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About Joe Sonnefeldt

Percussionist Joe Sonnefeldt spends most of his time performing, recording, and teaching music around Chicago and the Midwest. For the last several years he has been busy performing for various Broadway shows that have come to Chicago including Legally Blonde, Wicked, Spamalot, The Lion King and Hairspray. In early 2010 he played for the pre-Broadway premiere of The Addams Family Musical starring Nathan Lane and in 2011 for the Chicago run of Dolly Parton's 9 to 5.. He is currently playing vibes in The Jodi Jean Band and appeared with Poi Dog Pondering at Ravinia last August. Joe has also continued to do private and public events with his own JoeSounds Caribbean Band and JoeSounds Steel Band

Joe's playing is featured on several recently released CDs including "Azul Oscuro" from Sueños, "Seconds" from the steel band Pan Go, Poi Dog Pondering's "In Seed Comes Fruit" and the 2008 release from Chicago's hottest Zydeco band, Hurricane Gumbo entitled "Live Gumbo". Joe also plays all drums and percussion on "Baloney", the newest release from the beloved children's songwriter, Carole Peterson.

In the past, Joe has performed with Poi Dog Pondering at Alpine Valley, Soldier Field and the 4th of July XRT show at Grant Park during Taste of Chicago. He also co-produced and played on the 1998 debut CD of the Pan Go steel band. Pan Go performed at Chicago's Jazz Showcase in Jan. of '99 and for two sold-out nights in Feb. 2001 at the Elgin College Visual & Performing Arts Center. Other artists he has performed or recorded with include Joe Walsh, Fareed Haque, David Amram, Martin Short, Marshall Vente, "Ten City" and "The Fifth Dimension". His work can be heard on radio/TV commercials for United Airlines, Bally Total Fitness, Hoover, Sears, Carrier, Corona, the Illinois Bureau of Tourism and many others. A highly sought-after steel drum performer, Joe has played numerous events with some of the city's favorite band leaders.

From 1986 to 1994 Joe spent several years studying African music and performing with Master Drummer Midawo Gideon Foli Alorwoyie from Ghana, West Africa. With Gideon and The African-American Unity Ensemble he performed at the annual Percussive Arts Society International Convention, in a collaboration with the world renowned Trinity Irish Dancers and at the citywide memorial service upon the passing of Chicago's mayor, Harold Washington.
The Field Museum requested Joe's expertise in 1999 in preparation for the hugely successful "Sounds from the Vaults" exhibit. He was asked to play several ancient percussion instruments from the museum's collection so their music could be digitally stored to be experienced by future generations. Running nearly a year, "Sounds from the Vaults" was the most popular exhibit in the museum's history.

Since 1992, Joe has been a part-time music assistant at John Hersey H.S. in Arlington Heights, IL where he teaches percussion. He established the J.H.H.S. Steel Drum Band in of the first high school steel drum programs in the Midwest. Joe also teaches in his home studio. As a member of the Chicago Percussion Quintet since 1994, Joe has brought the educational program "Percussion around the World" to thousands of elementary school children in Chicago and the suburbs.


1983 -1987 -- American Conservatory of Music -- Chicago, IL
* B.M., Jazz & Commercial Music
* B.M., Percussion Performance

1982 -1983 -- University of Illinois -- Urbana, IL
* Percussion Study

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