GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - While the Grand Canyon Music Festival is mostly known for presenting chamber music concerts, the week long event does feature a healthy dose of rock and roll thanks to the festival's School of Rock program.
Leading up to the first weekend of concerts, music students at Grand Canyon School are afforded the opportunity to rehearse and play music with two of New York City's finest musicians - violinist Joe Deninzon and guitarist Steve Benson.
Now in it's sixth year, the School of Rock weeklong program culminates in a student concert Friday at 5 p.m. at the Shrine of Ages. The concert is free to the community.
Benson and Deninzon compile a list of possible tunes prior to arriving at the Canyon. The selections are then narrowed down based on what kids want to do and ability level. Setting realistic goals for the five-day after school program is essential along with providing performance opportunities for everyone involved.
Material covered during the week ranges from classic rock to more contemporary selections.
Rene Westbrook, South Rim artist-in-residence coordinator, said around seven years ago Deninzon and Chris Millitari approached the festival's organizers with the idea to start a program for Grand Canyon students in conjunction with the festival. Westbrook agreed to undertake all the organization and grant writing for a school of rock program.
"The way that Clare (Hoffman, event organizer) has made this affordable is that those guys already come out as performers so my task is only to underwrite the time that they would not already have been at the Canyon," she said. "So, it makes it really affordable."
Westbrook said an Arizona Commission for the Arts Public Program grant helps fund the week.
"They've been really generous," she said. "I think we've gotten that three times in a row now."
She added that Grand Canyon Rotary has always been generous with program funding as well as the South Grand Canyon Sanitary District.
Deninzon and Benson work to make the experience a positive one for the students, stepping in to fill out the group if necessary.
Grand Canyon School's music teacher has also historically participated as well.
For more information on the Grand Canyon Music Festival visit www.grandcanyonmusicfest.org.