Triple threat Country Crusaders: runners, performers, stars


Captivating Crusaders: Posing for a photo, the Country Crusaders celebrate their performance at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) block party. The band works together in performances and practices for Cross Country. Photo courtesy of Elie Nassif

Caroline Ohlandt, co-news editor

Peering out into the hundreds of faces, senior Sebastian Zimmer stepped onto the stage, taking in one last moment of silence before his performance began.

As the lead singer and guitarist of his band, Country Crusaders, Zimmer kicked off their second ever performance at the annual Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) block party on Sept. 11 with their opening song, “On The Road Again”, by Willie Nelson. His fears dissolved as he was met with enthusiasm from the crowd, and the show quickly became a smashing success, Zimmer said.

“It was really fun and probably our best performance,” Zimmer said. “Everyone liked us and they were [all] clapping along.”

Seniors Sebastian Zimmer, Elie Nassif, Matt Penne, John Paul Philbrick, and Jack Cleary, all members of cross country, formed their band last fall to perform in the 2021 Variety Show. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, they weren’t able to rely on a live audience to fuel their motivation, Penne explained.

“We were all friends, we all played instruments, and we decided to start a band,” Penne said. “V-show was weird since [it was] recorded. I haven’t done that many performances with a live audience so I don’t know what to compare it to. It felt fun but weird.”

The Crusaders recently welcomed a new keyboardist, senior Brian Hiltebrand, described as the “hype man” of the band by Zimmer. Joining the band this summer, his first performance was at the block party, and he explained that although he didn’t know what to expect, the night was one to remember.

“It was a lot of fun to be performing on stage,” Hiltebrand said. “We got really into it.”

When the Crusaders aren’t playing on stage, they are preparing for their next cross country meet. Head Coach Kurt Hasenstein explained that after seeing the Crusaders perform in the cross country team’s talent show, it was clear to him that the group’s teamwork in running translates to their atmosphere as a band.

“You can tell that they work hard together and support each other [while performing as a band], just like when they’re running,” Hasenstein said.

The group plans to audition for this year’s Variety Show in the coming months, Zimmer said. Their close friendship has aided their success as a band and it’s a relationship they are all grateful for.

“It’s a lot easier to play with people in a band when you know them really well,” Zimmer said. “We’ve learned to communicate without words.”