The guy in front of me thought Elvis was in the building. There was a glass of merlot waiting for me at the other end of the cash bar at MeadowView and his comment was amusing because Maestro Cyrus Ginwala had just lifted the baton over an orchestra of 60-plus regional musicians at the 57th Annual Kingsport Chamber of Commerce dinner.

As the whole note introduction of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” rose to a crescendo, it occurred to me again, that like the varied memories that accompany this composition, the Tri-Cities has a wonderfully diverse music culture with lots of memorable performances. An evening that started with symphonic music turned to blues and ended with rock fans applauding with standing room only.

When you hear this melody, it’s natural to recall the king of rock ’n’ roll taking the stage in white leather, but Zarathustra’s foot prints go much further back to Nietzsche and Kubrick. My favorite memory of this music is the mood it set for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which brought to the cinema resonating questions of where we came from and our future.

Cyrus Ginwala is a consummate showman and the charismatic conductor of our region’s most shining organization — Symphony of the Mountains. Along with the extraordinary musicians, volunteers and supporters, it’s obvious there is a lot of energy that supports this regional effort. Their passion, reflected tonight in their interpretation of pop classics from John Williams to Strauss is an important cultural reflection of our community and their presence is memorable as they celebrate music at the Tri-Cities’ most important events.

There was one specific moment where everyone in the ballroom experienced a wave of patriotism that would be hard to duplicate. As the symphony performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” WJHL presented a multi-media presentation of local guardsmen and their families preparing for duty in Iraq. I can’t recall a more exalted moment of pride for the protectors of our freedoms.

Although there were no other bands at MeadowView, there were lots of conversations about music and the Tri-Cities music scene with a variety of players.

Former Sullivan Central band director Bill Canny was a big inspiration for me and many other students in this area. He’s a great sax player and cell phone emissary. We meet occasionally at events like this and every now then we still have the chance to perform together.

A past chamber president, Ken Maness was on the scene too decked out in his signature bowtie. Ken was an important guidepost for our region’s music scene as he owned and operated both WQUT and WKIN for many years. His love for music still continues and we both marveled about music today, particularly Mp3s and how we listen to music today.

Brenda White Wright and Charles Wright are a delightful couple who represent the best of our community. We reminisced in the MeadowView lounge about their early years as musicians in an R&B band. Evidently, this was a part of their early romance and the best part about our conversation was the spark in their eyes that still seems to radiant after all the years they’ve been married. It’s obvious they are still making good music together.

Sheldon Clark was there with his wife Vicky too. Sheldon is an other hard-working bass player who performed for years with The Reflections, Big Kat Kaylor and a host of other bands. It was good to hear that he’s back on the scene now working with a new dance band we’re sure to hear from in the future.

Earlier in the week, the agenda for our weekend adventure in to the Tri-Cities music scene took a new twist as Tom Bettini with Tragically White called and wanted to catch a few bands. He was off for the weekend from their busy performance schedule, so when we left MeadowView we joined him at Coconuts to check out the Travis Christian Band.

Some musicians pick up an instrument and play it is so effort less that it appears to be a natural extension of their body. As I watched Travis play guitar later, I was impressed at how effortless his talent seems. Not only can he sing fiery versions of blues covers and originals, he can also dig deep and uncover the raw power of ’80s grunge singers like Eddie Vedder.

His band, which includes Kevin Carter on Bass and Bart Duncan on drums, is a diverse and approachable group of players that deserves a lot of attention. Their blues set and rockin’ covers are the perfect voodoo for a night out with your friends and judging by the dance floor, this band is sure to build its recognition as a main attraction.

Our final stop of the evening was at Kemosabees in Boones Creek. Sober Otis is breaking out into the Tri-Cities again with guitarist Terry McCoy and unfortunately by the time we got to their show, they were playing their last song — a cover of Cheap Trick’s “I want you to want me.” What we heard was terrific and amid a crowd of standing-room-only fans, we closed the door on a great night of local music.

It’s easy to be seduced by weary bones and hundreds of cable channels, but we invite you to support the local music scene. A little gas, a little gusto and you’ll share great moments with inspiring artists every weekend in the mountains of East Tennessee.

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    David Cate is director of new media for the GoTriCities Network. Send tips for The Buzz or comments to