By Audition: GJ Rockestra adds three new voices

GJ Rockestra adds three new voices to its lineup

New Rockestra singers L-R, Bryce MacEvoy, Josh Allen and Jeena Williams.



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New Rockestra singers L-R, Bryce MacEvoy, Josh Allen and Jeena Williams.

The Rockestra plays at the Ale House.



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The Rockestra plays at the Ale House.

Rockestra concert at the Ale House.



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Rockestra concert at the Ale House.

The Rockestra play at the Ale House.



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The Rockestra play at the Ale House.

Microphone



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Microphone

After going to a vocal place only a select number of men can go, Bryce MacEvoy pulled the microphone away from his face and let out a visible sigh of relief.

For the final song of his Grand Junction Rockestra audition, MacEvoy, 21, showcased his range and powerful voice with Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”

In the original song, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler finished by singing/screeching the words “Dream On” at a pitch some would consider really high for a man. Channeling Tyler, however, MacEvoy climbed that same vocal ladder successfully.

“I was scared,” MacEvoy said with a smile.

MacEvoy’s risk paid off because he, along with Jeena Williams, 30, and Josh Allen, 33, were selected as the newest Grand Junction Rockestra vocalists during the final round of auditions Sunday, July 14, at The Ale House.

The Rockestra, a combination of Grand Junction Symphony members, local rock musicians and vocalists, stages several shows annually to raise money for the symphony and Colorado Mesa University’s music department.

With current vocalist Miss Emily scheduled to move to California in a few months, Rockestra organizers decided this summer to hold vocal auditions to not only replace her, but to find several other singers to join the group for the 2013–14 season and beyond.

The audition process started with 14 people June 20 in the CMU Instrumental Rehearsal Room and ended July 14 with six finalists performing live on the The Ale House patio.

For the first round in June, each singer brought a song of his or her choice and sang karaoke-style before a panel of judges, which narrowed the field to seven. Those seven were immediately called back to harmonize by ear with no practice and no knowledge of what song they would sing.

“Most of the time we don’t have music in front of us, so these musicians have to use their ear, musicianship and God-given gift,” said Rockestra vocal coach Dazie Kirtland, who was one of the judges.

After that harmonizing session, the judges picked six singers for the live final, during which each would sing one solo, sing once with a background singer and sing once as the background singer. The ability to be a lead vocalist and a background singer are essential to Rockestra, Kirtland said.

The finalists met July 13, for a short rehearsal at CMU with the Rockestra rock band: Doug Morrow on keyboards, Scot Bingham on bass, Darin Kamstra on drums and Scott Davis on guitar.

In addition to “Dream On,” MacEvoy sang background for fellow finalist Kathleen Ruhleder on Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.” Ruhleder joined MacEvoy for AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

Williams sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and background for finalist Kelly Asuka on Heart’s “Alone.” Williams sang Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” with Asuka on background vocals.

Allen rocked Journey’s “Open Arms” and sang background for Chris McKim on the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Allen sang Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” with McKim on background.

MacEvoy, Allen and Williams stood out.

“When I’m sitting in the audience, and if every voice sounds the same, it’s not that interesting of a concert,” Kirtland said. “What I liked about their voices is they all had a different sound. When you think of building a set list for our concerts, the variety of music we’ll be able to do has just expanded, and that’s great.”

MacEvoy, the youngest Rockestra singer, has some musical theater experience, but he’s an aspiring singer/songwriter working on an album, He sang a Fall Out Boy tune at the June 20 audition.

“As an aspiring performer, it seemed like one of the best things I could do,” MacEvoy said of getting the on-stage experience Rockestra affords him. “I’m really stoked I got in.”

Williams, who grew up in the Grand Valley and studied musical theater at New York University, performed at the former Cabaret Dinner Theatre for years. But, she added, comparing musical theater to Rockestra, “The mic, the band, it’s different. The chemistry of stage performing is different.”

Williams used her vocal range and confidence in the first round, singing Adele’s “Skyfall.” The choice wasn’t lost on the judges.

“I thought Jeena’s selection was pretty bold,” said Rockestra founder and director Calvin Hofer.

Unlike the other five finalists, Allen came to auditions with the least amount of stage experience.

Although a talented singer, he’s only really ever sung for others at church, he said.

“I never did anything like this,” Allen said before the finals.

In fact, none of the judges had heard Allen before he performed Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” in the first round.

He decided to give Rockestra a try because “honestly, it’s a competitive thing ... I enjoy challenging myself.”

Allen, Williams and MacEvoy will join existing Rockestra vocalists Rich Lyon, 40, Katie Walters, 28, and Toni Lombardi, 24, for the 2013–14 season.

“There were a ton of great singers,” Hofer said. “They really did a great job. I know there’s that kind of talent in this valley. They just have to want to do it and make the commitment.”

Miss Emily’s last performance with Rockestra will come on 
Aug. 17.

Kirtland said plans are in place for that August show to be a free, outdoor performance in the Colorado Mesa University quad with the CMU Marching Band joining the Rockestra to perform pop hit “Some Nights” by fun.

The 2013–14 schedule for the Grand Junction Rockestra also has concerts set for Oct. 19, Jan. 18 and June 7.

Look for information about Rockestra on its Facebook page and at gjsymphony.org.



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