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Ellen and the Old School

Ellen and the Old School are set to play Saturday at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.'s Garage Pub. From left are bassist Sam Hamm, vocalist Ellen Moak, drummer Mark Moak, and guitarist Scot Ninnemann.


For some recent college graduates, playing music with your dad and one of your college professors may not have much appeal.

But for Ellen Moak, the dynamic vocalist in Ellen and the Old School, it was a perfect fit. The 2012 Rocky vocal performance graduate was able to sway her dad, Mark, a Rocky Mountain College art professor, and one of her favorite RMC music professors, Sam Hamm, to add songs by Adele and other contemporary vocalists to their set list. The guys convinced her that covering songs by the Pretenders, the Doobie Brothers, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young would suit her classically-trained voice.

The entire collaboration is Rocky-based. Hamm plays bass and Mark plays drums. Guitarist Scot Ninnemann, who is married to a Rocky history professor, rounds out the group. They are performing Saturday night at the Garage Pub at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. Admission is $5, with $2 from each ticket sold at the door going toward Venture Theatre.

The Saturday show is not technically their public debut. On just a few days notice, they put a short set together for last year’s Wild West Soiree Battle of the Bands in June and came in a very close second place to the Hardin band Deadman’s Hand.

During a recent rehearsal in the band room at Rocky, Ellen unleashed her crisp but soulful voice on “Back on the Chain Gang,” a song that originally her dad had to fight to get on the list. Since then, the 20-some songs on the set list have grown to more than 30 so they are ready to fill three hours at the Garage Pub.

The list includes some songs that don’t make it to classic playlists like “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Come Together” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” And with Ellen’s vocal mojo, they had to add in some Fleetwood Mac.

“We don’t have genre boundaries, it just has to be a good song,” Mark said.

Mark has been the drummer in the 10-piece Midlife Chryslers for more than a decade. This pared-down project allows Mark to showcase his percussion work in a tight, lean rock outfit.

Hamm has performed with jazz groups around Billings and Ninnemann is a veteran guitar player who has recorded a solo CD.



Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.