Aspenite Brose embraces different gig in Foreverland
Special to The Aspen Times
In Aspen, Alex Brose is perhaps best known for his tireless service as the vice president for development at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Right now, Brose is leading the $75 million “Where Dreams Begin” campaign, which will fund the renovation of the school’s Castle Creek campus as well as put funds toward the organization’s endowment. In addition, Brose has helped raise more than $5 million this year for the festival and school’s operating budget.
Brose looks the part of a numbers guy — the unassuming 37-year-old is tall and wiry with brown curly hair, glasses and an easy smile. He’s not exactly what you picture when you think of someone who once spent a fair amount of time wearing one bedazzled glove and belting out “PYT” and “I Want You Back” for thousands of people.
But he did. And on Sunday at Belly Up, he will do it again — with Foreverland, a 14-piece Michael Jackson tribute band that Brose was a member of before moving to Aspen a year ago. The band’s name is a play on words, a reference to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, Calif.
As a guest performer, Brose will join his former bandmates on stage at Belly Up, where he suspects Aspenites will find his performance interesting, to say the least.
“My relationship with Aspenites has been very work-related and professional,” Brose said. “It’ll be quite a surprise for them to see the other side of what I have done.”
Brose, who is American, grew up in Asia until he was in the seventh grade. Brose’s father worked for J.P. Morgan, and Brose recalls listening to Jackson as a way to stay in touch with American culture.
“My connection to the United States was through Michael Jackson,” Brose said. “I was always so fond of him.”
Brose went to high school in Ridgewood, N.J., and then attended Cornell University, where he received a degree in Asian studies, but he continued his musical training on the side. When Brose graduated, he realized he wanted to work in fundraising and moved to San Francisco to do alumni relations and fundraising for Cornell. After two years, he moved on to work for the San Francisco Conservatory, where he became director of admissions. The job allowed him to combine his two loves: fundraising and music.
It was during this time that he began performing with Foreverland.
“I sang opera and musical theater throughout high school and college,” Brose said.
This training would later help him hit the high notes in songs like Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Before Jackson died in 2009, there was only one Michael Jackson tribute band performing: Who’s Bad, a six-piece band based on the East Coast with two Jackson impersonators as the frontmen.
The five founders of Foreverland, who all were involved in other bands in the Bay Area, recognized this gap in the market: There wasn’t a Jackson tribute band on the West Coast that was really committed to honoring Jackson’s music. So they snatched up the opportunity and founded Foreverland four days before Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009.
Within three weeks of Jackson’s death, Foreverland had organized a memorial concert for the city of San Francisco at a club called Skim’s. Nearly 12,000 people attended.
“That month in San Francisco, you couldn’t walk down the streets without hearing (Jackson). He was blaring from people’s apartments and car windows,” Brose said. “(The memorial) show was my first. It was really amazing — people shouting every single word.”
Thus the band was born, and the five founding members eventually grew to 14.
“After a while, it became evident you couldn’t be true to any of that stuff without 14 people in the band,” Brose said.
So after 11 years with the San Francisco Conservatory and nearly three years with Foreverland, Brose decided it was time for a change.
“Every summer, I came to Aspen,” Brose said. “I got to know it as a recruiter because some of the best musicians in the world are here (for the summer music festival).”
But even after Brose’s move to Aspen, Foreverland continued to be successful. It still comprises four vocalists — three men and one woman — as well as a horn section and a rhythm section. The lone woman, Lisa Leuschner, was Brose’s replacement when he left the band in 2012.
Still, Brose said Aspenites are in for a treat Sunday, as Foreverland is different from other Jackson tribute bands; it doesn’t try to be Jackson, instead merely celebrating the legend.
“There are bands out there that impersonate Michael Jackson with everything from plastic surgery to outfits to the dance moves,” Brose said, shaking his head in disapproval. “And Foreverland, it was founded on being true to the music. True to the recordings.”
Foreverland’s singers take turns performing songs that fall within their vocal ranges. Singers’ voices are matched to the songs.
“I have a high voice. I can’t grow a full beard. I look like Betty Boop. So I got the higher songs,” Brose said.
Brose said it’s a privilege to sing Jackson’s music and a pleasure to watch the other band members perform Jackson’s songs.
“There’s this one guy who looks kind of like Meat Loaf,” Brose said. “Well, let’s just say he’s a hard rocker. A heavy-metal guy who can sing some really aggressive tunes. ‘Back in Black.’ ‘Dirty Diana.’ That’s his stuff.”
It’s not hard to imagine this eclectic band as a collection of cartoon characters and offbeat pop stars rocking out to “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal.”
Brose is looking forward to rejoining the group this weekend, and he suspects it will be a great way to contribute to Aspen’s music scene in a different way.
“I’m doing two shows in Denver with (Foreverland),” Brose said, “and then one here. I’m super-excited to be performing in Aspen.”
Isabelle Chapman is an intern working for The Aspen Times through mid-July.
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