Aronoff to speak September 2nd at Vern Riffe


The Vern Riffe Center for the Arts (VRCFA) and Portsmouth Vision Center have come together to co-sponsor a rocking experience once again with the public speaking opportunity of music legend Mr. Kenny Aronoff.

The famous drummer will be presenting his inspirational speech and presentation: “The Kenny Aronoff Experience: A Healthy Life is a Wealthy Life” as a River Days headliner kickoff at the VRCFA.

Aronoff is known for his drumming skills, which have been showcased alongside bands and performers such as John Cougar Mellencamp, Supersonic Blues Machine, BoDeans, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Sticky Fingers.

He has also toured or played with artists such as The Smashing Pumpkins, John Fogerty, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, and Bob Seger.

His relationship to Portsmouth began when he was on tour with Jerry Lee Lewis and local Jacob Tolliver. The two became friends and Tolliver introduced him to local musician and Doctor Michael Raies. Raies happened to be performing in Las Vegas with his band Bad Habits “EyeDocs of Rock.” The band travels extensively for performances all over the country, namely optometry related events, since four of its members are optometrists.

While in Vegas, Raies and his band performed with Tolliver and Aronoff, which sparked the idea to perform locally, so, Raies and the VRCFA teamed to bring him to the area.

When asked about the sponsorship, Raies said the desire to give back is strong for him and his wife, who both own the Portsmouth Vision Center and are involved with various groups, getting an inside look at what it takes to make things happen.

“I think, when you live in a small community like this, community members and businesses sort of have to step up in general to make things happen, because we don’t get huge resources from big corporations,” Raies explained. “We have to step up, participate, and be involved.”

The event went over well last year, but was limited, due to Covid. They brought in around 150 local kids involved in marching band and choir to listen to him present, but thought they could get more this year, as well as make it free and open to the public.

“We are hoping to bring in the kids that didn’t get to hear him speak the year before, but we also want to make it available for anyone in the public, because we think there will be interest there,” said Raies.

Raies said that he was pleased with the performance the year before.

“It [Aronoff’s presentation] is an amazing story and is very inspirational,” Raies claimed. “He has a lot of fun, personal anecdotes about his life and his journey with music. It is exciting, because you can’t help but get fired up when someone talks about what it takes to succeed—hard work, perseverance, never giving up, teamwork—it is all of these points, but, in a funny, dynamic way.”

Raies said that Aronoff also succeeds at wowing the crowd with music, as well.

“At the end of the presentation, he gets to his drums, which are hooked into the PA system, and he plays along with a track of some of the hits he has been involved in over his years,” Raies explained.

When the speaking engagement is over, Aronoff will be preparing himself for River Days 2022, hosted by Friends of Portsmouth, where he will be performing with Bad Habits “EyeDocs of Rock” and “the Stars of the Million Dollar Quartet” once more.

“I hope the students learn some life lessons about hard work and living right, since the topic is about living a healthy life—spiritually, physically, mentally—in order to succeed,” Raies said. “I think, for the community members, it will be interesting to hear someone of this fame and musical history speak. He says that he really enjoyed his time in Portsmouth last year and there is this sort of energy that will be there for the community members who come to listen.”

Aronoff will present his experience at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on Friday, September 2, between noon and 1 p.m.

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