Immensely popular Rockestra makes big impression

Immensely popular and incredible to witness, the Grand Junction Rockestra will put on its seventh concert since the summer of 2011 on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Robinson Theatre in the Moss Performing Arts Center at Colorado Mesa University.

Rockestra is a “professional Rock and Roll Orchestra performing rock and roll, with a symphonic twist,” according to its description on Facebook and at gjsymphony.org.

“The GJR was born from an idea inspired by a similar group started by friends (of Dr. Calvin Hofer) in Sioux City, Iowa,” the Facebook page says.

Hofer is head of the music department at CMU and also is partly responsible for rearranging and charting some of the songs Rockestra performs. The other arrangements are rented from Sioux City Rockestra.

I called Hofer and he told me that he was out in Sioux City to conduct an honor band concert a few years ago and went out with some friends for a cocktail and they started telling him about the Sioux City Rockestra.

He asked them if they had a DVD, and they mailed one to his office at CMU within a week. When he first saw and listened to it, he was amazed and thought a similar group would be a success here in Grand Junction.

The first thing Hofer did was to put together the rock band. The performers he chose for Rockestra are Dazie Kirtland, vocal coach; Scott Davis, Mount Garfield Middle School’s band director and lead guitarist for Exit 42; Scott Bingham, music teacher at Fruitvale Elementary School and bass player; Doug Morrow, a keyboardist with a piano performance degree from CMU and is one of the main accompanists for CMU’s musical theatre; and Darin Kamstra, drummer and director of jazz studies and percussion at CMU.

The vocalists, who all had to win their spots through auditions, are Katie Walters, Toni Lombardi, Rich Lyon and Miss Emily.

The rock band and vocalists are joined by members of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and Western Colorado Jazz Orchestra. Hofer is the director.

“The mission of both orchestras (the symphony and Rockestra) is to enrich and engage the community through live symphonic music,” Rockestra’s Facebook says.

Grand Junction Rockestra has become the success Hofer envisioned and all of its shows have come close to selling out. There were more than 1,000 people at its only outdoor show last summer.

The mix of symphony and rock and roll creates an amazing sonic experience that has to be seen.

To hear rock anthems with a symphony behind them is similar to a big concert. In the audience, you might see anything from leather to coveralls to formal wear and everything in between.

It’s a kid-friendly show, too, and all kids love rock ‘n’ roll. After trying different venues Rockestra has settled on CMU’s Robinson Theatre for its shows, with the exception of the outdoor show, which is set for late summer.

Its next concert, Rockestra VII, has the theme “Hits from the 50’s to the 90’s” featuring songs from Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Bobby Darin, the Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bonnie Raitt, Nirvana, Santana, Black Sabbath, Heart, Alabama, Poison and more. Tickets cost $20 to $25.

Later this spring, Rockestra will announce its 2013/2014 concert series, and Hofer also said to watch for the second annual Rockers Ball in June.

Rock Cesario owns Triple Play Records, 530 Main St., and hosts “Acoustic Sunday” from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday on Drive 105.3 FM. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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