kt rusch music



about kt
how did you get started playing music?

when i was young, music was uplifting and hopeful in times of  high childhood stress.   i lost my mother to cancer at the age of six.  music, rhythm, lyrics, and the sounds of Nature-- i believe these kept me from being pulled apart by deep trauma.  childhood events solidified the idea of impermanence at the most fundamental level-- your own mother who cares for you like no one else is now gone, and though i could not explain at the time, music soothed me and brought me to a place of non-verbal connection with the greater universe and that is where i found comfort.  

 in spite of the early childhood earthquake and all the wild aftershocks,  i found two old 8-track tapes that were discarded on the street when i was about 10 years old.  8-tracks were out, and cassettes were in.  ever the scavenger, i took them home: Bob Marley "Live" and Elmore James "King of the Delta Blues".  i didn't even have an 8-track player, but later found one, on the street again. i played those tapes over and over,  and also The Beatles "White Album", because my Dad had it along with some other great old albums.  "Within You / Without You" by George Harrison was a favorite song.   i listened to that song over and over and had the lyrics taped inside my desk at school.  i listened to the radio.  as kids, we didn't have any money  to buy records.  maybe we received a record or two for birthdays.  i remember buying Jesus Christ Superstar for about $4.99 at the White Hen Pantry. Later, i discovered used record stores.  first purchase - "Moonflower" by Carlos Santana.

i began playing guitar and writing songs in about 6th grade. i used to try to multi-track record using two old Panasonic tape recorders. later, friends persuaded me to try out for high school jazz band. so i spent a summer learning jazz chords and stylings and surprisingly, made the band the following Fall.  i was the only female in the rhythm section.  at that time, girls were not playing electric guitar or bass.   i  will always be thankful to Dominican High School and Mark Kleckly, jazz teacher.  the following summer, i auditioned for Summer Street workshops and joined an all-city high school group led by Milwaukee saxophonist Berkeley Fudge that practiced daily at WASHINGTON PARK in Milwaukee.  Berkeley asked me to join the Inner City Arts Council jazz band as a bass player.  we played on Monday nights on 6th and North Av. In high school, we formed an original music group, Jazz Elevators and i remember making everyone music folders with our colors -- red and yellow.   we had a killer horn section. we wrote original music. this project kept us all out of further trouble.  we were good kids who basically liked adventure, to say the least.   

What other early band experiences did you have?

in the early 1980s, i attended Marquette University's College of Engineering for about a year.  my heart was not with attending university though, it was in musical expression which i did in every moment of spare time with The Elevators, our alternative band.  i channeled a lot of energy through the bass. deep, chakra grounding universal outpourings of sound.  looking back, it was about letting go of childhood and youth injustices and not just my own.  i felt other's pain and wanted to ground out all of it.  

an opportunity came to go down south to play and record with Einstein’s Riceboys.  i was only 19, but decided that school could wait until later. Riceboys was an intensely creative, independent group known for originality and energetic performances. we were on the verge of national recognition with radio airplay everywhere when things broke down.  overall, it was a great experience. Riceboy's recordings were on the cutting edge of the emerging digital technology and collectors items today. a lot of stories here, too many to relate. 

later, i went back to college to complete a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and to revisit favorite energy transformation classes such as electromagnetic fields and thermodynamics. i took drum classes with Ko Thi African Dance Company. most importantly, i discovered the practice of T'ai Chi Ch'uan with Grandmaster Ch'ian Ho Yin.  the open, meditative movements were an awakening.  i began to tune in to the vibrations of the human body's organs and ch'i meridians. in awe of the potential for healing and happiness (embodied in Master Yin) and the healing aspects of sound, energy, and ch'i, i left the late night music scene and focus on the practice. i realized i could help myself and others.   later in the early 1990's, I joined T'ai Chi Ch'uan Center of Milwaukee and continue the practice (including teaching) to this day. i also study and practice Iyengar style Hatha Yoga.  i began studying meditation with H.H. 14th Dalai Lama in 1996. always thankful to my teachers for sharing their experiences and wisdom. 

