School of Rock program to break-in new bandshell

Tom Akers
Cambridge's new bandshell in College Square Park

The Cambridge School District will kick off both its School of Rock Program and help break in the new Bandshell at College Square Park on Saturday, April 17th at 1:00 pm with a free concert for the public.

The District received a grant from the Quad City Arts which will enable the school to bring in musicians from around the country as well as from around the Quad City area. It’s only fitting that the first act in this series will be two women with roots in Cambridge, Renee Allen and Michelle VanOpdorp will share their experiences at Cambridge Elementary School in the morning on Friday the 16th and with the junior senior high school students later in the day.

Renee Allen graduated from Cambridge High School in 1999 and will be one of the acts on Saturday describes the importance of coming back to Cambridge and sharing her experiences in the music industry with the students; “I want the kids at CHS to know there are many aspects of the music business that can fulfill hopes and dreams and one doesn't have to be a superstar to have a fun and great career in the industry.” Allen lives in the Nashville, Tennessee area and works as an accountant in the music industry. However, she also performs and is looking forward to stepping up to the microphone in front of her hometown. “The concert on Saturday will be a great opportunity for that. It will also showcase that even though I work in the business side of things, performing still brings me so much joy.”

Michelle VanOpdorp was a student in Cambridge until moving from the school in 2000. She lives in Bettendorf, Iowa and is a Business Manager for a Semi-Truck dealership lease department but on the weekends, she is the lead singer for an 80’s tribute band named Past Curfew - The 80's Experience. She is also the lead singer for Michelle's Menagerie, an acoustic duo. VanOpdorp wants Cambridge students to “know you don't have to "make it big" to still have a life, and income, performing music. Minus the year of the Corona, we play multiple times a month at multiple venues throughout Iowa and Illinois and have been approached by events in Missouri and Indiana.”

Both women are excited to be back in Cambridge as part of the Quad City Arts School of Rock Program. Friday they will share their story with the students but also encourage them to pursue their dreams. “I am looking forward to hearing from the students what their ambitions and goals are on Friday, hopefully can provide some encouragement.” VanOpdorp commented.

Both women will perform a free concert at College Square Park Saturday April 17th at 1:00 in the afternoon. They will be the first to perform in the new Cambridge Bandshell which was constructed in 2020.

Michelle VanOpdorp will be performing with Aaron Duke. The excitement of being the first to perform on the new stage isn’t lost on either performer, “Saturday I am looking forward to singing. Doesn't matter where or why, I love to be on stage singing.” VanOpdorp said, adding, “I think it will be nice for the Cambridge Community and students to see that there is talent from and in small towns.”

Allen, who will be performing with Chris Steven, sees the inaugural event as a way to give back to the town she grew up in; “It is really important to give back to your community and especially the community that raised you when and if you are able, I'm really looking forward to sharing my story with the kids on Friday and singing a lot of fun songs on Saturday for the kids and the town I love so dearly.”