Sioux City Rockestra

2012 - Spirit Award

Band Members:  FLUTES: Joanna Meehan, Jen Bliven, Diane Gross CLARINETS: Shirley Luebke,
Emily Cox SAX: David Napie BARI SAX & BASS CLARINET: Dustin Bliven HORNS: Gary Reeves, Stephanie Irish, Mark Henderson, Dan Peichl, Kathy Yoakam, Kerry Patterson TRUMPETS: Kevin Linder, Jeff Soukup, Charlie Morgan, Seth Snakenberg, TROMBONES: Alan Arnold, Dave Snakenberg, Jules Banks VIOLINS: Kathi Angeroth, Ilisja Moreland, Michelle Edelman, Judy Bligh, DeeEtta Riley, Kristen Ortmann, Jacob Thiele, Illiana Sheri VIOLAS: Eleanor May-Patterson, Alli Zimmerman, Stephanie Grigsby. CELLOS: Brandi Oviedo, Suzanne Svitak, Anne Cowley RYHTHM: Amy Linder* – keyboards, Sam Irish* – bass, Jason Ellsworth – guitar, Sam Irish Jr. – guitar, Johnnie Bolin## – drums, Dustin Brewer* – drums, Becca Holzrichter* – aux. perc., Alison Bondy** – aux. perc. VOCALS: Amy Ellsworth, Doug Davis, Kevin Keane, Blake Meacham, Tari Kay Schauer, Jackie Schmillen STAFF: Operations Manager – Zach Hansen, Sound – Andy Andersen, Lights – Ric Mohr, Big Screens – Kingsbury Electronics String Mix – Mark Brewer* ##member, Hall of Fame *also vocals. **also keyboards VOLUNTEERS: Vickie Holzrichter – library and website, Kris Flewellen – merchandise, John Patterson – facebook, Patty DenBeste – email support ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – Stephanie Irish FOUNDER & MUSIC DIRECTOR – John Luebke

The Sioux City Rockestra, a 40-piece Rock & Roll orchestra under the direction of John Luebke, was born in the spring of 2004 as Luebke was watching a DVD of the British band Yes performing with a symphony orchestra. He immediately thought to himself, pondering the depth of both Rock & Roll and Symphony talent in the area, "We could do that here in Sioux City!" Without hesitation, he asked his wife Shirley and his son Michael what they thought of the idea. They both loved it! The next morning, Luebke told veteran rock singer and keyboardist Amy Schnell Linder about the idea. She bought in right away, added many great ideas, and eight years later remains one of Rockestra's brightest stars.

Before the first concert the following November, calls had to be made to musicians, 41 calls were made, 40 said yes before a note of music was written; a venue had to be rented, and that turned out to be Eppley Auditorium on the Morningside College campus; a media sponsor had to be found, and a perfect partner was found in KOOL 99.5 radio; and, music had to be written, to no one's surprise there were no charts on the market for this type of ensemble, a large orchestra with a full complement of strings, woodwinds, and brass, plus a rock rhythm section (all of whom must read music!!) and framed by Rock & Roll singers.

The plans were made and musicians were in place. The first show took place in November of 2004 at Eppley with Amy on keyboards and vocals, Hall of Famer Randy Martin and Michael Luebke doing the male vocals, Sam Irish on bass, Jeff Lickfelter on drums, and Bob Dawdy on guitar. The winds and strings for the ensemble were filled by the very best symphony and jazz players in the area. Luebke told everyone that he would divide the profits of the shows among all the musicians, the total attendance of 232 netted each musician $12.40! "And no one complained, everyone knew we were on to something," says Luebke.

The group left Eppley Auditorium after one year and moved to the Castle on the Hill (the old Central High School). Rockestra performed there until sold-out audiences forced them to move in 2007 to their current location, Sioux City's Orpheum Theatre. Since that move, Rockestra has enjoyed audiences averaging over 2000 and have had several sellouts nearing 2400.

Amy Linder and Sam Irish are still with the group; Martin and Dawdy have gone on to other groups, Lickfelter has moved to Arkansas, and Michael Luebke returns home from his base in Los Angeles when his schedule allows, to sing and play cello.

One of the most important personnel moves was finding the right person to help with both the writing and operations of the group. That person was French horn player Stephanie Irish (Sam's wife, and one of the many family ties in the organization). She came on board as a musician, and then started writing arrangements, and now assists with every aspect of Rockestra's performances as the Asst. Director. She also directs Rockestra's educational program, Rockestra Jr.

Singers who have sung with the group throughout the years are Hall of Famer Missy Kunz, Pat Tomoson, Archie Shelby (deceased), Kemi Jones, Aaron Bostwick, and Coco Walters. The current vocal roster includes Doug Davis, Amy Ellworth of Sioux Falls, Kevin Keane, Jackie Schmillen of Des Moines, Sally Sams of LeMars, plus Michael Luebke, Amy Linder, and Sam Irish. Blake Meacham, Becca Holzrichter, Tari Kay Schauer, and Dustin Brewer serve as backup singers.

With Amy Linder on keys and Sam Irish on bass, the rhythm section has been very solid. Brian Effinger took over for Bob Dawdy on guitar, and when he moved to San Francisco, Geoff Gunderson and Eldon Fisher, both of Sioux Falls, played as a tandem until the current duo of Jason Ellsworth and Sam Irish Jr. joined in 2010. After Lickfelter left in 2006, the drum chair has been filled by local favorite, Johnnie Bolin. Johnnie is Hall of Famer Tommy Bolin's brother and current drummer for Black Oak Arkansas. Johnnie has been spelled at times by Charles Sanders and Dustin Brewer.

Besides the Orpheum concerts, Rockestra has performed at the Sioux City Artsplash, the Iowa State Fair, and for numerous conferences that are held in Sioux City. The group has recently released it's first CD called Classic Rock, which is available at the group's concerts as well as on the Rockestra website siouxcityrockestra.com. Fans can also find the group on Facebook.

Luebke, Asst. Director Stephanie Irish, plus all the members of the Rockestra family would like to thank the Iowa Rock & Roll Music Association for this honor. They look forward to performing in the state of Iowa and supporting live Rock & Roll music.

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