I heard you moved to the East Coast.  Why?

i moved to Boston to work for Raytheon Corporation as a radar engineer on Patriot Missile Defense System and projects. the original GPS frequencies were secret back then.  i still have them memorized.  now everyone has GPS. my heart was not at all in the military-industrial complex, but I do not regret the experience.  i needed to live this side of world culture.  i needed to pay rent. i also needed musical community and found Nerve Ring, an 11-piece performance art group. we did an amazing piece on Evolution at the Institute for Contemporary Art and recorded a fine music video too, but the set got shut down by the police. and, i discovered Ibrahim Camara’s Cambridge drumming circle. Ibrahim gave me my first djembe drum. back then, women didn't play djembe for traditional reasons.  but Ibrahim had all the Boston women playing djembes.  he was so welcoming.  we had a riotous musical fellowship going in Cambridge on Wednesday nights with people of all nationalities, ages, genders and beyond.  music can weave the whole fabric of humanity together.  music can create a space for common ground.  sharing music is a launching point for greater communication and problem solving. it's possible there were some aliens represented there too, haha.

i returned to Milwaukee in the late 1980s, to work for a small Biotech company. we were using light energy for diagnostic purposes, for example, using infrared light to “see” through the skin in order to measure glucose levels in diabetics. we did projects with ultrasound and hydroponics for the NASA space station.  whether it's sound or light, its all electromagnetic spectrum.

sound can heal.  sound can destroy (for example, ultrasound taking out E.coli bacteria in solution).  Swami Yogananda said that sound and vibration are the most powerful forces in the universe.  energy moving - what does it all mean?   

Did you get back into music?

i needed to leave 'civilization', too much to explain here.  i needed to hear Nature speak without any interference.  i wanted to be a far as possible from human be-ings, but not divorced from the rest of life and the elements. so i went to Brazil, first the south, but then made my way to the Amazon.  ultimately, i meditated in the heart of the Amazon, north of Manaus.    i learned so much there. i wanted to stay, but came home.  after marrying Sheldon Rusch, writer and Iyengar yoga instructor,  formed Zebra Muscle, a five-piece original, percussive group.  we produced recordings, videos, and gave energetic live performances. Then, all was on hold with the birth of our daughter in 1993.  as a new mother, focusing on family and parenting was top priority. 

at that time, i did some part-time field research in hummingbird communication with Dr. Millicent Ficken and Dr. Carolyn Pytte at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. our work was published in The Condor, The Auk, Animal Behaviour, The Passenger Pigeon, Natural History, National Geographic and others. i did many hours of Nature recording at this time. we made amazing discoveries by slowing down the super sonic / fast hummingbird vocalizations and then applying pattern recognition techniques.  i will always cherish the quiet time spent at sunrise -- recording birds and ambient sounds.   then Sheldon and i had another daughter and a son.  music really slowed down for me with the expanding family, especially playing with others.  i was able to continue writing songs and occasionally performed as a solo bass poet. the Internet was emerging and selections from self-produced recordings "Inside-Out" and "Natural" received international radio airplay on three continents. that was nice feedback considering i never left the Great Lakes.

what are the signals and systems of communication in Nature?  Deep Listening - can we do it?  what is the message and can we interpret it? non-ordinary reality - can we listen, know, experience, learn? and not as an effect of a synthetic or natural substance-induced state.

What is New World Mammal?

when the kids were young, i self-published a group of poems in a handmade natural binding entitled "New World Mammal", and donated all proceeds from the book to Foundation for Children in Need. i created a "New World Mammal" door that is currently on display at Club Timbuktu in Milwaukee.  the holistic project was about the interconnectedness of Nature, impermanence, change and universal love.  at that time, i was also  teaching community drumming circles for children ages 5 through 13 and creating original soundscape recordings for a dance company in the Eagle River school system.  i began condensing the idea of universal love music, healing through compassion, and found the Tibetan Singing Bowls (or did they find me?). 

And now you are back playing live music with Universal Love Band?

an all-out labor of love. we have synergy and we really enjoy playing together.  The name says it all and the Music is the Medicine.  i also play/facilitate  Mali Blues with Tani Diakite and for the past nine years, i have been contributing to  Express Yourself Milwaukee, a non-profit group that facilitates healing artistic expression for Milwaukee youth. i have been working with youth for the last few years in the Wisconsin Correctional System with various music/visual arts partnerships. . we started a monthly music group at Children's Hospital Wisconsin in 2011. we take music right to the bedside of the kids.  now, Universal Love Healing Music  takes the music to people with disabilities, rehab, frail elders and others who can't easily get out.  we play positive, tropical-vibe songs and end our sessions with Tibetan Singing Bowls.  this project is about friendship, sharing music and cherishing others -- whoever they may be in the moments we spend together. we have played for babies in comas, 90 year olds, people with dementia, head injuries, people with serious chronic conditions who must go to Adult Day Care, kids quarantined with infectious disease, and the list goes on and on. we just open our hearts and play.  we create a warm circle of musical Love - the best that we can.    

