FARMINGTON — After 21 years as a music instructor at San Juan College, Keith Cochrane says it is time for him to move on. He and his wife, Kris Cochrane, will move to Albuquerque after his final concert on Aug. 3 in Brookside Park. Together, the couple helped transform the college music scene by developing the music department.

"Kris has been as important to the development of the San Juan College music department as I have been," Keith Cochrane said.

He explained his wife has supported him through long, odd work hours. And early on, when Keith Cochrane did not have a student on work study assisting him, Kris Cochrane helped him file music. She has also played oboe in the college band.

Kris Cochrane, second from right, stands with the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation board members during the foundation’s gala in April 2013 at the
Kris Cochrane, second from right, stands with the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation board members during the foundation's gala in April 2013 at the Farmington Museum. (The Daily Times file photo)

"For the very first rehearsal, my wife has been a member of the concert band," Keith Cochrane said. "And at that first rehearsal, we had 15 other members of the band. As we drove home, I was crying, wondering what I was getting myself into."

The band now has 50 members, and Keith Cochrane has built the college's music program to include a big band, an orchestra, a youth orchestra and jazz and rock combos. He says the administration's support is part of the reason the couple stayed for 21 years in the area.

Keith Cochrane grew up in New York and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1982, after finishing college, he taught middle and elementary school music in Cedaredge, Colo. He later became the choir director at Grand Junction High School and the music director of the Valley Symphony Orchestra, which serves Montrose and Delta, Colo.

It was in Grand Junction he met Kris Cochrane. The two played in the same symphony, and Kris Cochrane was dating a local director. Keith Cochrane needed an oboe player for the symphony and called that director, Greg Karly, who suggested contacting his girlfriend.

Now, Kris Cochrane said she is still friends with Karly, but she "married the right conductor."

It has been 29 years since she started playing oboe for Keith Cochrane in Colorado.

A family activity

The Cochranes work with summer theater

Three days a week this summer, Keith and Kris Cochrane and their daughter, Brooklyn, can be found in the natural amphitheater at Lions Wilderness Park. The family is helping Sandstone Production's with its annual summer musical.

Brooklyn Cochrane: Brooklyn Cochrane, the couple's daughter, is acting in the summer musical this year.

Keith Cochrane: Keith Cochrane has worked as Sandstone Production's music director for the last two years and played in the pit orchestra for three years. He is playing piano for this year's production, "Footloose."

Kris Cochrane: While Kris Cochrane's role may seem minor, she said it is one of the most important parts in the orchestra. Kris Cochrane sits beside her husband, following along with his music and turning the pages. She said without her, Keith Cochrane would often be playing with one hand as he flips through the music.

For more on "Footloose," visit facebook.com/sandstoneproductions

"You get a good oboe player, you got to marry her," Keith Cochrane joked.

Keith Cochrane's experience as a symphony director inspired him to pursue a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. He finished the degree in 1993, the same year he started teaching at San Juan College.

In the 21 years since they moved to Farmington, Kris Cochrane has only missed two of her husband's concerts — one band and one orchestra.

Eventually, she was invited to join the board of the San Juan College Fine Arts Committee, and she served as the chairwoman for two out of the six years that she was on the committee.

One of the events the Cochranes organized while she served on the committee was the Swing Into Spring dinner and dance.

"That kind of thing is just fun," she said.

While on the committee, Kris Cochrane got to know Connie Gotsch, a local radio personality and champion of the arts. When she heard Gotsch had cancer, her training as a nurse kicked in.

"I thought this woman needs help, and I'm not going to leave her alone," she said.

Kris Cochrane was with Gotsch less than an hour before her death in 2012.

"A few of us played a little concert for her in her room, and half an hour later she was gone," she recalled.

IF YOU GO

Summer band plays in park

The San Juan College Summer Band will perform at 7 p.m. today in the Brookside Park amphitheater. The concert is free, but attendees should bring a chair or blanket to sit on.

Orchestra performs

San Juan College's Summer Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. July 29 at the San Juan College Little Theatre, 4601 College Blvd. Eve Fleishman will sing as a guest artist.

Band concert at Brookside

Keith Cochrane will direct his final college concert at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 in Brookside Park. The San Juan College summer band will perform in the free, outdoor concert.

Company band performs

The San Juan College Company, directed by Linda Edwards, performs during Freedom Days and on July 12 at the Farmington Museum during the summer concert series.

A year later, a few friends — including Kris Cochrane — formed the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation. Kris Cochrane has served as a board member since then, and she plans to remain on the board until she leaves San Juan County in August.

The move to Albuquerque also offers opportunities for Kris Cochrane to advance her career. She has worked for 16 years as a remote case manager for Presbyterian Health Partners, which is headquartered in Albuquerque.

"It would be nice to maybe step up in the company," she said.

While in Albuquerque, Keith Cochrane plans to work on recordings with Hoyle and Jane Osborne, Dave Sprinkle and Eve Fleishman. Fleishman will be the guest artist in one of Keith Cochrane's final Farmington concerts.

The Cochranes met Fleishman after she cold-called Keith Cochrane about three years ago. She said she had also attended Berkelee College of Music, told him she was doing a music tour and asked if she could sleep on his couch during the tour.

She played a small concert for the couple, and they were both impressed.

The next year, Keith Cochrane asked Fleishman to play at the college's annual jazz festival.

Around Thanksgiving last year, he started orchestrating Fleishman's compositions for the college's summer orchestra program. Fleishman will perform at the concert at 7 p.m. on July 29 at the Little Theater at San Juan College.

"It's that kind of writing and arranging that I'm looking forward to have more time to do," he said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.