What is it that has made rock and roll so eternal? “Un-Block The Music” is unwavering in that answer. It is it’s realness; it’s rawness. That is what makes me so excited to introduce readers to John Krupa and his upcoming show, Choices, A Rock Opera. John is a New York musician that toured with Meatloaf and Steven Tyler when he was in his 20s. He wrote his first rock opera in college, but through all of his life experiences, it has taken until now to realize a rock opera is a calling he needed to answer. Luckily we will all finally be able to see the show, starring MiG Ayesa on November 11th and 12th at Chappaqua Performing Arts Theater https://choicesarockopera.com/.
Who is John anyway? You may have seen him in several bands all around Westchester County, NY. But, that’s just for fun. John has a long musical path. He was born in Manhattan and raised in Rye, a New York suburb. “I was abandoned at birth and adopted at 6 months,” John said. His adopted parents, he said “treated me like gold.” His mom was a pianist who enrolled him in The Westchester School of Music at age 4. While she wanted him to learn piano, she was intent on him learning music theory at the age of 4! If you know anything about music theory, it is brutal. Music theory defines the elements that form harmony, melody, and rhythm. “Un-Block The Music” knows that MANY musicians never really master it. “At the time, it didn’t make sense that I had to learn to play ‘Johnny Appleseed’ in every key. I did understand the motive later in life, and as a result of that training you can pretty much put any instrument in front of me now and I can play it,” John said.
“By the time I got to junior high school, I wanted to play rock music. I was tempted to play guitar,” but the high school was in need of a bass player, so John complied. As the only bass player in his school, John was asked to play in four different groups that were participating in The Battle Of The Bands. “The bands I played in came in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place,” he laughed. The band that came in first place was a Grateful Dead cover band that he had never played with before that day! Anyway, “With that in my back pocket, I focused on bass playing.”
John went to Lehigh University graduating with the double major of biomedical engineering and music composition/theory. Yikes. And, he did it with honors! But, before graduation, he went to the powers that be at Lehigh, specifically Professor Paul Selerni, and told him he wanted to write a rock opera (think The Who’s Tommy). Like traditional opera, a rock opera is a dramatic work with all of the lines sung (or most, sometimes there is a line or two for effect!)
“Professor Salerni loved the idea. They got me tons of local press. I was on TV. It was a really big deal, we sold out and extended our run. Soon after it was time to graduate and Professor Salerni asked me ‘what are you going to do now? Obviously music?’ He thought I had some ability in musical theater, but to know me then, was to not like me,” John laughed. “I thought I was better than theater. The Beatles would never have done theater! I am going to be rock star!” So, John went out on tour with a few artists enjoying life. “I put musical theater out of my life!”
By 24 years old, John was done with the path he was leading. “I wanted to start a family. I didn’t want to be out til 3 in the morning. The band I was in, was signed to a label and we were dropped. I was done,” he said. (Remember this moment in time when you are watching Choices!) “I gave up music for years.” He gave up playing music, but he started a successful company, Italian Speaker Imports, . He partners with speaker companies to distribute their products, and it is very successful.
Some years later, “a friend of mine finally convinced me to go back into music. I decided to do it just for fun. Ironically, my first project back in was so successful that I was approached by record labels and by HBO who wanted to buy some of my music. I said, ‘no’ to all of it. I was doing well at my day job, making good money. I didn’t want music to be work. I wanted it to be fun.”
That band he was part of eventually folded, but years later “I was talking to that same friend about life in the 80s. He said, ‘you have some great stories about touring with people like Meatloaf. You should write a book.’ He meant it as a joke,” John said. But, it got him to thinking. While he didn’t know how to write a book, John did know how to write music. “And even though it had been 30 years since I had written anything, I thought maybe I can do this again …and that was the impetus for Choices.”
“The two worst words in the English language are ‘what if,’” and John wants none of that. “I have zero regrets. I am very happy about the trajectory my life has been on.” While John experienced sadness losing his adopted dad before he was even a teenager, he still said, no one should be sorry for him. “That’s my story and it made me who I am. It’s very much the same with my music career. I am honored to have lived the life I lead, and it is fun to put it into rock opera form. It’s a gas! I had no idea this was in store for me.”
As the lead, MiG Ayesa (Burn The Floor, Rock of Ages), takes on the main character’s journey through roadblocks, dilemmas, and moral ambiguities. In addition to writing the book, the music and directing the opera, John plays one the MiG’s “Manager”, in the show. John said, “I love being in Choices. I guess I can imagine them replacing me eventually…but I am enjoying being in it now.” “Un-Block The Music” can’t imagine why anyone would want to replace John, I originally met him when he was performing at event this past summer. It’s a story for another day, but rest assured, John is awesome.
Choices also has orchestrations by Artie Dillon, Mike Rosenman, Tommy Vinton, and Grammy-winning producer William “Bill” Wittman, who are also members of the band, rounded out by Hank DeCora, Jonathan Flaks, and Felix Guiffra. Bill, by the way, is producing the Choices cast album in between stints as musical director, guitarist and bassist for Cyndi Lauper.
Okay…a little proud mama moment here, my daughter, Holly Block, is choreographing and dancing in the show. If you read this blog, you know she is no stranger to the Broadway stage or any stage for that matter…LOL
What it all comes down to is that musicals are usually stories set to music, “but we are not that…the music is the story. If you take the words out of Choices, if you take the actors out, if you take the dancing out, the music in and of itself can tell the story,” said John.
You won’t want to miss any parts of Choices. While its path to the stage might seem to be a short one, it is really 30 years in the making. Choices had its first workshop production in April 2022. John said, “That was page to stage. The November performance is from amateur to pro. We have to walk up the stairs to get to Broadway!”