Austin Hansen: Drums, Guitar, Vocals
Austin’s surrounding relatives knew that he set himself apart from a very early age. Born in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and later re-located to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Austin was blessed with musical ability from his father. Heavy influence came from his father and the familiar echo of “practice, practice, practice.” His older brother was also a positive musical influence with extensive musical experience. Every day Austin picked up his dad’s Ovation guitar and diligently practiced, sometimes hours on end without a break. This is where his music career seemed to begin. Every time he was introduced to a new instrument, he would begin to experiment continuously on his own, not ever participating in any kind of formal music lesson. This was his introduction to the instrument most closely associated with SalemSpeaks years later, the drums. Throughout his earlier school years, he was always playing music and working to progress to new levels. He accepted a new challenge with great energy; writing music and lyrics. Austin’s broad musical ability allows him to have a major influence in SalemSpeaks through not just rhythms on the drums but also through understanding complex melodies and harmonies. Austin is currently in school at Forsyth Tech.
Brad Stokes: Keyboard, Accordion, Vocals
Brad has loved music – listening to it and making it – “for as long a he can remember.” He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and later relocated to Winston-Salem. He grew up in a household that appreciated all types of music, from the current country music to classical to classic rock. Influenced by his mother, Brad began playing the piano at the age of 4 and later began singing. Brad has been involved extensively in church related musical activities. He has continued this passion through high school participating in choir tours throughout the Southeast. He also has a passion for musical performance and was cast in lead roles in several musicals. He enjoys connecting with other people through music. Brad’s friendship with other band members makes SalemSpeaks not only his favorite way to spend his time but also encourages Brad to push himself as a musician and performer. Brad provides a great musical backdrop for SalemSpeaks with his piano melodies and chord progressions. Brad is currently a student at Wake Forest University.
Zach Britt: Guitar, Fiddle, Banjo, Vocals
Zach has made music a focus since early in life. He was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His musical background stretches back to when he first learned to speak. He has been singing ever since. At the age of 4, he was inspired by Itzhak Perlman on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and began playing violin with the Suzuki Method. When he was twelve, he started playing the electric guitar but shortly after switched to acoustic guitar. He continues his love of the violin today. In addition to violin, guitar and singing, he also plays ukulele and banjo. In his music, Zach seeks to express himself and his ideas and beliefs. Through music, he hopes to reach others and help them “enjoy music and life.” Zach’s energetic guitar rhythms and vocals provide a stable foundation for the intricate sounds of SalemSpeaks. Zach is currently at Appalachian State.
History of SalemSpeaks:
Zach and Katherine grew up playing violin music together from the age of 4. In seventh grade, Zach and Austin met and started their own “garage band” made up of electric guitar and drums. Brad also knew Zach and Austin throughout middle school, but their musical relationship did not mature until they entered high school and became closer friends.
In high school, Brad and Katherine met through similar classes. Zach and Brad began to play music together while Katherine and Zach continued to play violin together. They decided to unite their musical abilities with the addition of vocals. This resulted in Brad, Zach and Katherine playing together in a school talent show with Zach playing the guitar, Katherine the mandolin and Brad the keyboard. Zach later invited Austin to play with them. That very weekend, SalemSpeaks was born.
These friendships make SalemSpeaks special. This very friendship encourages and fosters growth as musicians, performers and people. This directly emanates from the period of growing up playing music together. It is this history and knowledge of one another that has created a chemistry that results in interesting harmonies and musical interplay. And it is this chemistry that results in the musical synergy that is SalemSpeaks.