musicians on stage
Mar 12, 2024
Flathead Beacon

Glacier Symphony Teams up with Jeans ‘n Classics for a Night of Elton John and Billy Joel

By Mike Kordenbrock

For Jean Meilleur, performing the music of Elton John and Billy Joel with a symphony orchestra isn’t about reinventing the pop stars’ signature music, but rather it’s about enhancing that music.

“I think the big thing with the symphony orchestra, it’s so much more powerful,” Meilleur said during a recent interview ahead of a March 16 show with the Glacier Symphony at McClaren Hall in FVCC’s Wachholz College Center.

Meilleur is a longtime headliner with Jeans ‘n Classics, an Ontario-based business that connects vocalists and instrumental musicians with local symphonies for shows that incorporate songs from some of mainstream music’s greatest performers.

Jeans ‘n Classics has a wide-ranging catalogue of shows they can arrange, including “A Night at Woodstock,” which features the music of The Band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Santana; “Abby Road,” which consists of performing the iconic Beatles album in its entirety; and “An Evening of Pink Floyd,” highlighting select tracks from “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon.” The outfit has also put on shows focused on the music of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, Journey, David Bowie, Tom Petty, and the music of the James Bond movies.

The power that playing with a symphony brings is something Meilleur connected to the sorts of approximations or shortcuts, like synthesizers, that some musicians have used at times to stand-in for a full contingent of musicians.

“We’re essentially going back to square one with the symphony,” Meilleur said. “I don’t want to sound pretentious but, the majesty of an orchestra — it’s pretty big. It’s a massive sound. It really adds to the flavor of the music.”  

The performance with Glacier Symphony is an encore of sorts to a show that Jeans ’n Classics brought to Kalispell last year. Meilleur, a professional musician with decades of experience, said that at times, traveling from one show to the next can feel like work. But coming to the Flathead last year was a notable exception.

It was just his second time coming to Montana, and Meilleur said that things started off with a spectacular IPA from SunRift Beer Company, and just got better from there. Working with music director and conductor John Zoltek was a pleasure, and Meilleur said the Glacier Symphony was great to play with.

“We had a ball there last year,” he said.

One common question is what exactly to expect out of a Jeans ’n Classics Show, according to Meilleur, who said that for some it’s a question of whether or not it’s a suit and tie, formal kind of affair. As the event name might suggest, Jeans are, in fact, appropriate attire, and Meilleur said it’s the kind of show to come to, have a beer, and sit back and enjoy.

For this Elton John and Billy Joel show, the set list is mostly songs that fans of either musician will be familiar with, although Meilleur said there might be three to four songs that are a little more obscure. Those deeper cuts are included because they were written to feature an orchestra, and Meilleur said people sometimes aren’t familiar with the fact that both musicians used orchestral backing on a number of songs.  

Two background singers, a bass player, a pianist and a drummer will be accompanying Meilleur and the symphony for the Kalispell show. The show doesn’t involve costumes, or other visual imitations of the artist.

“We like to celebrate the music and interpret it to an extent as artists ourselves, but we also want to incorporate the original music landmarks that might be in any given piece,” Meilleur said.

The “Jeans n’ Classics: Back to Back” performance with the Glacier Symphony starts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 16 at the FVCC Wachholz College Center’s McClaren Hall. For more information, including to purchase tickets, go to or go to