Band Member Bios
Our Inspiration and Experience
Blending unique experiene and perspectives of each player makes this band special. The explosive energy on stage is rooted in the passion each member has for music.
Brass Menagerie has been together for more than 20 years.
Mike Mothershed has been singing for audiences since 1972, after being a church conductor at the young age of 16. He was inspired by the confident style of James Brown and the cool style of Andy Williams, but it was Mr. Manfor, his high school choral instructor, who inspired him most. He taught him the mechanics of singing, such as breath control, singing through vowels and phrasing, while encouraging Mike to develop his own style. Even though Mike’s musical taste did not appeal to him, he understood its place in Mike’s learning, and he worked with him on stage presence to hold and capture an audience.
Mike’s musical experience is rich, having established his roots in Southern Gospel, 70/80's R&B, Blues, Jazz, Funk, and Swing, singing for bands such as Billy Club Snyder & the Snitch Boyz, Funktion Junction, The UnderGroove, 2 of a Kind, The Flatfoot Rollers, The No Limits Band.
His dream is for Brass Menagerie to be recognized as a stage show leader in musicianship and entertainment value. He is thrilled to be a part of an ensemble that can go from Bruno Mars to Bobby Darrin in a drum beat
Craig Mesenbring has been playing since he was 10 years old. He started his musical career as a school band “nerd”…hardly…then started playing in horn bands, and eventually became seriously interested in classical playing with a brass quintet. His most influential mentor in music was his college trumpet professor, Al Moore. Bands that influenced him the most include Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Tower of Power and Maurice Andre.
Craig’s impressive background includes playing for several great bands, including Top Brass, Open Road, Octopus, Chance, and even played a gig with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
Today the tunes he enjoys most are Uptown Funk, any Chicago tune, and any of the four Victor Ewald quintets.
If he could go back in time, he would either be a professional orchestral trumpet player or college trumpet professor, but he is forever our teacher, for which we are grateful.
Tim Johnson has been playing since 5th grade, and is one of the original members of Brass Menagerie (formed in 1994). Inspired by artists including Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, Chicago and Frank Sinatra, his greatest mentor is his high school director, Robert Shannon. He was a jazz trumpet player and was the first to teach about phrasing - not just playing notes. He also let Tim play his trumpet for Tim’s entire junior year, until he could buy his own trumpet (the same model - a Getzen Eterna, Doc Severinsen model) his senior year.
Tim has also played with “Top Brass”, a Tijuana Brass group, “Open Road”, an eight piece horn band, “Roseville Lutheran Big Band” and various other church brass groups.
Tim loves him some Chicago. “Make Me Smile” is one of his favorite songs to play.
If he could have it his way, we would all be independently wealthy so we could have our own club and could play whenever we want and host other bands.
Jason Roth has been playing the drums since he was 5 years old! KISS was the first band to influence hime, while others such as Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Dave Matthews Band, and Pearl Jam (to name a few) have influenced him as well. His band director, Dan Geldert, was his greatest mentor, working with him to hone his skills and believe in himself as a musician. He continues to do that to this day.
Some of the other bands Jason has played in/with include the St. Louis Park Community Band, Minnetonka Concert Band, Auburn Moon, and The One Hit Wonders.
After listening to KISS and playing with his toy drum set, he wanted a blue drum set, and bought one from the original jazz drummer at the Excelsior Commons from back in the day when there was a Roller Coaster in Excelsior. He played in the symphonic band in high school in 10th grade and won the John Phillip Sousa Band Award for most outstanding musician as a senior. Then he joined the St. Louis Park Community Band where his band director was directing. That's when he was asked to sub with Brass Menagerie (1996) The one gig turned into a few gigs and formally joined in the mid 2000's.
He has played with several great musicians and feels privileged to be apart of such a unique opportunity with a great group of people-past and present!
China Grove is his favorite song to play with Brass Menagerie.
His dream of dreams would be to play on tour for a few months while riding his own tour bus playing festivals and gigs.
Craig Sneltjes has been playing since the week after the Watergate break-in. Oscar Peterson, Steely Dan, EWF and Chicago were his favorite bands to listen to as a kid. His dad was the most influential mentor in his musical upbringing.
