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Photo caption: Ellen Moak will sing with the Billings Symphony in March 2015.
BILLINGS, July 15, 2014 –Country Idol contest winner and Rocky Mountain College grad Ellen Moak (’12) sings country with the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale March 14, 2015. Her success builds on her vocal performance major at RMC.
The Country Idol competition of the Symphony, held in collaboration with the Billings Gazette, gave the win to the contestant with the most online votes from a live outdoor performance at Pioneer Park and a YouTube performance on the Internet.
Anne Harrigan, Music Director of the Symphony, said, “I'm thrilled that Ellen will be joining us for our “Gone Country” concert in March. She was completely professional, and the audience adored her. She will be a great addition to our artists.”
“The other four contestants were fabulous, and I felt any one of them could have legitimately won the contest,” Moak said. “It was humbling to be able to compete against them, and the whole thing was very enjoyable. My mom, Rhett [RMC instructor of ceramics], encouraged me to audition,” she said.
Moak performs this summer in her band Ellen and the Old School, as she did through her years at Rocky Mountain College. Her former music professor Sam Hamm plays bass, and her dad, art professor Mark Moak, handles drums.
“Performing, for me,” she said, “is a two way street. In my mind, a successful performance only happens when both [performer and] audience take away something. Sometimes I feel it's self-indulgent: I am telling people I think I am good enough for them to hear, and that what I do is worthwhile. That's hard for me. I was always taught to be humble, and sometimes performing seems a little too showy for me. I do love it, and as long as people want to hear me, I'll sing. My mom is probably still my biggest fan.”
Moak has sung on the Alberta Bair Theater stage before, the home of the Billings Symphony. “It is a wonderful place to sing! The auditorium is somehow massive and intimate at the same time. It's a cool experience,” she said. The theater holds about 1400 seats.
“I had the best professors at Rocky: Sam Hamm, Jen Bratz, Steven Hart, and Tony Hammond. They are excellent, and I feel very lucky to have had the privilege of being taught by such passionate people,” Moak said.
“Of course, my performance experience with both the band and my time at Rocky helped prepare me,” Moak said. “I used to have to force myself to get up in front of people, and I was always uncomfortable. For some reason, I kept with it, and now it is much more enjoyable. Each performance is a learning experience.”
In the meantime, Moak’s band is prospering. “We've got the Billings Clinic Classic, Scheels’ grand opening, a Volunteers of America benefit, a Glen Campbell tribute, lots of fun stuff coming up,” she says. “The band is so much fun, especially getting to play with my Dad-- my original history of rock and roll professor! He would always quiz me in the car on the way to school; he had no idea he was really honing my musical ear.”