Midtown performance features folk music award winners


Bob and Diana Suckiel, recipients of the 2014 Heritage Series Musician Award, will perform Sunday, May 4th at Pilgrim Chapel in Hyde Park. The Suckiel’s performance will be recorded on CD in the intimate, acoustically perfect environment of Pilgrim Chapel, which will help to preserve their work which has previously been performed mostly live.

The Suckiels have been performing for four decades, focusing on preserving the nation’s folk musical legacy in the tradition of Pete Seeger and Woody Gutherie and the labor, civil rights and peace movements.  They sing, Bob plays guitar and Diana play flute. Their performances include “Old Time Music,” about cowboys, Depression-era hobos, railroad workers; tales of ordinary people conveyed via narrative songs passed down from generation to generation.

“We prefer songs that tell a good story, with plenty of warmth, wit and humor thrown in, about people on the margins of society fighting for social justice,” explains Bob Suckiel in a press release.

The Suckiels understand firsthand the plights of some of the people they sing about.  Until his recent retirement, Bob worked on the railroad for 39 years, holding a range of jobs including switchman, conductor and engineer. Diana was one of the first female journeyman plumbers in the U.S.

The Suckiels were recently honored with the 2014 Folk Alliance International “Spirit of Folk” award for their lifetime contribution to folk music culture. “They deserve it,” says Bill Clouse of KKFI Radio, where the Suckiels co-host a Sunday show, Foolkiller Folk.  “They have played a major role in preserving through their performances the kind of music that isn’t always that popular among the general public.”

They’re also the recipients of the 2014 Heritage Series Musician Award, which recognizes outstanding area musicians or musical groups whose body of work represents a major contribution to Kansas City’s musical heritage. Past Heritage Series Musician award winners include Luqman Hamza, legendary jazz musician; Danny Cox, KC’s Blues icon; and the Wild Women, a popular jazz ensemble.

The Suckiels have been performing together since the early 1970s.  Initially, they often sang with other groups, including the Vegomatics, a local folk group, as well as Utah Phillips, the renowned hobo turned activist folk singer. Today they routinely perform at folk festivals, on college campuses and other venues where folk music is still appreciated.  That includes the Suckiels infamous “Home Concerts,” where they open their south Kansas City home to popular traveling folk musicians, such as Sparky Rucker and Papa John Kolstad, who perform a concert for 30 or 40 people. “It’s like folk performances used to be – in homes, in parks, wherever people gathered,” says Bob Suckiel.


  • Sunday, May 4th, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Reception at the chapel will immediately follow the concert.), Pilgrim Chapel, 3801 Gillham Road
  • $15
  • Tickets may be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets  or by calling (816) 753-6719.
  • The CD of the Suckiels performance will be available this fall.

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