CLC Performing Arts Center presents musician Chris Koza

Chris Koza is a Minneapolis musician, composer and performer whose influences range from finger-picking folk guitar to fuse-busting prog rock. Koza will perform at 7 p.m. June 29, outside on the south lawn of the Brainerd campus of Central Lakes College.

Chris Koza portrait with guitar
Chris Koza
Contributed / Mike Madison

BRAINERD — Chris Koza would like some doughnuts the next time he performs in Brainerd.

The Minneapolis musician, composer and performer missed out on the ones made at The Center, the Kingwood Street facility for “active aging,” the last time he was in the lakes area.

“The last time we got there, the doughnuts were all gone, so I would love it if somebody could bring us some doughnuts … in a box preferably,” Koza said during a recent phone interview.

Koza was slated to perform in the Brainerd lakes area in February as part of the Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center’s lineup. But the concert was postponed a month earlier due to the impact of COVID-19 in the community at the time and later rescheduled.

Koza will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, on the south lawn of the community college’s Brainerd campus. The south lawn box office will be open starting at 6 p.m. for day-of-ticket sales or tickets can be purchased online ahead of time at .


“It seems like a place where there's not a lot of arts programming,” Koza said of the Brainerd lakes area. “But the programming that does happen people are committed to working hard to make it happen and there's a group of people there that seem eager to support it.”

The 42-year-old who grew up in Portland, Oregon, lists Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles and The Smashing Pumpkins among his musical influences.

“Their music is so epic,” Koza said. “Back in the day, I just really appreciated the artistry with which they approached their music.”

His music is rooted in Americana and born out of folk, country, storytelling and rock ’n’ roll. He honors and builds on those traditions by incorporating a unique pop music sensibility, subtle synthesizers, rich harmonies and imaginative production choices, according to a news release.

Chris Koza performing
Chris Koza
Contributed / Mike Madison

“It’s a blend of country and rock … with a lyrically-driven songwriter narrative,” Koza said when asked to describe his music.

Both solo and with his band Rogue Valley, he has supported and shared the stage with artists such as Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michaelson, The Jayhawks, Neko Case, Kathleen Edwards, Dan Wilson, Stephen Kellogg, This is the Kit and Tift Merrit, among others.

“It’s more fun to play music than do a lot of other things,” Koza said of his chosen profession. “I've been a musician, professionally, for a dozen years. And before that, it's something that I've always done. It's been a big part of my life and self-identity.”

Chris Koza headshot
Chris Koza
Contributed / Mike Madison

His music appears regularly on ABC’s “General Hospital” and “60 Minutes” on CBS, and his song “Be Wild” is featured as the soundtrack to a state of Minnesota tourism campaign and another of his songs was featured in Ben Stiller’s film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”


“I like songwriting,” said Koza, who is a multi-recipient of various grants through the Minnesota State Arts Board. “And I like piano and guitar. And it’s the way that I socialize with friends, it’s the way I connect with the world around me.”

Koza and his band were in New York Mills in September 2019 for a week-long residency. They spent time in local schools, senior care facilities, workshops at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center and breweries, connecting with local residents.

“I think all art that artists make is an extension of themselves,” Koza said. “The art I make is about people important to me in my life. It’s about places that I've been or places that I wish to go to.”

Koza and his bandmates have also performed in many theaters and stages throughout Minnesota including Red Wing’s Sheldon Theater, St. Paul’s Fitzgerald Theater and the Historic Holmes Theater in Detroit Lakes.

“When it's going well, I love it,” Koza said of touring and life on the road. “The last few days I have been on the road, opening for Gordon Lightfoot around Wisconsin and Michigan. … I just make these little worlds where I'm preserving relationships or seeing them in a new light.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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