Zehnder closes Family Week with Fourth of July concert

Annual Ghost Ranch retreat celebrates holiday with music, fireworks over the desert sky

July 6, 2015

Afternoon jam session with (from left to right) Mike Boggio, Tim Gibbs Zehnder, and Naomi Gibbs Zehnder.

Afternoon jam session with (from left to right) Mike Boggio, Tim Gibbs Zehnder, and Naomi Gibbs Zehnder. —Emily Enders Odom

ABIQUIU, N.M.

Call it a twin thing.

Wherever identical twin brothers Tom Zehnder and Tim Gibbs Zehnder go, they can’t help but make music. Together.

And that’s how they tell their Ghost Ranch story.

“When our wives decided to come to the Ranch for a pottery class in the summer of 2007, we just came along to watch the kids,” says Tim. “After dinner one night, we were just hanging out, and—since we had our guitars—we just started singing.”

And they’ve been singing here ever since.

In fact, it was their music that originated Ghost Ranch’s Family Week, held this year from June 29-July 5.

“That first summer eight years ago, we walked into the interim director’s office and said, ‘We’d love to do this every year,’” Tim says,” and so, in 2008, Family Week was created.”

For the ninth summer, their band, Zehnder—which also includes drummer Mike Boggio—has been delighting Family Week participants with their eclectic mix of rock, folk, and Christian music, with even the occasional Broadway standard in the mix.

Although raised as sons of the late Rev. John Zehnder, a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Zehnder brothers’ original plan was to be the next Beatles, not church musicians.

“Then we wanted to be U2,” they say. “Never did we ever feel that we fit into the Christian music market.”

Zehnder performs at the annual Coffee House.

Zehnder performs at the annual Coffee House. —Emily Enders Odom

And yet, Tim and Tom, both ruling elders who have each served two consecutive three-year terms at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, have seen an increased demand for their music at local, regional, and national church conferences.

“It’s a discernment moment for us,” they say. “We feel more called to church music.” And Ghost Ranch, a national education and retreat center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), just as equally called to them.

When asked what she was most looking forward to about Family Week 2015, Juliana Crownover—the retreat center’s current artist-in-residence—quickly said “the music with Tom and Tim Zehnder.”

And under their musical leadership, Family Week is thriving. And growing.

At the retreat’s annual “Coffee House” talent show on July 2, Zehnder not only performed, but also served as the back-up band for several acts. Two of their children also took part: Tom’s son Dillon, age 15, on guitar—who sang his own original composition—with Tim’s daughter, Naomi, age 9, accompanying on cello.

On July 4, the Ranch celebrated the national holiday with a parade, a picnic dinner, a concert by Zehnder and spectacular fireworks over the night desert sky.

“My two daughters and wife are always so geared up for Family Week,” Tim says. “They look forward to the chance to unplug from the city. It becomes a well of rejuvenation for all of us.”

From the youngest to the most senior participants in Family Week, all receive tremendous encouragement from the Zehnders to use their musical gifts.

“Family Week is fresh and new every time,” says Tom. “I’ve always felt like it has drawn me here. Although I’m usually exhausted at the end of it, it’s the most wonderful feeling of being overworked that I’ve ever known.”