MEI LIN HEIRENDT
Broken Compass Bluegrass' Django Ruckrich
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Django Ruckrich began his musical journey at the age of 4 when his Dad bought him his first guitar. Demonstrating a preference for bluegrass music at an early age, Django began flatpicking by learning to play along to traditional fiddle tunes. It wasn't long before he extended his passion for music to the mandolin and fiddle.
Raised in a musical family, Django first performed with his Dad at Nevada City Summer Nights when he was 4 years old. This was the first in what would become a 10-year run of performances for the Ruckrich Family Band. During that time, Django and his family performed on the streets, stages, and radio stations of Northern California, and even made it as far as Europe. The experience culminated in a recording session with his Dad under the name, Ruckrich Duo, where Django played guitar, mandolin, fiddle, piano, bass, and sang harmony. The EP, "Gravity," was produced by world famous, Joe Craven, Django’s long-time mentor.
Throughout Django’s young career, he has had the honor of sharing the stage with noted bluegrass musicians such as Ben Kaufman, Joe Craven, members of Hot Buttered Rum, and Frank Solivan among others. During the pandemic, Django reconnected with his current band mates, both of whom he had a prior musical relationship with. This collaboration inspired him to put more time and energy into his singing and songwriting in addition to his fierce flatpicking. For Django, Broken Compass Bluegrass is the perfect place to express his diverse musical influences and remain connected to his bluegrass roots.
Broken Compass Bluegrass' Mei Lin Heirendt
It all started at the age of 4 when her dad put on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Isaac Stern’s version). According to her father, Mei Lin stopped in her tracks when she heard the violin. After processing these sounds for a minute, she exclaimed, “Dad! What is this?! I want you to play it all the time!”
Mei Lin Heirendt (now 16) started violin at the age of 7 through the Suzuki Method. Alongside classical studies, her first teacher integrated a sprinkling of Mark O'Connor's violin books, so Mei Lin quickly learned traditional tunes like Soldier’s Joy and Angeline the Baker. Mei Lin played in the Music in the Mountains Youth Orchestra (MIMYO) for about 4 years and, in 2017, became the Concertmaster at just 12 years old.
Shortly after completing book 4 of the Suzuki Method, Mei Lin transitioned mainly to bluegrass music. Growing up attending the California Bluegrass Association’s (CBA) annual Father’s Day Festival, she caught the bluegrass bug more and more each year. She has since been very involved in the CBA, now the current Youth Ambassador and social media coordinator, and former Regional Director.
MEI LIN HEIRENDT
Broken Compass Bluegrass' Kyle Ledson
We jokingly say Kyle’s musical journey began inside Mom’s belly where his parents would stretch over a pair of Sony headphones each night and play Bach & live Phish shows. Kyle was born into the music festival world, immersed & saturated in melody and rhythm. Even at home, Kyle got his fill playin ‘air ukulele’ while Dad would strum the guitar. Kyle could hardly wait to get an instrument in his own hands and thanks to the free fiddle lessons for kids at the Strawberry Music Festival, his wish came true at the age of 3. He continued with private lessons learning the Suzuki Method while quickly developing an ear for tone.
5-year-old Kyle attended the California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Festival and participated in the Kids on Bluegrass program. This experience was a game-changer. There was a large group of talented kids, playing all the stringed instruments, on the big stage, and they weren’t stuck playing Christmas tunes- this was real music. Kyle’s eye caught a few kids playing mandolin so that following year, he was ready to trade in his fiddle for a mando. At this point, 6-year-old Kyle was hooked and he devoted most of his free time making music, learning the fretboard, and even writing his own songs.
As a 14-year-old 8th grader, Kyle recorded his first album, “Crooked Mandolin,” which saw him collaborating with childhood heroes Hot Buttered Rum, the T Sisters, and the incredibly talented, flat picker of the year, Molly Tuttle. After briefly experiencing life in the recording studio and all the inspiration that came with that, he began writing, playing, & growing musically with a fiery momentum.
