Cheers erupted from the audience as School of Rock musicians took the stage at Centennial Center Park on July 31, featuring impressive guitar solos and high energy as the young performers jumped around the stage, head-banged and sang their hearts out throughout the nearly one-hour setlist.
They were among a series of live performers for a free concert, called “The Perfect Playlist,” that was the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation’s first-ever event. The concert highlighted a range of music genres, including pop, rock and classical music.
“It is my honor today to be standing up here as the president of the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation,” Mayor Stephanie Piko said to the audience. “It’s called ‘The Perfect Playlist’ because we wanted to make sure it was inclusive of all the different types of music that people cherish and appreciate, and maybe open their eyes to some music relationships that they didn’t really know that they have.”
The event kicked off with a booming performance by the Colorado Avalanche Celly Squad, a professional and interactive drum team. The squad performed two more times during the concert, in between the sets of other performers as the amphitheater stage was being rearranged.
Local talent was one of the first to hit the stage as Max Frost, a recent graduate of Arapahoe High School, played his guitar and sang two songs. Following Frost, Halley Peecher and Camden Krumholz, two other recent graduates of Arapahoe High School, sang alongside Kylie Bennett, a current student at the high school, while Peecher played the piano.
In the following act, nine musicians from the School of Rock’s House Band performed a series of songs, including Pearl Jam’s “Alive,” Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” and Def Leppard’s “Let’s Get Rocked.”
The House Band is an audition-based group of teenage musicians at the School of Rock, a performance-based music school that has locations nationwide. The concert performers were from the Aurora-based School of Rock, located at 13750 E. Rice Place.
“We are big believers in performing for crowds and giving back to the community, and it’s just a lot of fun,” said Karla Willard, the owner of School of Rock Aurora. “I’m also part of the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation, so, of course, we do anything we can to promote the arts.”
The concert concluded with a performance by the Arapahoe Philharmonic, a community orchestra, marking the first time the orchestra performed at Centennial Center Park, Piko said.
The performance included two actors playing the roles of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and “Snooty,” a professor from the Royal Academy of Musical Snobbery, who battled over which songs should be played, leading to a performance including modern songs like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” traditional classical pieces and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
Audience members brought their own chairs and blankets to the event and were scattered throughout the amphitheater’s field. Cori Kassib, of Morrison, came with her 11-year-old son, Grayson, and 8-year-old daughter, Tenley.
“I loved seeing the House Band for School of Rock. I thought that was really cool to see the students and know that they worked that hard to get that far, and they did great,” Kassib said. “It was just a super fun day out with my kids.”
The history of the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation
Though the concert was the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation’s first event, the foundation has been years in the making.
“In the years leading up to this, the citizens of Centennial had expressed to many elected officials their desire for additional arts and culture in Centennial, and some type of way for the city to promote that or support it,” Piko said.
She said the city council looked at how to do that, and in 2019, a citizens group recommended that council support the founding of a nonprofit foundation.
“So with that, myself and Tammy Maurer and Kathy Turley, who was on council at the time, leaned in and decided that we would initiate the foundation and get it started, with the consent and the support of our city council,” Piko said.
They were able to officially establish the Centennial Arts and Cultural Foundation last year, Piko said, and then they began working on initiatives such as trying to incorporate art into the Arapahoe Bridge that is being replaced over Big Dry Creek, potentially managing the city’s traffic box wraps and planning “The Perfect Playlist” concert.
“One of the things we’d always heard from people is that they wanted to have [an] orchestra in the park,” Piko said.
She reached out to Arapahoe Philharmonic in January and said the foundation thought the performance of a range of musical genres would be a fun way to introduce the orchestra to the park, with hopes of more performances in the future.
“It is so exciting,” Piko said before the concert began. Referring to those attending the event, she said, “I hope they have just — they have a ton of fun, that they see music through a different lens.
"And hopefully, it will bridge some of that gap in what may be some people’s versions, or some people’s ideas, of what music is, compared to what other people’s ideas are of music, especially among different generations.”