Southern Minnesota's Real Big Band
Keeping the tradition of big band jazz music alive and well in southern Minnesota!


While about half of the musicians in the Real Big Band are music educators, the others come from a wide variety of occupations, including an engineer, a farmer, an electrician and a financial advisor. One common trait that they all share, however, is a love of playing jazz and sharing it with others. Let's meet the RBB musicians!

Kim Cosens

Kim Cosens - alto saxophone

Kim enjoyed teaching high school instrumental music for nearly 20 years. He taught at Mitchell SD, Spirit Lake IA, Sioux City North and Waseca MN. His bands were highly respected and earned multiple honors on the national level. He remains active in the industry as an adjudicator and consultant for marching and jazz programs and festivals throughout the upper mid-west.

Since 2002 Kim has been a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Owatonna MN. He and his wife Shelly are the proud parents of three children and four grand children. Kim is the founder of the Southern MN Real Big Band.

Erica Hall
Erica Hall - alto saxophone

Bio coming soon!
Mark Graif
Mark Graif - tenor saxophone

Mark graduated from Owatonna high school and went on to MSU-Mankato where he studied art and music. He is an original member of the RBB. He is a farmer in Owatonna and has worked with numerous local bands since 1970, and pens arrangements part time. Mark has one son.

Sam Boerboom
Sam Boerboom - tenor saxophone

Sam Boerboom is Director of Bands at Waseca High School.  Prior to teaching in Waseca, Boerboom taught for one year at N.R.H.E.G. Public Schools.  Mr. Boerboom is a graduate of Concordia College - Moorhead where he earned a degree in music education and was a student of Scott Jones, Peter Haberman, and Leigh Wakefield.  He is a member of Minnesota Band Directors Association and Minnesota Music Educators Association.  His hobbies include running, snow skiing, and traveling. 

Stephen Elfstrand
Stephen Elfstrand - baritone saxophone

Stephen Elfstrand has been playing baritone sax in the Real Big band since 2009.  He has extensive experience playing all the saxophones in big band settings.  Stephen played with the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Jazz Ensembles for 7 years and conducted Jazz IV and V there for two years.

He has a B.A. in Music and continues to study classical saxophone and jazz improvisation both privately and at the graduate level.  In addition, Stephen has studied Jazz pedagogy and arranging.  He currently gives saxophone lessons to secondary school students.

Stephen is currently works for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities as the Executive Director of PALS, which hosts and supports state-wide computer systems for academic institutions.

Tim Davis
Tim Davis - trumpet

Tim graduated from South Haven (Michigan) High School and went on to Arizona State University where he studied instrumental music education.  Tim joined RBB in 2005 and is an elementary band director in Austin.  He has taught band since 1985 and is the founder and host of Southeastern Minnesota Middle Level Honor Band.  This event is held for top musicians in grades 6-9.  He is married to Louise and has 3 children.

Ethan Wightkin
Ethan Wightkin - trumpet

Ethan teaches elementary band and orchestra in Austin MN.  He graduated from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania where he studied trumpet with Dr. Kevin Kjos.  Aside from the real big band, Ethan also currently plays with the Austin MN Symphony and has played with a variety of other brass ensembles during his time living in the cities.  Ethan works with the Owatonna Marching band and is the visual instructor for their newly formed winter percussion ensemble.  He has also marched with the Bluecoats and Glassmen drum and bugle corps.  He lives in Owatonna with his wife Amy, who is a band director in southern Minnesota. 

Brian Sarff
Brian Sarff - trumpet

Brian graduated from MSU-M in 2010 where he studied Civil Engineering and enjoyed playing in numerous ensembles.  He is currently employed at Bolton & Menk, Inc. in Sleepy Eye, MN and lives in Mankato with his wife and daughter.  Brian joined the RBB in 2006.

Jason Kubiatowicz
Jason Kubiatowicz - trumpet 

Bio coming soon!
Tom Bierer

Tom Bierer - trumpet

Tom Bierer is presently an instrumental music educator teaching at New Ulm Cathedral High School in New Ulm, MN.  He is also an adjunct trumpet instructor for Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato and Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN.  Tom graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD with an B.A. in Applied Music and Music Education.

He is a member of the Essentially Ellington Band Director Academy sponsored by Jazz@Lincoln Center.  Tom has studied with Dr. Harold Krueger, Gerard Schwarz of the New York Philharmonic and William Scarlett of the Chicago Symphony.  Among the other groups Tom currently plays in are the Ben Marti Jazz Trio, Minnesota River Valley Wind Ensemble, and his own JAZZ 10.

Ryan Shirk
Ryan Shirk - trombone

Ryan has been playing with the Real Big Band since 2003.  A graduate of Mankato West High School where he also marched with the 77 Lancers, he continued playing while at MSU-M graduating with a major in physics and minors in music and math.

Currently employed by Carlson Craft, he continues to play trombone for several area bands including RBB, The Bass Brand Brass Band, Minnesota River Valley Wind Ensemble and The Echos.  He also plays baritone and does some arranging for the Govenaires Senior Drum Corps.

