Revelstoke Feature Musician
Jazz band leader, solo artist, composer, conductor, freelance musician, recording session artist, jazz club organizer, teachers’ association president, Knight of Funk, and Revelstoke’s favorite music teacher, if this was a TV show, it would be called, “Everybody Loves Bob Rogers”.
An immensely popular local music icon whose rich talent and good nature has graced Revelstoke since 1993, Bob Rogers musical pedigree is as long as it is interesting, “I feel like a lot of things I’ve really just fallen into. It’s been kind of a funny path.”
Born in Vancouver and raised in a musical family, “My dad was a pianist, as was my mom (who still is). My dad was a professor in the music department at UBC and performed regularly in Vancouver, primarily chamber music and contemporary music. My mom did not perform but she taught private lessons for many years. As a kid I listened primarily to the music of the day. As I got older I really loved bands such as Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire and Tower of Power that featured lots of horns. I started getting into jazz in my late teens and then classical music in my early twenties.”
In 1980 Bob left Vancouver and his high school sweetheart and future wife Ramona behind to begin a two year stint in the commercial music program at Toronto’s Humber College. Returning to Vancouver with new skills in 1982, Bob found work immediately as a budding freelance musician.
“Back in the early 80’s, the Vancouver music industry was really good. There was quite a bit of work doing jingles for radio and TV and things like that.” In a seemingly typical twist of Bob's fate, “I kind of lucked into a lot of work. Just after I arrived, this guy named Herb Besson who was the busiest commercial trombone player in Vancouver was moving to Toronto. On his way out he gave my name to the people he was working with. Since Herb was everybody's first call trombone guy for studio recordings, jazz gigs, big band gigs, and corporate events, I picked up a lot of the work he was getting.”
While freelance performance opportunities included 5 nights playing in the horn section with Motown greats The Temptations, along with gigs with R&B legends The O’Jays and Natalie Cole (daughter of American jazz legend Nat King Cole), with another lucky bounce, Bob’s studio recording session work would prove far more epic in retrospect.
“There was a producer in town named Bruce Fairbairn that internationally famous bands like Aerosmith and Bon Jovi were coming to Vancouver to record with. Bruce was a trumpet player and also good friends with a saxophone player friend of mine named Tom Keenlyside. Bruce thought a few of songs on this Permanent Vacation album he was producing would sound better with horns so he phoned up Tom and asked him to compose the horn charts for ‘Rag Doll’ and ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’. Tom then phoned up the rest of us and said, “Do you want to come record with Aerosmith?”
“It was cool. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and the guys in the band were all there so not only did we get to meet them and hang out a bit, we also collaborated while recording when they asked for small changes to the arrangements. They don't read music so it was like, "When it goes DA-DA-DA, could you change it to DA-DA-DI-DA?" sort of thing. I was a big Aerosmith fan when I was in highschool their first time around with “Walk this Way”. I just loved that stuff. Permanent Vacation was a comeback album as they had now cleaned up their lifestyles.” Bob would be invited back to earn another trombone credit for the Cryin’ track on the 1993 Get a Grip album of which he's proud to have an autographed copy.
Bob’s studio work also included recording with former members of the Payolas. “After the Payolas broke up, band leaders Bob Rock and Paul Hide did an album together as ‘Rock and Hyde’ called ‘Under the Volcano’ and I played a few tunes on that.” Bob is also credited on original MacGyver TV series soundtracks; the I Dream of Jeannie 15 Years Later TV movie; songs with popular children’s entertainer Charlotte Diamond; recordings with the Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation and the West Coast Jazz Orchestra; and numerous TV and radio jingles.
As the music industry changed, Bob’s focus returned to academia, earning his Bachelor of Music at UBC in 1986, a Masters in Trombone Performance from Chicago’s Northwestern University in 1988, and his teaching degree from UBC in 1992. After completing his first teaching assignment in Maple Ridge BC, Bob arrived in Revelstoke in 1993 to accept a position at Revelstoke Secondary School. “I came and I’m still here 25 years later. You know, it’s the Revelstoke story.”
“When I arrived for what was initially a one year contract, the teacher I replaced was Kirk Wassmer. He had really built up the music program here and was leaving on sabbatical for his masters. So I stepped into a program that was operating at a high level which was great. When Kirk returned the following year, the elementary program was free so I took the job and worked with Kirk quite a bit which was fantastic."
"Before Kirk there was John Baker who ran an excellent music program for many years. He and his wife Wendy have a great band in town called Relative Jazz. When John moved to teaching English in the early 80s the music program sort of faltered a little but then Wassmenr arrived and rebuilt it."
"The School district here has been super supportive of our music programs all the way through since the 70’s. It’s something I know they truly value. They haven’t gone the route many other districts did when there was a big push for austerity. Many cut basic programs like music but they didn’t do that in Revelstoke."
"We’ve always had good educators here. Tessa Davis is now at the high school and her program is really strong. She’s a great teacher who connects very well with the kids. We were also fortunate to have Jim Redding "unretire" and come back to teach for five years when Tessa and then I went on leave. Jim's a fabulous teacher and just retired again for good last June. Melanie Scarcella, another wonderful educator with a strong choral background, also taught music here for a number of years which was just fantastic. She teaches in Maple Ridge now."
A few years into his teaching career in Revelstoke, Bob began playing with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. Eager for more live playing opportunities, things would again fall together nicely. “A friend of mine who I did my teacher training with, a bass player named Shannon Sternoff, moved to Slocan to teach. There was a festival happening in the fall here [in Revelstoke] so I said we should put a group together. There was a drummer, Trevor Wallach, who was married to a new teacher at the high school [Jodi]. He graduated from the music program at Grant McKewan college so we all got together and I’ve been playing with these guys ever since.” Debuting as “The Bob Rogers Trio”, the name would change to "The Bob Rogers Band" as additional members joined the group.
Enjoying the band dynamic and always on the hunt for more venues to play, Jordan Dick, a guitar player friend of Bob’s who was living in Salmon Arm and handling bookings for the jazz club there, suggested a new jazz club in Revelstoke. “The club in Salmon Arm has been going strong for several years, Vernon has one too, so it would be a place to play, you know? There was us, The Groovineers, Relative Jazz, and other bands in the Okanogan who could come and play.”
This suggestion triggered a memory of discussion Bob had a few years back with Brady Beruschi at the Regent. “We were booked for a corporate thing in the Selkirk room which had just been renovated at the time. It was really nice and I suggested it would be a great venue for concerts or a jazz club. We didn’t do anything about it then, but talking to Jordan sort of twigged the memory in me so I went back to Fred and Brady and they agreed on the spot to give us the room for free, provide us with servers, and help give it a shot. That was now three seasons ago.”
“At first I just thought it would be local acts. I made a Facebook page and immediately started getting messages from touring musicians across the country looking to fill dates. We’ve had great bands from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and parts of Europe including Germany. We are so thankful to the Beruschi's for making this possible.”
On a sweet closing note, rumours of Bob's departure from Revelstoke have been greatly exaggerated. While his official place of residence is now Vernon, Bob is still here weekdays in Revelstoke as he enters his fourth year as President of the Revelstoke Teachers' Association. Bob has also signed on to direct the Revelstoke Community Band this fall.