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Statewide Cred 

Joe Rohrbacher of Just Joe's Music and Jazz at Joe's receives the Oregon Music Educators Association's Outstanding Contributor Award

Joe Rohrbacher doing what he loves—wailing on his saxophone.
  • Joe Rohrbacher doing what he loves—wailing on his saxophone.

For as long as I've lived in Central Oregon, I've driven past Just Joe's Music with curiosity. Located on the second floor of a building facing Highway 97, children and their parents looking for band instruments press a button marked #1 to get buzzed into the building. Walking up the stairs, customers see photos of performers who have performed with Rohrbacher's series, Jazz at Joe's.

Last week, I got to experience the shop myself. Rohrbacher recently received the immense honor of being named the Oregon Music Educators Association's Outstanding Contributor. It came as a surprise to Rohrbacher, who received the nomination from High Desert Middle School music teacher Craig Olson, with other area music teachers offering subsequent support. Rohrbacher got the word the week after Christmas.

"It was touching," Rohrbacher says. "Some of the other support that has been sent to me after the fact, the emails and stuff, it was all really touching. I didn't realize quite the impact."

For the past 20 years, Rohrbacher has taught children, parents and performers throughout Central Oregon. In fact, when I arrived at the shop, he was helping a young girl and her mother who had recently moved and joined band at the girl's new school. The girl was eager to play the clarinet and Rohrbacher gladly obliged.

"I want all these kids to have those same opportunity that I had," Rohrbacher says. "That's my job, to make sure she has a clarinet and a good experience from us, from a music store's perspective. My commitment is to them, and that does good things for the teachers."

In addition to running the music shop, Rohrbacher spreads the love of music with his Jazz at Joe's series, bringing world-class jazz musicians to Central Oregon. The popular series has had 68 sell-out performances —a number Rohrbacher shares with pride.

"There was a vacancy back in 2007 for a jazz series, and it's close to my heart because I'm a musician," Rohrbacher says. "I'm a jazz-loving saxophone player and I know there are others. We started small and in the store until it got too big. Witnessing during the concerts, the people, it's heart wrenching."

Rohrbacher says he enjoys watching the reactions concertgoers have to the series. For some, it brings back memories. Rohrbacher loves others' absolute inability to tap a foot along with the beat.

"Hosting other musicians is a win-win," Rohrbacher says. "I'm not just an advocate for the audience or for myself, I'm an advocate for them also. I want them to have the best experience here in Bend."

From providing students and musicians instruments they need into order to do what they love, to bringing musicians into the community, Rohrbacher's become an invaluable member of the Bend scene. Upon meeting him, I immediately sensed his passion, dedication and love for both music and this community.

"Music has been nothing but good," Rohrbacher says. "Not everything in my life is good because of music, but nothing but good has ever come from music for me."

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