Jingle bell (folk) rock: Johnnyswim duo to headline Christmas on Fifth festivities

Folk band Johnnyswim will perform at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Waco Hall for Christmas on Fifth. The band includes husband and wife Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez.Courtesy of Sacks & Co.
Folk band Johnnyswim will perform at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Waco Hall for Christmas on Fifth. The band includes husband and wife Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez.
Courtesy of Sacks & Co.

By Kyndall Jirasek

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and on the road making music, Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez are the married souls behind the up-and-coming folk band Johnnyswim.

The band is performing at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Waco Hall followed by The Lone Bellow at Baylor’s 49th annual Christmas on Fifth Street. The concert will include songs from their new EP, “A Johnnyswim Christmas.”

“We had a ton of fun making the songs and recording them,” Sudano said. “One of them we recorded on our iPhones in bed in our pajamas.”

Concert tickets are $20 at the door, $15 if purchased online or $10 for students if purchased with a valid Baylor ID in the ticket office of the Bill Daniel Student Center.

It was no surprise the couple developed a passion for music. Sudano-Ramirez is the daughter of late disco and R&B singer Donna Summer and producer Bruce Sudano. Ramirez studied music at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Florida.

“I think we are walking in a career that we were born to be in,” Ramirez said.

The duo met in Nashville, started a band, got married and recently announced they are expecting a son.

After being on the road for two years, the couple is excited to move into their new home in Los Angeles where they plan to spend a few weeks writing songs and enjoying time with their new, tiny band member before it is time to get back on the road again.

Because of their passion for each other, the couple seems to have no trouble making both marriage and a business partnership work.

“People say marriage is hard, but really marriage just takes attention,” Ramirez said. “It doesn’t have to be work. For me the work is the obvious stuff, the grind, the being on the road, figuring out the set list.”

It helps that the two are completely devoted to each other.

“My commitment to my wife is a lifelong one for sure,” Ramirez said. “Johnnyswim could come and go, but I am going to be the husband to Amanda and the father to this child we are having for the rest of my life. As an added benefit to that, the band can be around.”

Johnnyswim fans can expect songs that have come from the hearts of true artists who are passionate about what they do.

“Whenever Amanda and I go through something difficult in life, I find that there are some scenarios I don’t know how to explain,” Ramirez said. “But in art, the artist has an opportunity to find expression that he can’t find elsewhere.”

Not only do they aim to write genuine songs, but they seek authenticity in their performances as well. The two grew up performing worship at different churches and still view faith as an integral part of their lives.

“We see it as an act of service versus ‘I’m here for people to pay attention to me and give me applause,’” Sudano-Ramirez said. “We see it as pouring our hearts out.”

Bellaire junior Jon Bonem is one of the Kappa Omega Tau fraternity chairs for Christmas on Fifth Street. He has attended the concerts of Johnnyswim and The Lone Bellow.

“They were a blast,” Bonem said. “They are huge now and they are obviously incredible. It just seemed perfect.”

This is the first year tickets are on sale for the concert because KOT wants to try and raise more money for its charities. Half of the proceeds will go to Waco Young Life and the other half will go to Waco K Life.

“We want to provide the financial means to send kids to camp to hear the Gospel,” Bonem said. “Many of them for the first time.”

Visit http://www.baylor.edu/studentactivities for a full schedule of Christmas on Fifth Street events.