i keep going because i have witnessed the positive effects of creating a space together with the power of sound.  i sincerely hope to be of benefit to others.  maybe it is just simply making someone some good food and playing a song. that is all.  




what i hope my kids can learn from me regarding art/music:

Do your best with your teammates.  in my case,  with dedication to bandmates and responsibility to the audience.

Serve others.   in my case, with positive music, service projects.

Be honest. Be loyal.  Find common ground,  and enjoy each other.

Stick together, even when its challenging. 

Your art is just one aspect of your life as a whole.


Some favorite times this decade with the music

Sharing and jamming with Garifuna drummers in Belize.  Performances with Amlak Tafari, bassist with Steel Pulse and co-production of The River CD for Express Yourself Milwaukee.  Getting the youth up on stage at Summerfest.  Getting to know Jamaican legend Mickey Dread before he passed away. Opening for Mali's world music ambassadors at Summerfest - Amadou and Marium  2x.   Learning to play gamelon ngoni (African harp) special thanks Tani Diakite.   Recording our CD "Rising Sun" and bringing it to Drepung Loseling Tibetan refugee monastery in India.  i had a master mix with me when i was fortunate to meet H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama in India.    We also co-created an art project with Tibetan refugee youth and Express Yourself Milwaukee youth. See  YouTube of Tibet Milwaukee Art Exchange.   Releasing World Be free CD.  New music with UNIVERSAL LOVE BAND!  We have three women musicians now and it is really wonderful.  Songs like Quiet Revolution and SACRED ECONOMICS

Give  Dedicate Love 



note from kt
Music is medicine:
re-energize yourself
become joyful
rid yourself of frustrations
and get aligned to your inner smile.

Expression through the arts is a powerful force for positive change on personal and societal levels and collaborating with others widens the circle. We can develop our selves and then share with others – our family, our neighborhood, our city will all benefit from our creative partnerships.            

I thank my teachers for your gifts of wisdom and encouragement. I hope to give to others as much as you have given to me.

Special thanks to encouraging friends and family members.

Some Personal Notes:

I am not a natural performer. I was born with a quiet, somewhat shy temperament. Without going into detail, I didn’t talk much, certainly didn’t sing, and spent many hours in a quiet sadness during parts of my childhood. But I always had a desire to share the songs I heard in my heart. So I began writing them down and learning guitar. It took a long time to find the courage to first play music and later share lyrics.

I’ll never forget Steve Wahlen from an early band, Einstein’s Riceboys, saying: “Get on the mic and sing!” In response, and not to be disrespected by a singing drummer, I put out two words from the song “Essence Rare” by Gang of Four. As I recall the line was “…working classes…” And that was it for vocals with Riceboys.

Over the years, so many projects, shows, and bandmates-- some of whom broke out to higher heights and gold records, and some who didn't make it very far. Creative arts can be punishing to body and soul on many levels. A lot of blood, sweat and more sweat between playing in the early 1980's music scene and today.  Always hoped to create or give music and sound that helps others.

Now, I sit in a room at a Milwaukee Public Schools Transitional High School with so many beautiful, young, energetic faces doing what I call ‘community service music’. A security guard nearby, ankle bracelets under baggy pants, an undercurrent of distrust yet curiosity. Gang talk. Drug talk. Swearing.  Anger. Bullshit. And the best part dream talk - little golden nuggets of dream talk. How do I know?  Because we eventually become engaged in conversations of the future and inevitably some little sliver of positive light emerges in the greater matrix of what is being said.  When the light comes I see it, and run with it - turn it into a song if possible.  Hear it and acknowledge it, that is the least I can do.  Affirm it. 

A retired social worker told me last year, “These are the worst kids in Milwaukee.”

Sometimes they give me a hard time, no need to describe the details here. That’s part of the challenge. I know where they come from— heavy burdens, shaky foundations. That’s part of our challenge, theirs and mine

We play some music. We talk about lyrics. We watch global music culture videos. Some of us play. Some of us walk out (but I notice the walk-outs slyly observing from across the room). Some of us sleep. Some of us absorb the situation in ways that don’t make sense because this isn’t a typical classroom.

