage and in classrooms under his belt, this internationally renowned singer/songwriter, speaker, worship leader, and trainer is also an advocate for orphans and children in poverty. Peder’s critically acclaimed music has been described as playful yet spiritually challenging and it puts the fun back into contemporary Christian music…straightforward and relevant…, Perfect Surprise.” His engaging style and deep passion for the life-changing power of God’s love can be heard throughout the 17 CDs he has written and recorded. Peder also has heart for helping youth and families draw closer to God and closer together through music and experientialTaste Worship.
Peder and his music/mission can be found at https://www.pedereide.com.
VOICE OF KATHARINA VON BORA
Rachel Kurtz sings the lead female role, the Narrator and nun who marries Martin. Rachel’s powerhouse voice and joyful presence add humor, depth and pain to the churning drama. Her heartfelt performances have electrified crowds from Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, New Orleans’ Superdome, Texas’ Alamo Dome, and hundreds of other concert venues from India to Germany to Africa and coast to coast in the US. Rachel uses her unique style and personal story to raise funds andawareness for world hunger, hurricane relief, and multi-cultural reconciliation. Her song “Make A Difference,” unveiled at a national Lutheran youth gathering, has become a widespread sensation sung by praise bands, youth groups, and school choirs from coast to coast. In addition to her music leadership at conventions and congregations, Rachel is also an in-demand retreat facilitator and keynote speaker at youth weekends, women’s retreats and many times at Sunday morning worship.
Rachel and her music/mission can be found at http://rachelkurtz.org
VOICE OF FREDERICK THE ELECTOR
Robert Robinson sings the part of Elector Frederick, Luther’s patron and protector. Described as the “Pavarotti of Gospel” by the Minneapolis Tribune Robert’s huge voice and volcanic talent command the stage with both power and tenderness and regularly bring both smiles and tears at the same time to audiences young and old.
The star of disc and stage has performed with Aretha Franklin, nine-time Grammy Award winner Andrae Crouch, Kenny Loggins, the Sounds of Blackness, Bobby McFerrin, Barry Manilow, Jermaine Jackson, and countless others. When Prince’s birthday bash was planned, they had to have Robert open it With twelve solo projects available around the world and online, Robert has also starred as lead role in Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s production of the Nightingale, Cricket Theatre’s production of From Slavery to Freedom, and others added stage experience and acclaim to Robert’s musical notoriety.
Along with his music, Robert is also immersed in community service, acting as musical guest at the Tiger and Earl Woods’ Inner City Golf Forum, ministering at community prisons, donating talent, time and heart to the National Day of Prayer, Promise Keepers and the Billy Graham Crusade, and serving as master clinician in schools across America.
Robert has arranged and sung on a dozen songs for the Faith Inkubators Music Guild, and when it came to choosing a huge number for the finale of Luther the Musical, Robert’s inspiring rendition of Psalm 89:1, “I Will Sing” was the obvious choice to close the curtain.
See more of what Robert is up to at robertrobinsonmusic.com/bio.htm
Robert has arranged and sung on a dozen songs for the Faith Inkubators Music Guild.
VOICE OF STUAPITZ
John Hermanson is the comic, yet sensitive, German voice Luther’s mentor and the reformer’s behind-the-scenes deal broker. A singer-songwriter and member of the acclaimed duo Storyhill, John is a regular guest performer on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. The band has a loyal following, produces a thriving annual music festival, and has independently sold over 250,000 records during the course of a 25-year career. John is also the founder of the art rock band Alva Star, was a member of the indie-rock group, The Hopefuls and is a co-owner of Egg Music, a full-service creative music house specializing in original music for advertising, film, and TV. Egg Music produces a film series called “Motion Poems” that has an annual screening at the Walker in Minneapolis. At Egg Music , John has scored music for MTV’s scripted series Underemployed, 2015’s feature film, “Dragonfly”, many other independent short films, and is a hands-on producer of many of the songs for the Luther Rock Opera.
John and his music/mission can be found at www.johnhermanson.net
TONIA HUGHES/SARA RENNER
MULTIPLE BACKUP VOICE ON ALBUM
Tonia Hughes and Sara Renner are notably among Minnesota’s most gifted artists. They blend their voices to sing the multi-layered back-up vocals on the orchestrated versions of the Luther Rock Opera, knocking the harmonies and highest notes out of the stratosphere.
TONIA has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, at the acclaimed Lincoln Center in New York, the Smithsonian and hundreds of culturally diverse church, theatrical, college and university events. She works with Minnesota artists and arts educators to present concerts and empowerment through music to the homeless, veterans, Indian Reservations, Somalian communities and rural Minnesota areas. Tonia has aided in spearheading community musical benefits and projects to aid homeless women to tornado victims.
Learn more about Tonia and her music/mission here.
SARA is an artist, a songwriter and a passionate believer, Sara’s vision is to reflect the beauty of God through the artistic expression of music, trusting that this timeless medium will not only bring a message of joy to the listener but actually change lives for the better. Rooted in its legendary soulful sound, Sara has been independently producing top quality music as a solo artist since 2001. With a refreshing blend of Pop, Jazz & Gospel, Sara classical training sets herself apart with a versatility and spiritually you’ve never heard before!
Sara and her music/mission can be found here.
VOICE OF ULRICH VON HUTTEN, COLLABORATOR/ARRANGER FOR "TEUTONIC RHAPSODY"
Phil Kadidlo is an instrumentalist, vocalist, worship leader, composer and arranger. He graduated from University of Wisconsin-River Falls (B.A. Music, '86). Phil continues to serve in his 30th year as Director of Contemporary Worship & Technical Arts at Trinity Lutheran, Stillwater, MN.
As a composer of widely varied works, Phil is published through Augsburg Fortress Publishing, Minneapolis, Kjos Music, San Diego and Faith Inkubators, Stillwater. Phil and his wife, Robin Cain, contributed several pieces to the ELW worship volume. Aside from playing in church, Phil produces several 60s, 70s & 80s tribute shows for the band, Les Izmoore. He also freelances as a jazz musician around the Twin Cities, backing a variety of vocalists and horn players. Phil, Robin and Rich Melheim have previously collaborated on the musical This Christmas Morning. Phil and his family live in Stillwater, MN.
JESSE RAY ERNSTER
VOICE OF THE ABBOT, ENGINEER, ARRANGER, ORCHESTRATOR, LEAD GUITAR
The quarterback for the creation of the LRO album began singing vocals on Rich Melheim’s Faith Inkubator’s albums at age 10, working with his father Todd Ernster of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame Band “the Killer Hayseeds.”
This Minneapolis/Los Angeles musician possesses a keen ear, hot guitar, knack in blending the talents of multiple artists and ability take raw materials and arrange them into the classic rock opera style turned out to be the perfect skill set for the project of this scope.
Jesse and his work can be found here.