New nonprofit looks to keep the music of John Denver alive with student orchestra

July 4, 2016 GMT

SUMMIT COUNTY - A new Summit County nonprofit will bring talented young musicians together to carry on the music of John Denver through performances and education. The Rocky Mountain Foundation for the Performing Arts is currently looking for high school students throughout Colorado interested in participating with the orchestra, which will include concerts around the state.

“It’s whole purpose is to ... bring high school musicians together to play our music, our contemporary-style music, in venues that they wouldn’t normally get to play at,” said Willie Hoevers, founder, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Foundation for the Performing Arts.

The concerts will focus on the music of John Denver as performed by him and many of the tribute artists from around the world. Included in these shows will be vocalists and the youth orchestra made up of high school musicians from Colorado. The Colorado Department of Education is on board to help the organization with music arrangements and getting the word out to high schoolers around the state.

“The arts content specialists are committed to collaborating with all arts supporters across education organizations, nonprofit organizations and community entities,” said Karol Gates, director of Standards and Instructional Support with the Colorado Department of Education. “We strive to include all stakeholders in all facets of our work; thus, when Willie contacted us, we were very happy to offer ideas and suggestions on how to connect with the music education leaders across the state. Our role is that of a technical assistance provider.”

The concerts will be fundraisers, with the money going back to the Foundation and also to the Department of Education, which will help distribute the money, Hoevers said.

The Foundation currently has concerts lined up for Sept. 4 at the Dillon Amphitheater, and two more lined up in Aspen, Oct. 14 and 15, which is also the week in October known as John Denver tribute week, where fans around the world get together in Aspen to celebrates John’s life and music, Hoevers said.

“What we are doing is with bringing on high schoolers, they will bring their parents and family,” he said. “It’s more than just the regular people that come from all over the world. I’m trying to expand John’s music, keep John’s music alive. That’s what the whole idea is.”

Just keep playing

Hoevers said his future goal for the organization is to offer student scholarships for the young musicians as well.

“I just want to keep kids inspired to play,” he said. “This gives them an opportunity to play in different venues around the state.”

One of the bigger events the organization is currently working on is a celebration of 20 years since Denver’s passing, with an all-day festival at Red Rocks on June 27, 2017.

“His music is still in demand, people will go and see it,” Hoevers said. “I figured this is a great way to keep his music alive by inviting the younger generation to play it. The best way to introduce them to it is to play it.”

He is a volunteer DJ with an online radio station called American Veterans Radio. He hosts a two-hour show every other Saturdays at 4 p.m. EST dedicated to the music of Denver that draws an audience from around the entire U.S. other countries around the world. He plays originals from Denver but also presents music by tribute artists, and he is working to get some of these musicians to play concerts with the orchestra.

He also plans to record the concerts put on by the Foundation and play them on this station, giving the students an opportunity for their music to be heard globally.

Interested high schoolers should apply through rockymountainfpa.org. Students will receive music for the instrument they play to practice over the summer, and then, once school is back in session, there will be auditions for parts and rehearsals. Click on the “Students Only” tab on the top right-hand corner. There is also a Facebook page Hoevers started called Colorado High School Pops Orchestra where students can go on to get more information.