By Polly Keary, Editor
The road to Keith Brock’s dreams began in a tent where he lived with his father as a child; through the homes of school friends and jobs at Monroe businesses; all the way through college in Los Angeles; to a career playing music with some of America’s top studio musicians and performing around the world.
Now he wants to play a concert in Monroe, the place that, he said, gave him his start.
So this summer, he plans to bring some of his famous friends, including former members of Supertramp and Blues Traveler, to Lake Tye for a one-day concert that he believes could become an annual event.
Brock came to Monroe from California as a child, under very unusual circumstances.
“My dad and mom were doing a divorce in California and he kidnapped me when I was 5 and disappeared with me for 13 years,” said Brock from his Los Angeles home last week.
The two lived in a tent on a piece of property until his father had logged enough of the timber to pay for a trailer, and later, a house.
Brock started school at Monroe Christian School, where he started singing at a young age. In middle school, he got involved with the band and the choir, which he pursued through the rest of his academic career.
He also made a lot of good friends in the school district, some of whom he stayed with when his relationship with his father worsened, and he got jobs in local businesses including Dairy Queen and Wolfkill Feed and Fertilizer.
While a senior in high school, he found out he had a family in Los Angeles and left Monroe to join them.
He also wanted to pursue a career in music.
So he went to a junior college and studied music, meeting musicians who would become mentors.
Nearly 20 years later, he has won the success he sought.
“I started playing for studios and live, as well,” he said. “I worked at Disneyland with my band, and that led to a lot of stuff in Las Vegas at the MGM, Mandalay, New York, Monte Carlo, the Venetian, the big casinos, and then we used to do a lot of private parties.”
With his band Grand Illusion, he played parties for Clint Eastwood, Forest Whitaker and Jenny McCarthy.
“And we’ve played in Beijing, got to perform for Dick Cheney, in China,” he said. “We had a lot of different experiences.”
Among the most memorable, he said, were four shows at the Playboy Mansion, which he visited as recently as last month.
Among the musicians with whom he works is bassist Dave Marotta, who has toured and recorded with Colbie Caillet, Manhattan Transfer and Kenny Loggins, as well as working on the soundtracks of a lot of Adam Sandler’s movies. Brock also works with Dave Rosenthal, Billy Joel’s one-time music director, and Teddy Andreadas, a pianist who has worked with Guns N’ Roses, among other acts.
Although he achieved significant success in California, Brock still maintained ties with Monroe, where he has a second home.
And he maintained contact with old friends, including former schoolmate Gene Brazel, who is now the city manager of Monroe.
The two have more than just memories in common, said Brock. They both worked their way up from the bottom in their respective industries, he said.
“Out of high school he picked up trash for the city and he worked up the ladder to city administrator, which is huge,” said Brock. “It’s nearly unheard of to work from janitor to CEO. It’s one of those great stories. And then my road took me the way of music and entertainment.”
The lesson he took from both his own success and Brazel’s was that one should follow one’s dreams. So that’s the message he wants to pass along with the concert.
“Dare to follow your dreams. They can completely happen,” he said. “I started as a kid with nothing and dreamt of playing music and then to take it all over the world and entertain people; that was a dream.”
In order to make the dream of the concert a reality, funding will be needed for the considerable expenses of flying musicians up from L.A. for a show, for sound and lighting crews and for paying two local opening acts.
In all, it will cost about $50,000 to put on the event, and the city is currently discussing paying for it.
It could be a good investment, said Jeff Sax, economic development manager for the city of Monroe.
“It’s a business line that could bring revenue to the parks,” he said.
If Lake Tye became a venue for concerts, the city could make the money back and more, which could pay for a permanent concert structure, he said.
“The city has the potential to make $50,000 and then we are halfway to building a band shell,” he said. That could give festival promoters a venue that is less expensive than many privately-owned venues, he said.
“We’ll charge a special event fee but not an exorbitant amount,” he said. “It reduces one part substantially for the overall budget for these festivals, and we’re doing it using mature, fully-developed parks that are intended to be used in a lot of different ways.”
The city could make money from the show through concessions and vendor fees, Brock said.
And the September festival could be good for Monroe in several other ways, Sax said.
“It’s a three-part deal; one, it shows the community that the government and citizens got through the recession; two, it’s a way for the parks department to use some really talented promoters and access those guys to develop a new business line for the parks department,” he said. “And three, it shows the community that Lake Tye is a great place to have events like this and create a band shell.”
The city is also talking about ways to partner with Doug and Traci Hobbs, the managers of the Evergreen Speedway, who have extensive experience organizing large events. And they are talking about finding sponsorship, as well, to defray the expense.
Brock said that the concert could be a special and unique event, in which he and his very successful friends in the music business, perhaps to include Monroe neighbor John Popper, who is legendary among harmonica players for his work with Blues Traveler, gather for one night of music that will never be repeated.
“There will be no rehearsals,” he said. “We are coming together that night to play that music for the first time all together. That is part of my point in the show, to say, ‘see what happens when you take people and work together; the amazing things you can accomplish when you do that.’”