FARMINGTON — Young Bobby Yang's parents forced him to learn the violin.

However, as he grew older, Yang's initial reluctance transformed into passion.

Yang, now a professional violinist, has performed at celebrity events and toured the country.

On Friday, Yang will perform in Farmington as a guest artist during the San Juan College orchestra concert at 7 p.m. at the Henderson Performance Hall at San Juan College.

Keith Cochrane, the San Juan College orchestra director, said the venue for the concert was changed to the Henderson Performance Hall in order to have more room. The Henderson Performance Hall is on the southwest corner of campus.

Cochrane said the orchestra will perform a number of classic rock pieces.

"We're doing a Led Zeppelin tune — 'Kashmir,'" Cochrane said. "We're doing a Beatles tune — 'Helter Skelter.' We're even doing a Prince tune — 'Purple Rain.'"

The orchestra also will perform a number of Yang's original compositions.

In addition to Yang, top chamber orchestras from both Farmington and Piedra Vista High School will perform alongside the San Juan College Orchestra.

As a child, Yang and his sisters were enrolled in intense weekly piano and violin lessons, where they received classical training.

Yang, however, was more interested in classic rock.

"As long as I was practicing, they (my parents) didn't care if I played by ear," Yang said.

Eventually, he said, he was able to play a song on the piano after only hearing it once. He transferred this over to the violin soon afterwards.

Music transformed into a passion for Yang after winning scholarships to attend music camps, where he met other children who had been forced to learn music.

"I realized I wasn't alone and it was that community that inspired me," Yang said.

As a teenager in a small town in Michigan, Yang treated his CD player as a "garage band," playing along with it.

"I pretended that I was a fifth member of Guns N Roses," he said.

While his parents had pressured him to learn music, they didn't want him to make it his career. However, Yang received scholarships to the University of Michigan, where he received his master's degree in music.

After graduating, Yang headed west to Aspen, Colo., where he knew he could make money playing at bars.

"I rolled into Aspen with 65 bucks in my pocket," Yang said.

Soon after he arrived in Aspen, one of his former professors called him and hooked him up with an artist-in-residency position.

Yang formed his band, the Unrivaled Players, while living in Aspen. He said the band became known for its classic rock covers, which are more jam-based than most covers. The band even has secret signals they use on stage to communicate with each other.

"We never play a song the same way twice," he said.

While Yang enjoyed living in Aspen, he eventually chose to leave and moved to Atlanta, Ga. Soon afterwards his band began to tour and he spent very little time in Atlanta.

The weather in Atlanta also provided some challenges. Hurricanes often caused flight cancellations.

Eventually the band decided to relocate to Las Vegas, Nev., where the consistent weather patterns allowed the band to fly out on tour throughout the year.

However, Yang still feels at home in Aspen, which he described as almost like an extended fraternity.

"Once you're a local, you're always a local," Yang said.

Eventually fans and festivals began to pressure the band to produce original tunes.

In a little more than a year, Yang had written 35 songs and he selected 10 of the compositions for his first full-length album, "The Lost Cosmonaut," which was released in 2013.

"It all came out real melodic and heroic, almost like a sound track," he said.

Because of this, he made up a fictional hero, the Lost Cosmonaut, who is based on a 1950s conspiracy theory about Russians, desperate to beat Americans into space, sending up cosmonauts without a way to bring them back.

Like all of his work, "The Lost Cosmonaut" is purely acoustic.

While many other classic rock violinists have switched to electric violin, Yang keeps playing his acoustic, hybrid Italian violin that has been broken and then repaired. He doesn't even add any pedals to alter the sound.

"I have about a 2-minute attention span for the electric violin," he said.

He said he feels like the sound of the electric violin is one-dimensional.

"Nothing really compares to the 500-year-old design of the classic violin," he said.


What: San Juan College orchestra concert

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall, 4601 College Blvd.

Where: $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors

More info: 505-566-3430

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.