MINOCQUA – Denny Svehla didn’t wear a sparkling purple shirt Thursday morning, which was probably good given the young age of his audience.
“They weren’t even born when all those songs were out,” Svehla laughed.
The operatically trained, guitar-playing performer and his two sons, Lucas (guitar, vocals) and Spenser (drums, bass, and vocals), make up a touring Neil Diamond tribute act. The trio played a session for Lakeland Union High School students Thursday in the school’s choir room.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” Svehla said of the musical seminar. “This was fun.”
The Svehla family came to the Northwoods from Rockford, Illinois as part of a Midwestern tour running through October. The band was booked for the Lakeland Performing Arts Association’s first show of the fall, which will happen later this evening. A generous donation from the St. Matthias Thrift Shop in Minocqua funded Svehla’s clinic with the students during the day.
Denny and his boys played a crowd-pleasing “Sweet Caroline,” which drew cheers, singing and laughter from the young audience.
But the band’s setlist also covered what Svehla described as “six degrees of Neil Diamond,” including songs from performers such as Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly.
“The Neil Diamond music is, I wouldn’t say, secondary, but I would say it’s a great compliment to it because people know it,” Svehla said. “They know the words. So it just ends up being a really nice mix.”
Lakeland Union students knew about the mini concert ahead of time, but the Svehla family brought words of wisdom and life stories for the aspiring musicians too.
“Music can always be a hobby, and it’s something you can always keep in your life, and you don’t have to go through the music major route to keep it in your life,” choir teacher Kiernan Steiner said.
“[Seeing a live act in class] actually really pulls you in, and it’s really easy to get involved because everybody’s having a good time,” junior Michael Grebe said.
Svehla hopes the memory of that inclusive atmosphere stays with the audience after every show he and his sons play because that memory contains within it one of Svehla’s primary messages for the students: find what you love to do while putting family first.
“You don’t have to be a superstar to be in music,” Svehla said. “If you love music, there’s somewhere to go with it.
Svehla’s band played a sold-out show at the Campanile Center in Minocqua Thursday night.