Opportunity Rocks

by Dec 5, 2022Nonprofits, People, South Brunswick

Nine musicians, all of whom live in Ocean Ridge Plantation, form a band that helps nonprofit organizations raise fun and funds.

Combine a lawyer, an engineer and three business leaders. Add a retail manager, a senior government manager, a finance director and a self-described computer nerd. Mix in a trumpet, guitars, a keyboard and a healthy amount of percussion. Blend in an alto and then a tenor. The result is Opportunity Rocks, a band of nine members, all of whom live at Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach. They only play at nonprofit events and do not accept any payment.

“We’re all retired,” says Dennis Covelli, who denies he’s the official leader of the band even though the other members look to him for arranging the musical sets and performance schedule. “We just like to go out and make sure people have fun.”

Covelli played the accordion as a child growing up in New York and after joining the Marines he played the bugle in the Marine Band. “I taught myself how to play it,” he says. He played the keyboard in the band at the New York Stock Exchange, where he worked, and says it also only played for charity. He plays the keyboard in Opportunity Rocks.

NC Oppritunity Band Practice

Laurie Schrull White sings the tunes, while her husband, Dave White, plays the trumpet.

When she takes a break, White sings. Schrull White sang in her church choir growing up in New York and received the National School Choral award, the highest award for high school choral singers, and has performed ever since.

White grew up in New Orleans. When he was 10 played the trumpet in “the world’s youngest Dixieland band” and stayed with it until he was in his 20s. “We played a lot of charity gigs, and I received a key to the city,” he says. He managed the sound board for Opportunity Rocks until the saxophone player moved. Now he’s the trumpeter and assists with percussion. Both he and Laurie had careers in the business world.

Rob Edwards recalls how he played the trumpet in his New Jersey high school orchestra and his friend played the oboe. The two bought guitars and taught themselves how to play them.

“We were going to be the next Ventures [rock band],” he says. “‘Walk Don’t Run’ was the first song we learned.”

Opportunity Band Group

It turned out Edwards went on to law school and his buddy, Joe Walsh, became a rock star and a member of The Eagles. Edwards plays lead guitar in Opportunity Rocks and says, “The charity aspect is big, and I’ve always been a frustrated rock and roll star.”

Bass guitarist Hugh Carano chose mechanical engineering for his career, but says he played the piano as a child then played tuba, bass and violin at his New Jersey high school. With Opportunity Rocks he especially likes playing for the Shriners. “They were helpful when our daughter was severely burned in an accident when she was [a toddler],” he says. “She went through a lot of operations. We were dirt poor, and I had just gotten out of the service.” She went on to be an interventional radiologist.

Karen Nelson says she played violin in her Connecticut high school and bought a guitar she “strummed” at church. She now plays rhythm guitar in Opportunity Rocks. She has a degree in psychology and art but followed a career in merchandising and retail management. When Museum of Coastal Carolina needed assistance in its gift shop, she stepped in.

“It was a natural thing for me to do and a great opportunity to use my work background and make a difference for that organization,” she says. “I think we call ourselves Opportunity Rocks because it’s an opportunity to make a difference and help organizations raise money and do all the great things they do.” Besides, it has the same initials as Ocean Ridge.”

Band Oppritunity

Dale Hackmann played the accordion as a child in Maryland, but in his teens joined his cousin’s band as a drummer, even though he never took lessons. Columbia Records offered the four-member band a contract, which they declined when they learned it earned one penny per record sold. Columbia countered by saying personal appearances earned big money. The group won Battle of the Bands in Annapolis and made an acquaintance with a singer, who told them transportation, lodging and food came out of personal appearances.

“We decided it wasn’t in our best interests to continue, so we broke up and went to college,” Hackmann says. “The singer turned out to be Neil Diamond.” Hackmann had a successful career as a senior government manager.

Mike Lebkicher, who plays rhythm guitar, calls himself the “computer nerd” who worked for Wells Fargo in San Francisco. He played in a few groups in high school, but now, “We’re playing for fun and for people to have fun,” he says. “That’s a big deal for us. When we started, we said there will be no financial gain and we will be a dance band.”

Percussionist Pat Robison is the newest member of Opportunity Rocks. He played drums as a child in New Jersey but went on to major in accounting then joined Hewlett Packard. Besides Opportunity Rocks, he plays in the band at Calabash Covenant Presbyterian Church.

“This is a fun group,” Robinson says. “The fact we do this entirely for charity was one of my motivations to join the band.”

Museum of Coastal Carolina, Brunswick Family Assistance, Boys and Girls Home of Lake Waccamaw and several other charities have received the band’s rewards.

“We have fun playing, and people will have fun listening to us,” Carano says.

To inquire about the band, contact Covelli at denniscovelli@gmail.com