Things to do in Miami: Miami Beach Rock 50th Anniversary Party

When Fernando Perdomo traveled to London to record at the famous Abbey Road Studios, he brought a framed portrait of the late music teacher Doug Burris.

I put it on the piano the Beatles used Sgt. Pepper,“I wanted it to be there,” Perdomo says.

Perdomo, who graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1998, spent three years under Boris’ tutelage as part of the Miami Beach rock band, the school’s highly regarded Boris music program founded in 1972.

Says Perdomo, guitarist who has collaborated with Jacob Dylan, Fiona Apple and Tego Calderon and appeared in the musical documentary. Echo in the valley. “[Burris] Show me that I can make a career out of what many people consider a hobby. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what he taught me.”

On Saturday, May 28, Perdomo, along with more than 100 former students, will participate in a concert to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Miami Beach rock and honor Boris’ life and legacy, defined by his dedication and dedication to the more 1,000 students who attended from during the group. Many have continued their successful careers in the music and entertainment industry.

Adam Chester remembers joining the Miami Beach rock band in 1981, in his junior year in high school. In one of his first performances, he played Elton John’s “Funeral Friend”.

“They took me out in a coffin covered in dry ice, and I got out in a white three-piece suit, walked over to the keyboard, and started playing. It was cool,” he recalls.

Click to enlarge

The Miami Beach Rock Ensemble Alum played Adam Chester (right) as the Miami Beach Rock Ensemble and went on to work with Elton John.

Photo courtesy of Adam Chester

Chester’s participation in Rock Ensemble marked the beginning of a long-term friendship with Burris. “I called him all the time,” says Chester, who studied music at the University of Southern California. Years later, a chance encounter with Elton John guitarist, Davey Johnstone, in Los Angeles brings Chester back full circle. In 2004, he was offered an extraordinary opportunity.

“[Johnstone] She asked me if I wanted to train with the band because Elton doesn’t, and I said, “Are you kidding me?” The band gave him the nickname ‘Alt Elton John’.

“It’s Sir Elton,” Chester jokes, “and I became Elton’s sur.”

When Boris called to tell him the news, his former mentor was ecstatic. “was like, ‘yes fuck. “

Chester continues to work with the music legend. In 2018, when the Recording Academy organized a gala in honor of John during the Grammy Awards, Chester was either behind the piano or running a string quartet as Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, and Miley Cyrus performed John’s songs. Chester credits the Miami Beach rock band for changing the course of his life. “It all started booming for me in high school,” he says. “[Burris] He was someone I respected and someone I loved.”

Over the years, the Miami Beach Rock Ensemble has won national praise, won competitions, and been featured in newspapers and television networks, including features on MTV, CNN, and CBS. In 1999, the band opened the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction party in Cleveland after Boris petitioned the event’s organizers. Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and Curtis Mayfield were among the recruits that year.

“Music is the only thread that keeps us all together and on a certain path,” Boris said. CBS New Morning Sunday in 2000. He died in 2016 of complications from multiple sclerosis.

Click to enlarge Sammy Gonzalez took over as the manager of the Miami Beach rock band in 2017. Photo by Kristin Oliveira

Sammy Gonzalez took over as the manager of the Miami Beach rock band in 2017.

Photography by Kristen Oliveira

After Boris retired in 2002, rock band Ensemble struggled to fill the leadership void. For several years, it was run by former student Iran Garcia, who moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in cinema. Garcia turns to Sammy Gonzalez, another former member of the Miami Beach rock band. Gonzalez agreed to take over as director in 2017 through his nonprofit organization, Young Musicians Unite, whose core mission is based on the belief that every student in Miami deserves access to music education.

“I am the product of a free music education,” Gonzalez says. “What I didn’t know at the time was that I was training for my future by working with Boris. This wasn’t a job for him, it was a way of life.”

Gonzalez felt blessed to carry the torch to his former mentor. “I didn’t have a father growing up, so he was that person who really cared about me,” Gonzalez says, with a trembling voice. “He was like a father.”

Today, the Miami Beach Rock Ensemble plays about 20 shows a year, performing rock classics by Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Heart. Hill supports the group as artistic director and Michael “Mac” McNamee as assistant director.

Gonzalez says interest in the program is rising. “In tests this year, all slots have been maxed out.”

Gonzalez was influenced by the group’s continued influence on the Miami community, especially younger students. “[These] students see [the Rock Ensemble] Performing and inspiring you to pick up a musical instrument and an interest in the arts, whether it’s music, film, or sound technology.”

At Saturday’s event, representatives from the city of Miami Beach will present the group with an advertisement declaring that day Miami Beach Senior Squad Day.

“I get people all the time now saying, ‘Thank you very much for continuing the Doug Burris legacy,'” Gonzalez says. “He’s smiling from heaven now.”

Miami Beach Rock Ensemble 50th Anniversary Concert. 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave. Miami Beach; 786-453-2897; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost from $15 to $30.

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