2018 brought forth a new project: Boston Ravine. This band was co-founded with her father, Robert Heirendt (guitar) and also included bassist Karl Chelette. Though Mei Lin had been performing for years, this band allowed her to perform bluegrass for the first time. Debuting to a sold out crowd at local venue Wild Eye Pub, Boston Ravine hit the ground running, playing various regional venues and private parties/weddings. The band also had a summer of festivals lined up (before the pandemic hit). In 2020, Mei Lin wanted to move on to other ventures, but that didn’t stop the band from closing out strong with the release of "Ragged Road," a self-produced album featuring numerous originals, hard-driving traditional bluegrass songs, and soulful country ballads.
In both 2020 and 2021, Mei Lin was selected as one of about two dozen youth in the country to be a part of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Kids On Bluegrass program. Within that program, she was also one of only six to be selected to play at the IBMA Awards Show reception at the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, NC.
In addition to playing with Broken Compass Bluegrass, Mei Lin also co-founded (with her good friend Ida Winfree) a full 5-piece bluegrass band called West 45. Also a competent songwriter, she is now set to record some of her originals in Nashville in early fall, with the goal of releasing those singles later this year.
Aside from playing music, she enjoys running, photo editing, graphic design, sound engineering, board/card games, spending time with family and friends, and eating waffles (the most important part of life).
Kyle was invited to open up the stage & play with the Brothers Comatose in Auburn as many new opportunities opened up during his high school years. Kyle’s talent was quickly noticed by local promoters, the most significant being Tyler Blue from the Crazy Horse Saloon in Nevada City. Tyler saw Kyle’s potential and immediately helped nurture it by introducing and allowing Kyle to perform on stage with countless bands from his genre like the Grateful Bluegrass Boys, AJ Lee & Blue Summit, Yarn, Jenny & Jesse Dunn, The Good Bad, The Dusty Green Bones Band, One Grass Two Grass, The Sweet Lillies, Johnny Mojo, Red Dirt Ruckus, Low Flying Birds, and the list goes on. Both Tyler & these bands were blown away how this young kid could slip right into their circle and help elevate the show. The priceless training Kyle received from these fresh collaborations, live on stage, greatly expanded his musical development.
With each new experience, Kyle expanded his music family which opened new doors for his budding career. The culmination of such, Kyle released his second album, “Left It All Behind” in 2021 as an 18-year-old high school senior, which features some amazing special guests including Ben Kaufmann- the legendary bassist of Yonder Mountain String Band, Dan Lebowitz, Ezra Lipp, & Steve Adams from the amazing band ALO, and many others. Kyle is currently studying recording arts at Chico State.
Kyle’s solo live experience features fast picking guitar with hard driving bluegrass, original music, thought-provoking lyrics, and unique cover tunes. In 2021-2022, Kyle Ledson & Friends projects took on the life of their own with two new bands- an acoustic jamgrass trio, Broken Compass Bluegrass based in Grass Valley and an electric jamband, Cosmic Frog out of Chico, CA. Kyle is looking forward to leaving his mark on the music festival scene in a town near you.
Broken Compass Bluegrass' Sam Jacobs
Sam grew up in the rolling hills of San Luis Obispo, CA to the soundtrack of a diverse range of music, including jazz, folk, funk and rock. Bluegrass has certainly been an important genre in Sam's life, but there are few genres of music that he doesn't digest on a regular basis. They all influence his playing style on bass to this day.
Sam played saxophone from a young age until he naturally gravitated towards the guitar and then bass during years in the Jazz program at Cuesta College, renowned for the quality of its music department. Over the years, Sam explored numerous musical projects- from jazz bands in college, to rock bands with friends, to solo projects of his own creation.
Beyond making music, Sam is also a passionate audio engineer of 7+ years with a rich portfolio, collaborating on several different projects producing live music videos. He plans to pursue his full range of musical interests in his future career and is currently finishing the Recording Arts program at Chico State.