His path started in high school band (trombone) and choir, garage bands, lots of choral music in college and then a renewed focus on jazz bass in the last decade. Craig played with big bands, a funk band, church bands and a rock trio before joining Brass Menagerie.
His favorite Brass Menagerie tune is Leave your Hat On. If he could wave his magic wand and make his biggest wish come true, he would play bass in Jimmy Fallon's band, The Roots. Or, to help Ron with his world peace project.
LaRae Thompson started singing early, after being inspired at her first concert, The Carpenters, where she fell in love with the smooth sound of Karen Carpenter. It was her father, a member of an International Gold Medalist barbershop quartet who inspired her most to become a performer. Growing up with harmony all around her gave her an "ear" for laying in the harmony vocals,and studying her father's stage presence helped her gain confidence on stage.
Later her formal training came from musical theater, college jazz and concert choirs and vocal lessons. Her most influencial band instrument mentor was her 5th grade band director, Mr. Mesenbring, who initially taught her to play clarinet, and 30 years later, encouraged her to make the transition from clarinet to alto sax when joining Brass Menagerie. She is honored to stand beside him in this band today.
She had two items on her bucket list....to be in a band and to work on a movie. Joining the band was the door to crossing them both off the list, so nnow her goal is to simply continue to learn from the musicians who she is thrilled to stand next to on the stage.
Chris Harris graduated with a BS in Music from North Central University in Minneapolis, his principal saxophone professor being Dr. William Ford. He has been teaching Saxophone privately since 2003. Chris joined Brass Menagerie in 2006, other bands he performs with include: The Wolverines Classic Jazz Orchestra, Explosion Big Band, Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra, BelaGala Big Band, River City Saxophone Quartet, One Hit Wonders, and Power Tap, among other freelance gigs. He holds membership with NASA (North American Saxophone Alliance). Chris has toured Europe performing with a choral group and has been fortunate to be invited several times to participate and perform at the Eugene Rousseau Saxophone Masterclass at the University of Minnesota. He has performed with such musicians as: Byron Stripling (Lead Trumpet with The Count Basie Orchestra and Woody Herman) and drummer Butch Miles (also with Count Basie). In addition he has composed music for Buddy Systems Studios in Hollywood, CA. Away from music, Chris is employed by Medtronic Inc. in the Cardio-Vascular Group working in Project Management.
Ron Anderson has been playing since 1961.Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass inspired him as a youngster, but it was his grandpa,Carl, the master of the button accordion, who was his most influential mentor.
He started taking piano lessons at age 6 and started trombone in Elementary School. He also dabbled in guitar as a teen, while also singing in church and high school choirs. He started gigging in high school with Top Brass and later played with the UofM bands. In the 80’s he played with the Cantabile Brass Quintet, Transfiguration brass ensemble at his church and formed the Wholly Horns Brass Quintet in the 2000's. He has been playing with Brass Menagerie for 20 years.
His favorite songs to play are Just a CloserWalk, Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Alleluia Chorus.
His dream is to play and perform the rest of his life…or create world peace.
Bruce MacGibbon has been playing music for as long as he can remember. He recalls starting to write songs when he was about 10 years old and started playing guitar in his early teens.
Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Luciano Pavarotti, Bruce Springsteen, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker were all influential artists in Bruce's life, but it was his mother who was his greatest mentor.
Bruce's first band was called “Kick Surgery” and they played all original songs. He also led a few bands that played all original music written by him.
In addition to writing and singing, Bruce played piano and cornet and later recorded, adding bass and drums to his list of instruments.
Bruce isn't much of a dreamer...he sets his eye on a goal and gets it done.
Peter Alexander has been playing most of his life. His high school piano teacher, Arthur Sullivan taught him how to improvise and was his most notable mentor.
Peter grew up to be a music major in college. Then in his 20’s, he became part of the opening and accompanying act for Floyd Dixon, the R&B singer and pianist, from whom he learned a great deal. He even remembers playing in the Haight-Ashbury. Not many can claim that. Locally, he played in the Lake Nokomis Jazz Workshop and joined Brass Menagerie in his 40’s. Over the past several years, he has accompanied countless singers.
The band that influenced him the most was The Doors, and his favorite song to play is anything with more than three chords
Peter dreams about one day having his own personal roadie.