At our last class this session, Lucky Diop and I brought a little sound system, an African Kora and Ngoni—both are stringed harps, my bass, and two vocal mics. We took turns playing. We played to a somewhat unruly audience. But still an audience. “What happened to the guy who taught you to sing that song?” one youth asks Lucky. “He died of TB.” “What’s that?” The questions and answers go forth on many tangential subjects. One youth notices that my ngoni has a soundhole. He notices a photo inside the hollow gourd. “Who is that?” He tries to reach in. I say- my mother. Then he backs off in a mixture of respect and subsequent distraction. The mic feeds back. He wants to be on the microphone, but doesn't know what to say.  I decide to play “Yayu Xale Yi” which means “Mother of the Children” in Wolof, a West African language. I sing the English translation. I dedicate it to all our mothers. The room goes silent for a few moments. Later we open up the mics for the youth  and give them a background foundation beat to express themselves.  Wonderful, messy, gritty, honest expression.

From “…working classes…” to “Yayu Xale Yi”, I realize today that I have had to make myself vulnerable again and again over the years to grow. I am thankful for the opportunities to evolve into a community service musician in Milwaukee. I thank musician friends and partners for being here together on the mission.


On being a mother who plays music:

So difficult to find the balance point.  I have "retired" in my mind, many times, felt the music wasn't being given enough time to be 'good', felt my family was short-changed by my practice time, felt the stress of  work, felt guilty, tired, double-booked, and finally exhausted.   I came to the point of surrendering timely goals and transforming my attitude to a long term approach because children grow up quickly and parental presence is crucial.  In the end, it is all matter of loving kindness and generosity.  Did I help someone today? Was I kind to others.  Have I assisted others along the path of this journey called life?  That is all.  


Carry your Heart through the World like a Life-giving Sun!


Music Abstract:

Einstein's Riceboys  Civil Rice QL Records 1983

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EINSTEIN'S RICEBOYS Civil Rice (QL Records, Inc)-- "When the Violent Femmes appeared from  (of all places) Wisconsin, most everybody hailed them as strikingly original.  Now with the appearance of Einstein's Riceboys LP we might be witnessing the emergence of a "Wisconsin Sound." Pumping bass, intense vocals and enthusiasm pushed to the limits are the trademarks.  Einstein's Riceboys' sound is fuller and more controlled than the Femmes, making use of electric instruments, sixties-style keyboards, and reverberated guitar to shape their style.  If I were from Wisconsin, I'd be proud! Fave cuts: "Time and Insomnia", "Electric Chair" and "Bloated Life." New Music Report College Music Journal 7/31/1983

Einstein's Riceboys "Out-takes"   Unreleased 1983

2721 Bird Avenue
There's only one drinking establishment east of U.S. 1 (where Bird Road becomes Bird Avenue) that bears mention, but it is perhaps the ultimate Bird Road bar. That would be Flanigan's Loggerhead, formerly the Trysting Place and before that the legendary flashpoint of Miami's burgeoning alternative rock music scene, 27 Birds.

"27 Birds; what a place," writes Jeffrey Lemlich in his book Savage Lost, which traces the colorful history of South Florida garage bands. "One night it's the Front and the X-Conz. The next night it's the U.S. Furys (with Isaac from the Reactions)...or maybe the Throbs...or maybe even Einstein's Riceboys (from Milwaukee), immersing the audience with 'Milk of Amnesia.'"

History of Einstein's Riceboys (Austin, TX)

More ERB on Milwaukee Punk Site

Various ArtistsHistory in 3 Chords: Milwaukee Alternative Bands 1973–1982   Released: 2001


Zebra Muscle "Zebra Muscle -  9 Songs"   Self-produced  1989 with Video

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KT Rusch "Inside-Out"   Self-distributed 1994 Radio Airplay on 3 continents.

