Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 9, 2013

Arts camp echoes for Groban

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS mdrahos@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Don't expect Josh Groban to wear Interlochen blue when he performs there Monday — but don't be surprised if he sports his old Interlochen badge, either.

The multi-platinum singer attended Interlochen Arts Camp in 1997 and 1998 and has deeply etched memories of his time there.

"It was a goal of mine to go to a great theater college," said Groban, who focused on musical theater at Interlochen and partially credits his experience there for giving him the foundation that made him who he is today. "We knew, my parents and I, that Interlochen was one of the best training camps in the country. I had the most extraordinary time. It was just two summers, but there's a flood of memories from them."

Back then, there was no sign of the super-stardom to come. In fact, Groban recalls hanging around the campus picnic tables and at Melody Freeze with other campers, attending shows by artists like Willie Nelson, James Taylor and Bela Fleck, and singing the chorus role of "broom sweep number seven" in his first Interlochen production, "Sweeney Todd."

"Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be standing on the Kresge stage, performing by myself," said the Los Angeles native, who recently wrapped up three sold-out nights at The Hollywood Bowl. "Any time you go back and play where you saw shows as a kid, you kind of get a little nervous. But mostly I'm excited and happy. You just pinch yourself that you have such a full-circle moment. It's so rare."

Groban, also a songwriter, musician, record producer and actor — he currently stars in the feature film "Coffee Town" — will perform with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra in a sold-out show that spans all six of his albums. The orchestra received charts about six weeks ago, but won't know which of them Groban will pull from until rehearsals before the show, said Rick Jaissle, the TSO's manager of operations and orchestra personnel.

"A show like this is a whole different animal," Jaissle said. "I can't just run over to the library and get the music. And we're not used to working with microphones and monitors. It's really exciting. It’s a whole different feel for us."

He said the "full orchestra complement" will consist of all the TSO main players, and then some. They'll be joined by Groban's own soloists, rhythm section and orchestra director.

"Putting together an orchestra like ours on a Monday, I thought was going to be a challenge because so many of our musicians travel," Jaissle said. "They were, 'Hey, do you need ...' and 'Could you use another ... ?' They were fighting each other to get on the roster for the show. It’s a big deal for us."

Groban, whose latest album, "All That Echoes," debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and is being rebroadcast in concert version on a host of PBS stations, plans to have a reunion of sorts when he returns to Interlochen. He said he still keeps in touch with about 15 of the friends he made there and hopes to get some of them to fly out for the show. He also plans to reacquaint himself with his old haunts.

"I fully plan on taking a walk around the campus and taking it all in," he said.