STRAIGHTER ROAD: WHO WE ARE
Straighter Road's exciting blend of gospel and jazz is the signature sound that brought them the coveted 2015 Pacific Northwest and National Harmony Sweepstakes Awards. They also won two CARA Awards in 2017 for Best Religious Album and Best Religious Song for their debut album, Come and Join the Family, released in January of 2016. This band of 7 vocalist from the greater Seattle area, established in 2012 as a gospel choir eventually came together as a smaller ensemble. Acapella came a bit later for Straighter Road as they developed their sound and they embraced the challenge of singing without instruments.
"A secret bathed in heavens light -reveals a troubled soul, and offers hope in darkest night to walk the Straighter Road." Even safe and secure knowledge and trust in the Lord Jesus does not guarentee we wont have trials, challenges and even heartache - we most certainly will - but God will never leave us or forsake us and he guides us along the Straighter Road!
MEET THE FAMILY
Members of Straighter Road
ALIYA ROSE CONRAD
I grew up in a home where music occupied every detail of life and not much has changed. I love making music and worshipping Jesus with my beloved family and friends and have made it my passion to do just that for the rest of my life.
I fell in love with a cappella music while still in diapers and branched out into gospel, pop, jazz and even musical theater throughout my earlier years. I'm currently pursuing music through singing and songwriting, working as a session vocalist for producers all over the world and serving my church with my family on our worship team.
MARGARET CONNORS LEITH
I'm so thankful the part music has played in my life. Like many people, the shape and prominence of that part of my life has changed a few times over the years. It is exciting and such a blessing to be just-barely the newest member of Straighter Road!
I was born and raised in the Seattle area, and grew up singing in church, and in school and cummunity theatre. I loved hearing my parents sing (except in the grocery store-right?), and fell asleep many nights listening to my mom play the piano. Singing and song play a part in so many good memories. I feel very blessed to have raised four beautiful children, who are wonderful adults! Many years went by quickly in a wirlwind of work, school and sports activities... and now I'm married to an amazing man, who also happens to be a member of this group. Together, we have 6 kids and 3 grandchildren - and life is still a little crazy, but incredibly fun. I also sing with Mosaic, a large community choir with members from many churches in the area.
I love the story of how Johann Sebastion Bach and other composers would note on their musical scores 'SDG' - Sloi Deo Gloria - to signify that the work was produced for the sake of praising God. I know that is the heart of this group, and would hope to sign the works of my every day - SDG.
1 Corinthians 10:31
I love singing with my husband, daughter, and great friends in Straighter Road. I used to always be in the audience and now I get to join them, and it's sooooooo fun! Yet, I have other things that are just as exciting to me. I'll start with a link to my testimony of how I met my son, and the life I had when he was born. My life before Jesus was... well let's just say I was a terribly messed up and lost soul. There would be no hope of straightening me out if I had not come to know that Jesus is real, the Bible is true, and life is seen through a completely different and life changing perspective now. The testimony link is a talk I gave in November 2009 with an amazing story about finding my son. It's about 45 mins. But it's an incredible story of a teenage lifestyle that lead to pregnancy, adoption, loss, personal struggles to overcome the loss on my own, failing miserably, finding the LORD, finding my son right at the time when he needed a bone marrow transplant, and finding out that his life was not what I was promised for him, which included many foster homes and desperate times.
I've lived in the Seattle, Washington area all my life. I'm the youngest of 5 children, and have done my very best to live up to my position as 'the baby of the family'! When I was quite young, I began singing with my dad. My dad was quite the crooner, himself - and for those of you too young to know what 'crooner' means, Webster's Dictionary defines a crooner as "a male singer who sings slow, romantic songs in a soft smooth voice". The gift my father had is something I hope to continue in his absence (along with his gift of inappropriate quotes and 'dadisms' - but that's another story!). I had a sister who also liked to sing and play guitar, as well. We grew up singing and harmonizing together. In grade school, I performed in many musicals, including Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
In my teens, my life was forever altered when I heard for the first time the true message of salvation found in accepting Christ into my heart. As the Bible says in Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Since that moment, I have chosen to serve the Lord with my voice. To worship him and share his word through song. I have had the opportunity to sing in several groups, each with a different musical style. I sang in several church groups and am currently in a community choir called Mosaic. I had the privilege of singing in a southern gospel group called The Circuit Riders for about five years.
