Arts & Entertainment

RAAC appoints new Music Director

February 24, 2013 // 0 Comments

The Rockford Area Arts Commission is pleased to announce the appointment of Jeffrey A Spenner as the new Music Director and Conductor of the Rockford Community Orchestra. Conductor Spenner has been praised for his “sensitive and insightful musicianship”, “impeccable” score preparation, and “innate knowledge of what musicians need from the podium.” Musicians have lauded his clarity of technique and efficient rehearsals, and audiences applaud his “infectious” passion for music both on and off the podium. He is the Founder and Music Director of the Bay Area Summer Music Festival in his hometown of Essexville, Michigan. He is also the conductor of the Borgess Hospital Resounding Spirit Choir, Westwood Christian Reformed Church Choir of Kalamazoo, and 1st Presbyterian Church of Allegan Choir. Spenner is currently the Orchestral Graduate Assistant Conductor at Western Michigan University where he is pursuing his Master of Music degree under the tutelage of Bruce Uchimura.  He has also conducted ensembles such as members of the Cincinnati Symphony, the Bacau Philharmonic (Romania), Sinfonia da Camera (IL), Prairie Fire Theater Opera Company (IL), the Illinois Wind Symphony, University of Illinois Chamber Orchestra, University of Illinois Symphonic Band I, University of Illinois Opera Studio, and Centre College (KY) Orchestra. An alumnus of the University of Illinois, Spenner studied trumpet performance with Ronald Romm, Jake Walburn, and the late Michael “Doc” Ewald. His study of conducting has taken him to conferences, workshops, and auditions worldwide where he has worked with teachers such as Kenneth Kiesler, Timothy Mahr, and Timothy Reynish. The Rockford Community Orchestra rehearses Monday evenings from 7-9 at the North Rockford Middle School. The Orchestra is open to all without try-outs. We are always happy to welcome string players as well as symphonic wind and brass players.

Rockford Ice Festival offers something for everyone

February 8, 2013 // 0 Comments

The Rockford Chamber of Commerce is excited to host the 4th Annual Rockford Ice Festival. The festival will be Friday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 10, with ice sculptures on display in downtown Rockford that Saturday and Sunday. This year’s theme is Fire and Ice and organizers are certainly utilizing both ends of the temperature spectrum. This year’s festival includes live carving demonstrations – picture power saws and drills – ice sculptures, a mini playable ice golf course, a scavenger hunt, photo contest, melt date contest and a snowman building contest. New additions to this year’s schedule are a Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off and Sweetheart Splash. Each year the festival has grown, with more than 10,000 coming to Rockford last year to celebrate the event. Also, be sure to look for “Hot Spots” downtown. These special merchants are offering free, yes, free, “hot” items for you and your family. The items include hand warmers, red hot cinnamon candies, ice festival knit hats and other goodies sure to keep you warm. The merchants will also be offering “hot” deals for shoppers. Stores will be open on Saturday and Sunday. “The Ice Festival Committee has worked hard to add events to the festival so that families have even more to do,” said Jeannie Gregory, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. “It is a fun way to slowly grow a festival. A wonderful group has organized a Chili Cook Off and it is sure to warm up visitors on a cold winter’s day. We are very excited to see the fun that will be going on in the Rotary Pavilion as they cook and sell tickets. Also, new to the event, but not to Rockford, is Rockford Rotary’s Sweetheart Splash. It is a sure-fire way for families to have fun as people prove their love by jumping into the icy Rogue.” The Rockford Arts Commission’s Ice Festival Snow Ball kicks off the event on Feb. 8 at Thousand Oaks Golf Club. This wonderful dance features a live band, entertainment and delicious food – the perfect Valentine’s date. Go to for more information. The ice sculptures – carved by nationally famous Randy Finch and his crew from Ice Gurus Unlimited – will be on display […]

18th Annual Rockford Sweetheart Splash!

February 8, 2013 // 0 Comments

The Rotary Club of Rockford presents the 18th annual Sweetheart Splash on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm.  This winter fun event takes place at the Rockford Dam is a community favorite.  Area “jumpers” brave the icy Rogue River with participants performing skits and dance routines prior to going in the water for a captive and lively crowd and a panel of judges. Splash lasts approximately 90 minutes and includes music, surprises and lots of laughs.  Coveted, Sweetheart Splash Trophies are presented for category winners in Singles, Couples, and Groups. Splash is put on every year by the Rotary Club of Rockford.  Rotary uses the event as a platform to not only entertain the crowd but also to raise awareness about poverty in the local community.  This year the Rockford High School Interact group is assisting Rotary with the event.  “The students are learning about running the event as well as putting their mark on it.  The students have organized a fund-raising challenge at the school aimed at getting teachers into the water”, said Connie Taylor, Splash co-organizer. Splash proceeds will benefit two groups, North Kent Community Service and Thirsting to Serve, an international clean water organization that began in Rockford, MI in 2004. “This is truly a community event” said Splash co-organizer Lisa Boyd.  “The execution of this event involves the City of Rockford, Rockford Fire and Police, Rockford Ambulance, Algoma Dive Team, Crossroads Church and supporting businesses,”   said Boyd. Entrants must be 15 years of age and pre-register by 10 AM Saturday, February 9, 2013.  Entrants between the ages of 15-18 must have a parent/guardian present at time of registration. Registration forms are available at Rockford Community Federal Community Credit Union located at 3 N. Monroe – Rockford. Registration is $10.00 per person and includes event shirt .Maximum group size is 10.    

Former student brings professional ballet to hometown

February 8, 2013 // 0 Comments

By Judy Reed When Mia Calabrese left Cedar Springs at age 12 so she could take dance lessons with a larger dance studio, she had no idea what the future would be bring. She’s now bringing that future back to her hometown. Mia, who is now a professional ballet dancer, will dance at Cedar Springs High School in Ballet Emmanuel’s “Courage…standing strong in times of trouble” on Wednesday, February 13, at 7 p.m. The performance is sponsored by North Kent Community Church, where Mia attended church in her youth. Mia, 18, is the daughter of Bill and Leslie Calabrese, and attended Cedar Springs Public Schools through 6th grade. She was a student with the class of 2012. She always loved to dance, and took lessons with a local dance studio here for a year, and then moved to another studio in Comstock Park, where she took both tap and ballet. She also took some summer intensive classes Grand Rapids Ballet, and was told that if she wanted to become a professional dancer, she needed to focus her studies more. So the family made the move to Hudsonville in 2006, where she was able to dance with a larger dance school and focus on her ballet. She graduated from Hudsonville High School last spring. During her time there, Mia said she would dance five to six times a week, for five or more hours a night. She also took some other training, with Ballet Magnifica ,in Jackson, Mississippi; the Grand Rapids Ballet; and the Joffrey Ballet, in Chicago. In the spring of 2012, she auditioned for Ballet Emmanuel, in Boulder, Colorado and was accepted. She moved there in July 2012, and is now touring with them professionally. She said the group does about 90 events a year. “I was drawn to Ballet Emmanuel because of their love for dance and the people who live in communities that don’t get dance a lot,” she explained. “It was something I wanted to be a part of.” She also loves that Ballet Emmanuel is a professional Christian ballet company. “My faith has been a part of my life for a long time. Everything they do is God-centered. That’s a very important part of it.” Mia noted that the company […]

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

December 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL 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 […]

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