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Sioux City Conservatory of Music to salute the music of Queen
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Sioux City Conservatory of Music to salute the music of Queen

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SIOUX CITY -- Queen's legendary, six-minute-long "Bohemian Rhapsody" is widely considered to be one of the greatest songs in popular music and was once named by the Guinness World Records as Britain's best single of all time.

Could Freddie Mercury's outrageously operatic masterpiece achieve one more world record? Gia Emory hoped so.

"We wanted to get as many local musicians in one place at one time," the Sioux City Conservatory of Music co-founder explained. "We wanted everyone to be playing 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' securing Siouxland a place in the Guinness Book of World Records."

So, how's that working out? Not too well, she admitted.

"Guess we miscalculated the number of musicians needed to achieve a world record," she said. "We needed thousands of musicians to get into the record books. Instead, we've lined up about 400 musicians rocking out to Queen."

World record or not, she said "Find Me Somebody to Love," a fundraiser for the nonprofit Conservatory of Music, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Orpheum Theatre, will be something fans can "rhapsodize" over for years to come.

In addition to the open-to-the-community Queen-a-thon, students will be performing in production numbers, and an auction will be held so that the 1307 Pierce St. performing arts school can continue to offer scholarships and instruments for students who otherwise couldn't afford private music education.

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Orpheum Theatre

Even though he's a bit young to be a Queen fan, Jose Juarez, a 10-year-old from South Sioux City, will be among the students shredding for Freddie.  

That is, if the Harney Elementary School fourth-grader can master the chords of his guitar.

"This is tougher than I thought it would be," Jose said toward the beginning of his second lesson with Conservatory co-founder Ron Emory.

A member of the pioneering, California-based punk band T.S.O.L., Ron Emory founded the music school with his wife, Gia, more than a decade ago.

Budding musician Jose Juarez

Budding guitar hero Jose Juarez prepares for a music lesson from Sioux City Conservatory of Music's Ron Emory. A South Sioux City Harney Elementary School fourth-grader, Jose began taking guitar lessons in October.   

"Jose, let me tell you what my grandpa once told me," Ron Emory said to his apt pupil. "My grandpa said if I learned how to play a guitar, I could travel the world with my music, follow my passion and never work a day in my life."

"Guess what?" he said, plucking a pick out of the pocket. "Grandpa was right."

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And so was Jose, especially after joining in with his teacher in a rollicking rendition of Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over," which will be one of the major set pieces for the Orpheum concert.

Indeed, everybody from the ukulele players to the Conservatory's pint-sized dancers will be grooving to Florence Welch's classic song.   

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Biking at Briar Cliff

"Remember the Orpheum stage is very big," Gia Emory said while offering last-minute choreography advice to the Conservatory chorus line kids. "You gotta make sure your movement is equally as big."

The Conservatory has always been a passion project for Gia Emory, a Sioux City native who also runs the adjoining Blue Cafe in addition to The Block, a series of small businesses that include an indoor skateboard park, consignment shop and art gallery.

"Music is such a positive thing," she said. "It doesn't matter about your age or background, music is a constant in our lives."

That was certainly the case with Gia Emory, who grew up on a steady diet of 1980s music including, you guessed it, the sounds of Freddie Mercury.

The Zanzibar-born and United Kingdom-raised Mercury was best known for his four-octave vocal range and for being the flamboyant frontman for Queen.

"Freddie Mercury was the ultimate rock star," Gia Emory said of the performer, who died in 1991 from complications associated with AIDS. "He was larger than life."

That made Mercury memorable to generations of rock fans. It also made him inspirational for generations of wannabe rock royalty.

Can the next king and queen of rock and roll be among the students at the Sioux City Conservatory of Music?

"You never know," Gia Emory said. "You never know."

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