Meet the Band!

Chris Cerfus’ musical journey began with the piano at age 12 and non-traditional lessons taught by ear.  Classical music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Chopin were early exposures.  Chris enjoyed the piano, played through college, and was even awarded a Gold Cup.  Steve Perry, one of Chris’ favorite artists, and bands like Journey, Kansas and Styx influenced him.  Since then, his music expanded into tributes and covers and led him to the synthesizer.  Chris’ debut gig was at Summerfest.  He also performed with In The Verse, a Christian Rock Band.  Some of his most exciting performances have been opening for Phil Vassar, The BoDeans, and OAR (Of A Revolution).  And, when he can find the time, Chris writes original songs – some of which have charted!

Dennis Cerfus, lead vocalist and a founding member of Cerfus Project has been singing as long as he can remember.  His vocal chops range from smooth Motown tones to the aggressive sound of heavy metal rock.  Dennis includes Paul McCartney (the best Beatle!) and Tony Bennett (90+ years old and still going strong!) among singers that have influenced and inspired him.  Cerfus, a predecessor of Cerfus Project, played for the first time at Summerfest in 2002.  As the band’s popularity grew, they eventually opened for Alice Cooper, Eddie Money, Moody Blues, The Go Go’s and 38 Special – to name a few.  Dennis enjoys performing with Cerfus Project and hopes you find the band entertaining.  Come out and have a listen!

When “Jonny Tantrum” (Jonny Howland) is pounding away on his arena worthy drum kit you may not see him hiding behind all that hardware.  The one thing we do know is you will hear and feel him.  Jonny has been bringing his high energy rock groove and vocal chops to the stage since the early 90’s.  We urge you to come and come and experience the “Tantrum” for yourself!

Ryan Kutz plays several instruments.  While he first learned to play the piano, Ryan also plays the guitar, bass, and drums.  He began playing the guitar in 2009 and to date it is his favorite.  Bands that have influenced Ryan’s music are rock bands like Bon Jovi, Daughtry, Slipknot and Hinder.  Ryan has played with local, regional rock and indie bands.  Highlights include opening for Disciple and OAR and playing with OAR and MMR (Modern Music Revolution) at Summerfest, as well as receiving a nomination for a WAMI award.  By day (or night) Ryan operates RK Productions as an audio/recording engineer for artists in many genres including rap, folk, rock, acoustic, indie, and metal.  Ryan is currently writing, recording, and producing music of his own as well as playing a few Wisconsin gigs and streaming live virtual performances.

Tom Savage started playing guitar in 7th grade.  He did not like to practice so he did not progress as quickly as he might have.  In High School, Tom joined a band, but only played one gig (practice was still an issue).  In his junior year he heard some folk singers and became more interested in playing.  He really liked Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and played folk music at coffee houses and a few school concerts.  While Tom “cut his teeth” on folk music, he played rhythm guitar with classic rock band the Briggs Bluesbusters and recently joined Cerfus Project.  Tom is a big fan of artists Mark Knopfler and Bruce Springsteen.  He continues to enjoy listening to Dylan and Simon, but also contemporary folk musicians like Mumford and Son, Avett Brothers and Ed Sheeran.  Tom’s fondest memories are playing three times in the Battle of the Corporate Bands at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and playing at Summerfest.  While the guitar is Tom’s primary instrument, he also plays harmonica and some banjo.

When he was young, Dave Stadel was fascinated with the Catskill mountain songs his grandpa would sing while playing acoustic guitar.  Armed with Grandpa’s example and a love for classic rock and guitar heroes of the 70’s & 80’s, Dave began guitar lessons at 12 years-old and shortly after decided to sell his BMX bike to buy his first guitar.  A few years playing in local rock bands eventually led Dave to songwriting partners in college and forming a significant band in Milwaukee’s hard rock scene in the early 90s.  With Rotten Sneakers & Congo Square, Dave co-wrote WLZR’s Lazer Lunch Theme which ran daily on-air for a decade.  The band was nominated for many individual and group WAMI Awards, recorded an EP and a full album, gaining airplay in US and album distribution in Europe.  In addition to playing stages throughout the area, Dave’s bands have shared billings with Tesla, Slaughter, Saigon Kick, Pat Travers, James Young (Styx) and more.  In recent years, he co-founded ID90, a 90’s alt rock group.  These days Dave is in IT management for a consortium of the Milwaukee’s largest performing arts companies, continues to play guitar at his church, and is happy to be playing guitar with Cerfus Project.

Pete Steinke began playing a Cornet when he was nine years old.  Now he plays the trumpet, baritone and valve trombone although the trumpet is his favorite.  German music prevailed in the Steinke home when Pete was growing up and for over 40 years he played with Johnny Hoffman und die Herzbuben where he played jazz, big band and concert band music.  Pete’s most memorable performance was at Germanfest in 2006.  Later he joined the Briggs Bluesbusters and Cerfus Project bands with a focus on rock.  Pete’s musical interests vary.  He enjoys complex music and is a big fan of progressive rock, jazz fusion and classical music.  He also loves new wave and anything that “isn’t the norm.”  Pete’s eclectic listening taste continues to evolve and he may jump from classical to rock to techno, not sticking with any one genre for too long.  Pete is currently exploring several unknown groups like Disclosure, Jessie Ware and Snarky Puppy.  When he can find free time Pete enjoys collecting historical objects, drawing and water color painting.

Rick “Ringo” Steinke has been playing the tenor saxophone since he was six years old.  He since added alto sax, clarinet and percussion to his list.  Although Rick’s primary influences are jazz, fusion, nu metal, alternative and progressive rock, any band with horns grabs his attention and he believes, “There is a genre of music that will move you – if you have a soul!”  Rick opened for several well-known acts including Gavin DeGraw, Meat Loaf, Phil Vassar, Gov’t Mule, 3 Dog Night, Robert Randolph, Kip Moore and Clay Walker.  Most enjoyable, however, was opening for crowds of thousands that rocked and grooved with the band – like the openers for Pat Benetar and Dennis DeYoung at Summerfest.  Currently, Rick is studying rock sax greats Bobby Keys, Clarence Clemons, Junior Walker, Thom Gimbel and Walter Parazaider and exploring the amazing things they’ve done with their horns.  Words Rick plays by come from legendary sax man Bobby Keys who said, “You gotta put horns on it, then it’ll rock!”

Photos by Vega Photography, Lori Hennes Mergenthaler