Annual January REF Benefit Concert will be distinctly ‘Pure West Michigan’


Live onstage with Cameron
Blake and band. Photo courtesy of Jim Knorr

Cameron Blake (Warne), a 2001 graduate of Rockford High School (RHS) and an inductee in the 2012 Rockford Public Schools Hall of Fame, will headline the 17th annual Rockford Education Foundation (REF) concert event scheduled for January 26, 2013. For the very first time the REF is proud to feature one of Rockford’s very own.

Born and raised in Rockford, Cameron took a liking to the violin at age 12 and upon graduation from RHS pursued a degree in music at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland.

With Masters Degree in hand and a newfound realization that song writing was his passion, Cameron also became accomplished on guitar and keyboard, formed a band, and has since written and performed well over 40 original songs. Based at the time in the Baltimore area, he has performed in numerous venues throughout the East Coast, Texas, Michigan, and even Paris, France.

Describing his music as folk, Cameron said, “Most of my songs tell stories. They are the stories of my life and may possibly also relate to yours. Simple melodies with lyrics that are clear and resonate with my listeners are at the core of my music. From age 8 to 80, there are messages for everyone. I’m always searching for the perfect melody for the words or the perfect words for a melody.”

Indeed Review Magazine, in a positive review, described Cameron’s music and lyrics as a perfect balance giving a deeper meaning than your average run-of-the-mill love song.

Returning to his roots here in Rockford in 2011, this multi-talented musician, songwriter (lyrics and music), and storyteller continues to perform with his band. At the same time, he also serves as the music director of Rockford’s River Rock Church. With his cool style and a head of hair that has a personality of its own, Cameron is deeply involved in the music and worship of the church.

Cameron tells us he’s been honored to play with amazing musicians for many years and such will be the case during the January REF concert when he will be joined onstage by Dave Hadley (pedal steel) and Chris Pierorazio (drums) from Baltimore along with his wife, Jill Collier Warne (cello).

As an added plus, the show will feature a modern dance to one of Cameron’s songs performed by members of Grand Rapids’ Hearts In Step Academy, choreographed by Hannah Ferianc.

Hey, it only gets better! Grand Rapids’ own Ralston Bowles has been brought on board to be the opener for Cameron Blake and his band.

Rawlston Bowles before a Tuesday Night Music Club performance at Meijer Gardens.

Bowles, long heralded as a master of putting listeners in the moment, is also a singer/songwriter and the founder and emcee of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s popular Tuesday Night Music Club performances. The Tuesday evening performances feature bands exclusively from Michigan during which, every summer, host Bowles rounds out the annual series with a performance of his own. Bowles distinct brand of folk music has been described as a contemporary gem.

Accorded great praise and a huge and favorable following in West Michigan, Bowles is worth the REF concert price of admission alone.

The annual REF concert is the non-profit organization’s largest fundraiser. Created in 1991, the REF raises money and awards grants for creative and innovative ideas in education within the Rockford community. The REF has since awarded more than $1 million in grants to the Rockford community.

Tickets for what will be an outstanding evening of entertainment at the RHS Fine Arts Center are available at $28 per and would be a perfect Christmas stocking stuffer for that person(s) who has everything or is hard to please. For additional information or a reserved seating purchase contact: REF at 616-863-6317 or

There’s not a bad seat in the house, see you there.


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The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.