Kevin Farris

Sound check: Kevin Farris takes fans ‘Higher’ with new single release

Singer-songwriter Kevin Farris explores melancholy disconnection with a new single; celebrate the late Tom Petty’s birthday with a virtual music festival; School of Rock outdoor fundraiser show tonight at FitzGerald’s.

Catching up with Kevin Farris

Singer-songwriter Kevin Farris started off this year on a high note with an appearance on NBC’s “The Voice,” and now he wants to take fans of his music even “Higher.”

The Mount Prospect artist’s new single, out Friday, and upcoming video paint the events of the year — the highs and the lows — not in specifics, but with a broader brush. Touching on the themes of distance and longing but also the warmth of reconnection, he said the idea for the song came to him on a flight back from Los Angeles. When he first wrote “Higher,” COVID-19 was starting to wash over our country, the Chicago music scene was beginning to shut down and a concerning personal situation back home had him feeling disconnected.

“Have you ever had an experience where you feel like you’re watching something unfold, but you’re also a part of it?” he asked. “I was feeling those emotions. And then, of course, when I felt isolated up in a cabin airplane, it was almost like I was watching a movie of all that unfolding. You get to 30,000 feet, you can only do so much.”

While that may feel like a lean into melancholy territory, the song’s uplifting melodies also remind listeners of the sunlight that can come from returning home.

Farris faced the pandemic back in the suburbs while writing and recording new music and performing almost weekly backyard gigs for small groups. Farris, who previously was teaching music enrichment classes for young students, also transitioned to running outdoor and socially distanced classes for budding musicians in the North Shore suburbs — “We’re outside. We’re masked up. Everyone’s taking their temperatures and we’re bathing in hand sanitizer.”

And while some of his indoor classes have been put on hold because of public health concerns, he now has a regular weekly schedule of virtual guitar lessons and in-person classes set up for children in Northbrook and Buffalo Grove.

“It’s heartwarming for me to see that even though classes are canceled, some of the parents found a workaround … I’m not going to school, but I’m going to families’ houses and the kids are coming together in the yard. We’re all wearing masks. And we’re doing the same music enrichment that I was doing before. There are multiple kids from different families coming just like they would go to school, just coming to this person’s house. And away we go for 45 minutes, doing all the music activities that I have.”

Farris will be appearing on NBCUniversal’s Unlock Virtual Music Festival, a monthlong celebration of streaming musicians, comedians and musical theater stars that will be broadcast throughout Europe and streaming over here in the U.S. “The whole festival itself is set up to raise money for an organization that provides opportunities for kids in Europe that don’t have access to the creative arts and don’t have access to high quality education. So it’s actually a really cool philanthropic endeavor, and I’m stoked to be part of it.” His appearance date hasn’t been set yet, but fans can watch for updates on his Facebook and Instagram pages.

Party for Petty

Celebrate late musical legend Tom Petty with a nod to his 70th birthday as fans and musicians gather for a virtual fest in his honor this weekend. The Tom Petty Birthday Bash brings together five hours of musical performances and tributes to Petty from acts including Stevie Nicks, Chris Stapleton, Post Malone, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Brandi Carlile, Norah Jones, Lenny Kravitz, The Raconteurs, Jason Isbell and more. The Bash also aims to help raise awareness for Save Our Stages (NIVA), Arts In Medicine, Digitunity and MusiCares, with donation links available to guests. The audio stream of the event will be 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, on SiriusXM’s Tom Petty Radio; video performances will be streamed from 6 to 8:30 p.m. that same night on and Amazon Music’s Twitch page.

Find more information and the full lineup at

School of Rock fundraiser

Amy Renzulli, owner of the School of Rock in Oak Park, recently opened the School of Rock Glenbrook this summer, and she has organized The Groove Project, a night of outdoor music at FitzGerald’s funding scholarships for the School of Rock’s Hall Pass program. The program affords students the chance to use the schools’ private lesson rooms for a place to focus on remote learning while many schools are on virtual or hybrid learning schedules. Music instruction and play time are also included in the program. Friday night’s fundraiser, which features performances by Isaiah Sharkey (guitarist for John Mayer and D’Angelo) and Isley Brothers touring musician Al Willis, along with an opening set by the School of Rock instructors, will also include food, drinks, a signature cocktail and an art fair.

6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, at FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. $60 per seat, sold in groups of two, four or six. (708) 788-2118 or

• Brian Shamie is a Daily Herald multiplatform editor and local music junkie. Email him at, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter (@thatshamieguy) or Instagram (@chicagosoundcheck).

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