A man who shared his musical genius with Western Colorado for close to 40 years has passed away. Late last week, internationally recognized composer, arranger, and musician Dennis Woodrich passed away in Grand Junction.

Over the years you've probably caught a performance with Dennis. He frequently performed with the Michelle Wilkinson Trio, the Walt Smith Trio, Gary Smith, the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, the Western Colorado Jazz Orchestra, and many others. What you may not be aware of is his contribution to popular music on a worldwide level.

Waylon Jordan

In the 1960's, Dennis worked as a composer/arranger with the Righteous Brothers. If you look on the back of the Righteous Brothers album You've Lost That Loving Feeling, you'll see the name Wood Woodrich. That's Dennis. He was the genius who contributed to the arrangement of Unchained Melody, a song that won the hearts of countless millions.

For a number of years Dennis stepped out of Classical and Jazz and worked as a bassist in the popular music field. Several of those years were spent working with Glen Campbell.

I first met Dennis as an educator. He relocated to Grand Junction in 1980 to teach at what was then Mesa College. He and his wife, Michelle, left Grand Junction and returned to California for a period of years. In 1989, they returned to the valley to stay. Dennis would then teach again at Mesa State College.

As an educator, Dennis became lifelong friends with many students. Some would go on to be colleagues. Western Colorado saxophonist Bill Moody shared this via Facebook:

I first met Dennis and Michelle in 1989. I had just started playing bass, and barely new the names of the strings. Somehow I managed to obtain a spot in Dennis' jazz combo. From there, it was sink or swim. Years later Dennis hired me to lay down the bass tracks on an album he was hired to produce. Along the way, I purchased his 1965 Fender Jazz bass. It was my pride and joy.

More than anything, I think of Dennis as a fantastic husband and a loving father. On one occasion or two I babysat his son. That young man is now a United States Marine. His daughter, Lexi, has also been a lifelong friend.

A person could write volumes about Dennis and his contribution to the world of music. His impact on the Western Colorado community is immeasurable. As an educator, he was the perfect combination of knowledge, talent, and experience. This man knew the music world upside down and inside out from his experience outside the classroom. Fortunately for all of us - Bill, Rick, Eric, Chad, Dave, Michelle, Dan, Mario, Big Dan, and countless others including myself, Dennis chose to share those gifts for the world as an educator, and we are all infinitely better for it.