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KT Rusch "Natural"  MP3.com   1996

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56th Street "Ethiopia Sessions" Self-produced 2005

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Express Yourself Milwaukee "The River" 2006

river1.jpg (30915 bytes)"One River" by KT Rusch and co-produced with Amlak Tafari (Yellow Wall Productions / Steel Pulse) and Express Yourself Milwaukee

Mali Blues Group "Live from Madison and Milwaukee" Motherland Recordings (BMI) 2006 

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KT Rusch "Sound on Film - Music inspired 'Panacea' and 'The Parricide Sessions' "   

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 Universal Love Band "Rising Sun" Motherland Recordings 2008

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 Universal Love Band on "Songs to Save the World" 2008


 Universal Love Band on "Concert for Youthaiti" 2010

Universal Love Band on Trees For Children 2010, 2011

 Universal Love Band on Homegrown Compilation 2012

Supporting local Organic Co-ops.

Mali Blues with Tani Diakite "Live 20122012


One Step
Every small act of compassion
brings you and I one step closer to love.

Every small act of forgiveness
brings all of us one step closer to world peace.

Every small judgment between us
leads us down a road of division.

Every small judgment
compounds all of us to war.

Every act of forgiveness,
leads us one step closer to unity.

Every act of compassion
brings you and I one step closer to love.




  2007-10   Essays and Poetry   MilwaukeeRenaissance.com,  

  2007       “*The Dragon”   Journal of Martial Arts and Healing,   Vol 2, No 2.

  2007       “Create a Space”   Journal of Martial Arts and Healing,   Vol 2, No 1.

  2006       “The Path-Is-All-That-Is”, “Embrace the Tiger” Journal of Martial Arts and Healing,   Vol 1, No 2.

2003       “Regulation of Vocal Amplitude by the Blue-throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae) Animal Behaviour, Vol 66, 703-710:703-710 (C. Pytte, K. Rusch, M. Ficken).

2002       “Reproductive Behavior and Communication in Blue-throated Hummingbirds”  Wilson Bulletin  Vol 114 No 2:197-209 (M. Ficken and K. Rusch).

  2001       “Piggyback Flight Display of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird”  The Passenger Pigeon  Vol 63 No.4 :299-301 (K. Rusch)

  2001       “Organization of Agonistic Vocalizations in Ruby-throated Hummingbirds with a Comparison to Black-chinned Hummingbirds”  Wilson Bulletin, Vol.113 No. 4: 425-430. (K. Rusch, K. Thisius, M. Ficken).

  2001       Whispers in the Canyon” Natural History Magazine, Vol 110 No. 6 (K.Rusch).

  2000       “Blue-throated Hummingbird Song: A Pinnacle of Non-oscine Vocalizations”  The Auk, Vol. 117:120-128. (M. Ficken, K. Rusch, D. Powers,S. Taylor).

  2000       “Something to Hum About” National Geographic Vol 197 No. 2 (Earth Almanac).

  1999       “Hummingbird Chatter”  Birdwatcher’s Digest Vol 21 No. 6. (K. Rusch)

  1996        “Organization of Agonistic Vocalizations of Black-chinned Hummingbirds”  The Condor 98: 557-566. (K. Rusch, C. Pytte and M. Ficken).

  1992       "In-situ Fiber Optic and Emission Spectrometry for Simultaneous Multiple Component Analysis in Groundwater",  The Sixth National Outdoor Action Conference of the National Groundwater Association,  Las Vegas, Nevada (B. Beemster, K. Schlager, C. Bergstrom, and K. Rusch).

  1992       "Ultrasonic Control of Bacteria and Other Microbes in Hydroponic Plant Nutrient Solutions", International Conference on Life Support and Biospherics, Huntsville, Alabama (K. Schlager and K. Rusch).

  1992       "Two Emerging Techniques for On-line and In-situ Monitoring of Metals in       Electroplating Wastes",  13th AESF/EPA Conference on Environmental Control For the Surface Finishing Industry, Orlando, Florida (B. Beemster, K. Schlager, C. Bergstrom, and K. Rusch).


Independent Chapbook Production:

“New World Mammal” 2005     

“New World Mammal Door”  acrylic, latex and natural objects, currently on display at Club Timbuktu - Milwaukee Wisconsin.  

Original Film Score:     Film Festival screenings:   

“The Parricide Sessions” (Video, 75 min., 2007)

New York Newfest Film Festival 2007, Santa Fe Film Festival 2007

   “Panacea” (16mm, B&W, 13 min., 2006)

Wisconsin Film Festival 2006, Milwaukee Shorts Film Festival, Turin Film Festival 2006, Toronto Film Festival 2006, Lisbon Film Festival 2006





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