Rhythmwood Drive, Ted Yoder Band
Sarah Haag is unconventional in many respects: her hair style – spiked and often bright purple, her passion for long distance drives, and her endeavor to overcome a genre bias by playing marimba in rock, folk, and songwriting circles. This freelancing mother in her late thirties forces audiences and players alike to reconsider what is possible with a marimba and a vision.
After being awarded the first-ever scholarship from the Indiana Percussion Association (2000) Sarah studied percussion performance and music education at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She graduated from BSU’s Honors College in 2004 and married Doug Haag who also studied percussion at BSU. At the time – before the social connectivity and support of other players through platforms like Facebook – she assumed there was no room or reason for having a marimba without a future in teaching or orchestral performance. She sold all but her first two pairs of mallets (Malletech’s Dave Samuels Series) and packed them away entering corporate America. For over a decade she served as a business analyst until resigning at the end of 2014 to focus her attention on being a mother. Her only time spent in music for twelve years was playing bass guitar on various worship teams while her husband played drum set.
In January 2016 she unexpectedly acquired a marimba and a new vision to begin gigging with it outside the walls of conventional recital halls. By the end of 2016, Sarah had performed in venues ranging from a small-town ice cream shop to a metropolitan art district festival. In 2017 she began performing as a duo (Rhythmwood Drive) with her husband Doug adding cajon and other hand percussion. She entered and won the 2018 Hit Like a Girl Contest in the 18+ Concert Category, one of the few contests without an age limit open to non-students.
In late 2016 – just after acquiring her marimba – she connected with hammered dulcimer virtuoso Ted Yoder (also from Indiana) who became a social media sensation with his own unconventional approach, playing rock covers on what is normally considered a folk instrument. Sarah added hammered dulcimer to her own line up and advanced to the top five in the 2018 National Hammer Dulcimer Championship, surprising the folk festival audience with a cover of Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love” after less than a year of playing experience.
In 2019 Rhythmwood Drive teamed up with Ted for an aggressive recording agenda of four full-length albums in two years. By April they had recorded Feels Like Home where Sarah is featured on marimba in a cover of Toto’s “Africa” including the iconic keyboard solo. The second album, Lean In, was released in January 2020. This project marks the beginning of an ongoing collaboration (the Ted Yoder Band) in which Sarah uses marimba to give an acoustic full-bodied boost to Ted’s unique songwriting while Doug adds hand percussion. The trio has an ambitious schedule of more than forty live performances across the United States in 2020 alone, in addition to recording two more albums.
With the unique background of collegiate training, a decade in business analysis away from music, and a rare chance at full time freelance performing while balancing life as a wife and mother, Sarah is also passionate about helping young players avoid the mistake she made of walking away from the instrument after college. She recently agreed to serve on the board for Heartland Marimba – a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the presence and opportunities for marimba players and strengthening the available repertoire and professional performance opportunities. With a “why not?” attitude and roadworthy work ethic, Sarah embraces the Henry Van Dyke quote: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”