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Performing Arts Center
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Return Date: Friday, December 3rd @ 8:00 PM
Ventura Boulevard (A Tom Petty Celebration)
Made up of musicians from some of the region’s top bands, Ventura Boulevard is a celebration of the music and legacy of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Although they don’t take on stage personas or wear costumes, the band has instead chosen to devote their efforts to presenting the music live in the way that it was meant to sound! The project was originally the brainchild of Omaha guitarist and singer Cory Pawloski, and was intended as a charity memorial show following Petty’s untimely passage in the fall of 2017. The incredible response to that event generated requests for more performances in other cities, now including yours! The participating musicians are also in many other regional bands, including Pink Floyd, Journey, The Eagles, The Cars and Led Zeppelin tribute acts, and so have plenty of experience in recreating different artists’ catalogs. With many capable lead vocalists in the group, rather than dress in costumes and put the burden on one person to be “Tom,” everyone takes turns singing all the hits, giving each song a fresh voice for the audience to hear while making the best music of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers sound authentic live!
Cory Pawloski (Guitar and Vocals)
Cory Pawloski covers a mix of vocal and guitar duties over the course of the performance. His musical journey began with the trumpet and drums in elementary school before teaching himself guitar and bass as a teenager. Cory currently plays in the Omaha-based bands, High Heel and Used Cars (A Tribute to The Cars). He also plays some “special occasion” shows with projects such as Achilles’ Last Band (Led Zeppelin tribute, assuming the Jimmy Page role), rock cover band, The Fools, and the acoustic duo, Not U Two. Cory has been a sought-after session and “drop-in” performer for many other bands in the Omaha area over the years and has recently added keyboards to his bag of tricks. “Tom Petty gave us 40 great years of songwriting, recordings and live performances,” he says, “and it is an honor to be playing his music for the people who come to our shows.”
Rick Spurgin (Guitar and Vocals)
Rick Spurgin began his musical journey in high school in Council Bluffs, Iowa in marching band, swing choir, musicals and touring for two years as a member of the River City Railmen Drum & Bugle Corps. After High School he was accepted to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where he honed his musicianship and production skills alongside some of the best musicians in the world. During this time he performed with his band, The Triangle, throughout New England before settling into an 8 year run in Las Vegas and also performing for the official NFL Superbowl XXII pre-party in San Diego, California. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Mary Jo, the new family returned to Council Bluffs where he began working as an Audio Engineer and performing with the band, ‘57 Chevy, opening for acts such as The Byrds and The Doobie Brothers. Rick is currently the owner and operator of All Ages Guitar Studio/SoundLair Productions, teaching guitar to thousands of students worldwide. He is also an Audio Engineer for some of the largest sporting events in Omaha, including Creighton Men’s Basketball and Baseball, the NCAA Men’s College World Series, Major League Baseball and the USA Olympic Swim Trials. In addition to
Ventura Boulevard and his solo acoustic performances, Rick is also the lead vocalist and guitarist for regional touring band, Floyd-A Tribute to Pink Floyd, as well as the Omaha based cover band Radio Pilot.He has released two original albums, “Out of the Fire” and “The Awakening” which are available on Amazon and Spotify.
John Jensen (Guitar and Vocals)
John Jensen’s musical career began with playing trombone in his high school marching band. However, the guitar soon replaced the trombone as his instrument of choice, and he began playing in bands at age 19, including such legendary Omaha/regional cover bands as Pool Boy Rob, Still Life, Step Child and Mail Order Bride. During this time he also pursued an interest in instrument and electronics repair, working in the Omaha music shops, Rainbow Music, D/Rocks and Russo’s. In 2000, John was given the opportunity to take his technical skills on the road with Stephen Pearcy’s RATT, launching a 16-year career as a much-sought-after professional guitar technician. He has toured internationally, providing support for acts such as Sepultura, Vince Neil, Gavin DeGraw, David Cook, Alice Cooper, The Jonas Brothers and Meat Loaf. Eventually, John retired from the road and opened his own shop in Omaha, JJ Guitar Repair, providing sales, parts and repair service for guitars, amplifiers and related electronics. John has also returned to performing and in addition to Ventura Boulevard and his solo acoustic show, also plays and sings with the Omaha band, Frenzy.
