Luke Gitchel is from a family of musicians and was introduced to bluegrass music at the tender age of four at the side of his father, Clint Gitchel, Sr., who was a Dixieland Jazz band musician. His brother, Clint Gitchel, III, is an all-around mega talented musician who is a dynamite fiddle player. Luke grew to appreciate not only the vocal harmonies of bluegrass and traditional roots music, but the rich history of the genre as well. Luke spent years learning to play guitar, bass, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. In 1999, Luke won the flat-picking competition during the Fallfest Bluegrass Festival, hosted by the West Michigan Bluegrass Music Association. He took home trophies in two categories, guitar and mandolin – catching the eye of Bluegrass legend, Wendy Smith. Wendy is most notable as the author of such songs as Carolyn the Teenage Queen, which was a huge commercial success for the Lonesome River Band. Luke became a mainstay in Blue Velvet (Smith’s touring band) on guitar where he learned the ropes and learned to become a professional musician. After a few years, Luke began to expand his musical horizons and venture into the old time country music as well as western swing. This proved to be a good move. Gitchel had formed the West Michigan based honky-tonk/swing band, The Radiators, which in 2009 played at the Wheatland Music and Arts Festival in Remus, MI. Late in 2009, he moved to Tennessee to take a position as a musician in the band Mountain Ruckus at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede with music industry legends, Gary ‘Biscuit’ Davis (Dolly Parton’s record producer on her bluegrass album and three-time world champion banjo player) as well as ex-Wayne Newton bass player, Matt Varhola. While on a trip to Tennessee, Luke was approached by longtime friend and ex-Radiator band mate Seth and Dee Sutton, and asked if he would be interested in joining a new project. Without hesitation, Luke agreed, and the Midnight Cattle Callers was born. Luke is an extremely talented songwriter and with his diverse musical talents and ability to multi-task (instrumentally as well as vocally) he has woven himself into the very fabric of whichever genre he engages in. Due to complications Luke had to return home. He has continued to play locally with many talented musicians as well as the band the Journeymen, a 5-piece bluegrass band that plays traditional and original music and his own country band Luke Warm and the Not So Hots. He has taught numerous students, some of whom have become professional musicians themselves including Calder Baker who plays banjo for the University of East Tennessee (Pride Band) and Issac Smith who played for Marty Raybon, lead singer for Shenandoah. His talent as a musician and his enthusiasm to teach students of all ages is the motivation that led to him open the music store in Howard City, MI.
Tom Kropewnicki started playing guitar as a hobby in his teens. In the 1970s Tom met Canadian singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Ronnie Fray. Fray had played with country legends such as Roy Clark, Buck Owens, George Jones, and Bobby Bare. Fray was a favorite of Tammy Wynette whom would only use Ronnie as her front show whenever possible. Fray got Tom to listen to some of Ron’s favorite artists such as Delbert McClinton, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Mickey Newbury and many others. In the 1980s Tom bought Barney’s Tavern which soon became the “hot spot” for local musicians. Fray and his band was the house band which included Bob Reilly, Dale Thomas, and Tommy Davis. Other musicians/bands played at Barney’s Tavern including The Chuck Bob Carnes Band, Larry Ballard, The Williams Family Blue Grass Group, Mark Swanson and his band, and local musicians including Tim Metzger and family members. Tom often had jam sessions at Barney’s where all musicians gathered and played music. Tom’s interest in music continued and he then started buying, selling, and collecting guitars for over 25 years. With Tom’s continued interest in music he gave his son, Dan Kropewnicki (Danny K) a set of drums who is now a professional drummer and resides in Key West continuing to play music. Tom continued to encourage other family members to surround themselves with music and of seven grandchildren, Olivia, has continued to remain engaged in playing the guitar, ukulele, mandolin, and flute. Tom’s goal is to enable people from all over to experience the joy that comes from music. In 2016 Tom contacted Luke Gitchel and they begin discussing the need for a local music store in the Howard City area committed to providing the best selection, prices, and friendliest service in the immediate area and to also provide lessons and repairs at a competitive price. After looking at many different locations they purchased the old Helping Hands building at 210 E. Edgerton, Howard City, MI in late 2016. The building was renovated and in April of 2017 the Gitchel & Krope Music Store was opened.
Katie Springer is an instructor at Gitchel & Krope Music. She grew up in North Carolina listening to her family playing bluegrass. Declaring to be a fiddle player at three, she began taking classical lessons at the age of six. Four years later, Mike Hartgrove moved into town and she began taking lessons from the widely known fiddler. She has played in many bands including The Scott Family Band, Buttermilk Creek, and Sweet Potato Pie. She teaches a variety of bluegrass, classical, and some old-time fiddle.