Craig Kopetzki
Craig Kopetzki - trombone

Craig Kopetzki is a graduate of Mankato East HIgh School and studied music at St John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota.  He has taught at Waseca junior high, Jordan and is currently director of bands at Mankato East.  He lives in Waseca with his wife and children.

Chris Dickenson
Chris Dickinson - trombone

Bio coming soon!

Paul Davis

Paul Davis - bass trombone

Bio coming soon!

Peter Jacobs
Peter Jacobs - piano

Peter Jacobs is a graduate of UW-Madison and Penn State, with degrees in geology and geochemistry.  He works as an environmental consultant.  In addition to playing piano with the RBB, he currently plays with Jazz10, and Captain Gravitone and the String Theory Orchestra.  He lives in Saint Peter with his wife and three children.

John Kujawa
John Kujawa - bass

John has been performing with various rock, country, blues and jazz bands since he was 15, and with the Real Big Band since 2005.  He holds degrees in Music Education and Applied Music from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and is currently employed as the Director of Technology for Loyola Catholic School in Mankato, MN.  John and his wife, Louisa, are blessed with two wonderful children.

Tedd Gullickson
Tedd Gullickson - drums/percussion

Tedd is one of the founding members of the Real Big Band and serves as manager and rhythm section leader.  After a 30 year music teaching career, he works in retail management and is principal conductor of the City of Lakes Community Band.  Originally from Moorhead, Tedd holds music degrees from Concordia College and the University of Minnesota.  He was a member and assistant director of the Walt Disney World All American College Marching Band and remains active as a music adjudicator and clinician.  He and his wife Lori live in Burnsville.

Matt Gullickson
Matt Gullickson - drums/percussion/vibraphone/piano

Matt Gullickson currently teaches instrumental music at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, MN.  A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he earned a degree in music education and was a student of Richard Mark Heidl, Jeffery Crowell and Robert Baca.  While at UWEC, Gullickson performed in every ensemble on campus, was twice named Outstanding Musician and won a conducting competition.

Gullickson was director and writer for the Menomonie (WI) Indoor Drumline and percussion caption head and writer for the Chippewa Falls (WI) High School Marching Band.  This past summer he was an instructor for the Anoka High School Marching Band. Gullickson served on the Mankato 77 Lancers Marching Band staff as assistant director, percussion caption head and writer, and designed the band’s overall drill, conditioning and uniform.  Gullickson student taught at Edina High School under Bill Webb and Paul Kile. He recently participated in the Minnesota Conducting Symposium where he studied under Craig Kirkhhoff.

As a total percussionist, Gullickson has performed in the Madison Scouts Drum Corps, Southern Minnesota’s Real Big Band, Worship Bands and numerous honors ensembles.

In high school, Matt Gullickson earned the Region Triple A award, performed in the Bands of America National Honor Band at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and was named section leader in the Hershey’s All USA Band.

Gullickson is a member of the Percussive Arts Society, National Education Association, Education Minnesota and the Minnesota Music Educators Association.  His hobbies include sports and travel.

Hannah Bretz

Hannah Bretz - vocals

Hannah Bretz is a jazz vocalist in Saint Peter, Minnesota.  Bretz is inspired by the fusion of classic jazz with contemporary pop/electronic techniques.  Bretz sings jazz with a horn-like quality in the spirit of great vocalists Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holiday.  Her stage presence is energetic and fun, delivering an unforgettable performance every time.

Hannah Bretz earned a BA in Jazz Studies from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.  She studied with Patricia Barber (voice), Mike Molloy (voice), Andrew Distel (voice), Rob Parton (trumpet, music business), Tito Carillo (trumpet), John McLean (guitar), Tom Garling (trombone, composition), and Scott Mason (bass, piano).  She had the opportunity to complete a master class with Kurt Elling, and has shared the stage with Darmon Meader of the New York Voices.

While in Chicago, Bretz was a member of Downbeat Magazine award-winning vocal ensemble, The New Deal.  She regularly performed onstage at legendary jazz venues the Jazz Showcase and Fitzgerald's, and was a guest vocalist with Rob Parton's JAZZTECH Big Band.

Bretz was an instructor of classical voice in the Drake University Community School of Music (DUCSOM) in Des Moines, Iowa.  During this time she was a regular vocalist with the Steve Charlson Trio at Chuck's Italian Restaurant, and she was the lead vocalist in Des Moines' own infamous cover band, One Nite Stand.

Bretz grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa and first fell in love with jazz music while singing in the vocal music department at Valley High School, which earned the first ever GRAMMY® Signature School award in 1999.  She was a member of the premier vocal jazz ensemble, Vocalese, Valley Singers, and A Capella Choir.  Bretz is an alumni of the Iowa All-State Jazz Choir (2001), Iowa Ambassadors of Music European Tour (2000), Iowa All-State Music Festival (Chorus, multiple years), and a competing vocalist in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).  She studied classical voice under Leanne Freeman-Miller at Drake University. Bretz is honored to have been a student of Jim Cacciatore, who inspired her to pursue music as a profession.

"Jazz is... an open-ended music, designed for open minds."

—Author unknown

© 2015 Southern Minnesota's Real Big Band • Mankato, Minnesota USA