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Mark Munson is dying, but he knows now his dream will live. The inaugural finale concert of the Mark Munson Memorial School of Rock brought a capacity crowd to its feet Thursday while a mile away, Munson lay in a hospital bed recovering from major surgery. Although his health prevented him from feeling the vibrations of the bass solo in Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” in person, Munson viewed the performance via livestream to a waiting room at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. “What Mark told me is he wants the youth of the Brainerd lakes area to experience the musical joy that’s made his life so special all these years,” Munson’s friend and bandmate Adam Rees told the audience at Franklin Arts Center. “While he may not be in this auditorium, he’s very much a part of this event.” As colored lights illuminated fog cascading across the stage, young musicians demonstrating a range of experience levels delivered impressive covers of well-known rock songs. The audience offered raucous support of the bouncy tones of Blue Streak, sweet melodies of The Conditioners, impressive harmonies of Point VI, boundless energy of Echo and rocking anthems of Almost False. Their performances were bookended by student mentor group The Upperclass and instructor band The De-Structors, before the nearly 50 people involved in the summer camp joined together for a rendition of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business.” “I want them to go home with the beginning of what Mark still has going on, which is an ability to make music and love music for their entire lives,” said Marlee Larson, camp director and Munson’s friend. “That’s something you can take with you no matter where you go or what the circumstances are. That’s what I’m hoping for them. I’ve already seen their confidence grow.” Munson, a lifelong musician, spent the last year while suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer bringing his vision of a rock ‘n’ roll summer camp for area teens to life -- a vision he wasn’t sure he would ever witness realized. Although beating the odds of survival with a particularly insidious disease, Munson’s health took a nosedive just as the summer camp bearing his name was set to begin.
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