I had always wanted to sing jazz, so when some friends mentioned a new group was forming called Straighter Road, I went to meet them and sat in on a practice -- well, you must know the rest of the story. I have enjoyed both the challenges that this style of music itself presents, as well as those the group's founder, visionary and arranger Kevin Kunz brings to the group. Most importantly, I love that this group is committed to singing only songs that glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We truly strive to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. I am looking forward to what God has in store for us as we seek his will, humble ourselves and forever praise and exalt him with our voices.
My musical career officialy began playing violin in elementary school orchestra. Since my middle school didn't offer violin, I transitioned to trumpet (likely my most proficient instrument historically) and kept playing throughout high school, including some private instruction in Olympia from local jazz trumpeter, Andy Omdahl.
I've played guitar casually for about 13 years, including in college at the University of Washington, where I obtained a minor in music. After graduation, I met Aliya while working at a music store. She helped plant the seed of salvation and ultimately God led us down the road where we are now.
I was asked to start singing with Straighter Road this summer (2017). This is the first time trying out this whole singing thing, and I'm super excited for the challenge of keeping up with the rest of the group!
My interest in music started at a very young age, growing up in a musical family. My father Jack Kunz, a very noted composer, choral director and arranger started my older brother Kelly, younger sister Colleen and me along a varied and diverse musical journey. -I will confess however that my dad had to talk me into attending the High School music concerts by assuring me that the band was going to be playing as well. I didn't connect with singing at all until my sophomore year in high school!
I went on to study jazz piano and voice at Central Washington University and studied under nationally renowned director, John Mowad. After college, I jumped into radio jingle and commercial singing, while playing jazz and pop keyboards and singing in clubs and lounges in the Seattle area (during my glory days, the 80’s, which included tight leopard pants and some big hair:-). From there I joined forces with my brother, Kelly and started an original rock band in the 90’s with some of the finest musicians in Seattle, called Hoi Polloi. Kelly and I joined forces again in 2000 and formed Groove For Thought, which went on to win the coveted 2005 National Harmony Sweepstakes Championship. Groove for Thought went on to star in NBC’s The Sing Off Season 2 and continued a very successful musical career.
With numerous songwriting awards, album credits for writing and arranging, (including arranging for string ensembles, horn sections and 4 CARA Awards), I am very active in the local music scene as well as an annual judge at the Pacific Northwest Harmony Sweepstakes A Capella competition. My wife, Mary, and daughter, Aliya formed Straighter Road with me in 2012.
Straighter Road has been the most challenging, yet rewarding musical experience of my life. Being in the role of director has come with many learning opportunities! - I was always the guy that sat quietly in my chair and only spoke up when asked my opinion...so being the leader forced me to learn how to communicate in a variety of situations, and I am still honing my skills.
The 7 vocalists of SR come from very diverse musical backgrounds and experiences. Blending them together resulted in being named 2015 Pacific Northwest Harmony Sweepstakes Champions. This was our first competition together and we went on to win the National Harmony Sweepstakes Championship 2 months later in SanFrancisco, competing against the very best groups from around the country, while also bring home the award for Best Arrangement!
My journey of faith began in 2002, when God called me out of darkness, and my faith in Jesus helps me through all the little and big challenges life throws my way on a daily basis”.
I was born and raised in Edmonds Washington and I am happliy married to Cindy and I have two adult sons. I was blessed to come from a very musical family, both of my parents were oustanding singers. I sang in choirs at school and church from K-12 and into college. I also sang in the traveling PR vocal ensemble at Seattle Pacific University. I currently sing in Mosaic choir, conducted by Alan Skoog. I have always loved the music and spiritual message of Straighter Road but never imagined a spot would open up. I love the Lord and love to sing His praises!