A funny thought ran through Peter Rivera’s mind as he sat in on drums at Whitworth University with students prepping for his concerts Friday and Saturday.
“This is the closest I’ve ever come to college,” Rivera cracked.
The 79-year-old has been part of bands since his high school days in Detroit. Rare Earth formed in 1968, and Rivera experienced a different kind of education.
“I went through the school of life,” he said. “I’ve been around different things.”
Rivera is sharing his experiences with student musicians from Whitworth and Gonzaga universities, who are performing with his R&B Celebrate Symphony this weekend at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center at Gonzaga. The practical experience is invaluable and complements the theory learned in the classroom.
“What musicians learn in school is important,” R&B Celebrate Symphony co-producer Dave Cebert said. “Higher education is noble. Great musicians and great teachers come out of higher education.
“The educational system prepares the students in one manner. But what we’re trying to show the kids and give them is real-world experience. What we’re showing them with these concerts is how music works in the real world. We’re trying to help them connect the dots.”
It’s not just a local endeavor for Rivera and Cebert. The plan is to embark on a national tour of colleges. Proceeds from the events will benefit the schools, and students will experience what it’s like to perform at a concert in an orchestra.
It’s uncertain where the next concert will be and how it will proceed, but Cebert will know more after this weekend’s shows presented by The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages events series.
“We’ll learn a great deal about what is next and how we will go about it after the performances Friday and Saturday,” Cebert said. “We’re going to connect with schools and see how it goes. The mission is to connect student musicians with their future. There are people that are aware of what we’re doing with the students at Gonzaga and Whitworth.
“There are people in Phoenix and back East that know what we’re doing. It’s a great situation for what schools we go to next since they will receive a donation and their students will get practical experience. It’s a lot of work, but we’re excited about this project.”
Rivera is compelled to help since he is thankful how music has changed his life, and he knows what type of impact future musicians will have on society.
“I told the people when I was walking out (of a practice session) that the world is a better place because of what they’re doing as musicians,” Rivera said. “I told them that they should be proud of what they’re doing. I know what happens when you have this crazy bug inside of you when you are compelled to create music. I want to help the next generation to be able to express themselves like I have throughout my career.”