Mike Stenger (Bass and Vocals)
Mike Stenger started playing bass guitar in the high school jazz band in his native northeast Ohio. After graduation he played in several local cover bands before joining the United States Air Force in 1985, eventually ending up at Offutt AFB. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, Mike played with the Omaha bands Flashbacks, Smart Alex, and Lash LaRue and the Rage. Then came a long hiatus from music, while he pursued other interests and finished his 20 years of military service. Once music gets in your blood it never seems to leave though, and in 2012 Mike came out of “retirement” and was a founding member of the blues band, Thrift Shop Radio. From 2013 until the end of 2019 he performed with Omaha cover band Red Delicious, while filling in with numerous other bands. Besides Ventura Boulevard, he currently provides bass and vocals for Used Cars, a tribute to the music of The Cars. When not playing music, Mike enjoys cruising the back roads on his Triumph motorcycles. He also joins several other members of the group in being thoroughly freaked out as a youth by the cake scene in the Don’t Come Around Here No More video.
Jeremy Ehrig (Drums, Guitar and Vocals)
Jeremy Ehrig was born into music - his Father and Grandparents all having had years of performing experience in the family band, Next Of Kin. The passing of his grandfather meant the passing of a set of drums to young Jeremy at the age of 4. Within a few years, he would join the new family band, D.O.T., for a few songs on occasion, eventually growing into the full-time position as a young teen. Studying music in college led him to join a group that would travel the central U.S. for several years –
Ransom, and then later, Ice. Currently, on top of being the drummer, occasional guitarist and one of many vocalists for Ventura Boulevard, Jeremy performs with the Omaha area cover bands Down to Here and Wicked Fun, as well as the acoustic duos Down To 2 and Down and Desperate. He is also a member of Hotel Desperado: A Tribute to The Eagles, expertly fulfilling the role of Don Henley. Jeremy has opened for or shared the stage with The Forrester Sisters, Doug Stone, Gary Joey, Head East, Great White, Dr. Hook, Candlebox, The Legendary Wailers, Derek Trucks, Slaughter, Ed Kowalczyk of Live and Lucinda Williams.
Jodi Ehrig (Percussion and Vocals)
Jodi Ehrig was born into a family of Iowa musicians and grew up surrounded by the songs and sounds of her Grandparents’, Father’s and brother, Jeremy’s various bands. With such a sonorous upbringing, the development of her own considerable musical talent was of course, inevitable - from school choirs and marching band to eventually fronting bands of her own. In addition to playing guitar, keyboards and saxophone, Jodi has been the lead singer for Rock Slide, Guilty Pleasure, Salt & Rock, The McKenzie River Band, County Road 8, Swift Kick and The Blue Zombies. When not performing, Jodi is an animal and car enthusiast who has recorded an eight hundredth of a second reaction time in an 1/8th mile drag race, can identify certain makes, models and sizes of motorcycles by the sounds of their engines and rescued 8 baby bunny rabbits earlier this summer.
Dave Bontrager (Keyboards & Vocals)
Dave Bontrager was born the youngest of three musical children to a pair of educators who originally met in choir. According to his sainted Mother, he suddenly began to loudly sing along with her at just a few months of age. In an effort to shut him up, his parents introduced him to the piano at the age of 5, only to discover a massive increase in the interior decibel level of their home. This racket continued for over a decade until he finally left to juggle collegiate study with several years of touring professionally in various groups before eventually settling in Omaha. When not currently performing throughout the region, Dave enjoys being the parent of a hilarious 15-year-old, teaching piano to students of all ages and is the staff musician at Miracle Hills Community Church. Artists he has opened for or performed with include: Travis Howard (Nashville Star), Frank Hannon & Jeff Keith (Tesla), Delbert McClinton, Davy Jones, The B-52s, The Legendary Wailers, .38 Special and Ben Stein. Current projects include: ReCaptured (A Tribute To Journey), Hotel Desperado (A Tribute To The Eagles), Ventura Blvd (A Tom Petty Celebration), The Fishheads, Sounds Fishy and The Tequila Brothers.
Past instructors include: Larry Harms (Roland Corp), Ken Rodgers (Hesston College), Charlotte Kroeker (Notre Dame), William Everett (Washburn University) and James Johnson (UNO). Member, Omaha Music Teachers Association, MTNA.