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Finneytown native to play bass at The Who's Cincinnati concert

Zach Wuorinen receives The PEM scholarship
Posted at 9:47 PM, May 13, 2022

CINCINNATI — Zach Wuorinen loves music. The college sophomore shows that with every movement of his bow, and it's clear his talent is a combination of a God-given gift and hard work.

Wuorinen's ability to play an upright bass has given him lots of opportunities — the greatest yet happening Sunday, May 15 when the rock band The Who returns to Cincinnati after a 42-year self-imposed hiatus.

The Who decided when they returned for the first time since 1979 they would incorporate some of the people impacted by what happened at their last time, when 11 people died trying to get into the concert. Wuorinen will take the stage with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers for multiple songs.

"I consider it a huge honor," Wuorinen said. "Two-thirds of their set is accompanied by an orchestra. And I'll be there for those two-thirds."

The Oberlin College music major's talent was one giant factor that lead to this opportunity. The other was a matter of geography.

Wuorinen grew up in the small community of Finneytown. He's a 2020 graduate of its high school — the same high school that lost three students the last time The Who played at what was then called Riverfront Coliseum. They waited all day to get the best seats in the house, but when a couple of doors opened later than expected, the crowd surged. They pushed and pushed and 11 lives were choked out in the process.

The band had no idea until after the concert, as detailed in a documentary produced by WCPO on the 40th anniversary of that tragic event.

The Who's return, this time at TQL Stadium, is the band's hope to close the circle on what has been more than a generation of pain and to bring some closure.

And part of that closure is bringing people connected, in some way to that night, into the concert experience. The opening act is a band that includes students from Finneytown's class of 1979. Current Finneytown students will play or sing the last song of the concert. And the band gave tickets to the concert, in a special area, to the families who had a loved one die in 1979.

Wuorinen won a scholarship to study music from the PEM Memorial, named for the three students who lost their lives that night. Having him play on stage when The Who returns is just one more nod to healing and the future on which the band wants to focus.

"I think it's a huge responsibility that I'm happy to have to represent Finneytown like this," Wuorinen said.

The band gave him sheet music. He's practiced between studying for exams and other responsibilities.

"The real challenge will come putting it together with the band," Wuorinen said. "Because there is ... not a ton of rehearsal time."

That's an understatement. He will get one practice with the orchestra minutes before having to perform for a crowd of 17,000 people. But, he said, it's a gift he's ready and excited to accept.

“There's nothing quite as like, huge as this that I've experienced,” said Wuorinen.

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