Rory Hoffman sees the world in a different way. He loves to reimagine familiar songs with unexpected musical arrangements, such as his gypsy jazz version of the Star Wars Theme or his bossa nova treatment of the country song Oh Lonesome Me by Don Gibson. He has even done a bluegrass version of the Cole Porter standard: It's Alright With Me.
A seasoned performer, Rory has been on the stage since he was three years old. "I started singing and then began playing drums in our family's band. I ended up playing drums, harmonica, and singing." The band was Roland Hoffman and the Believers, which included his father, Roland Hoffman, his older twin sisters, and his younger brother. "Mom sold merchandise in addition to making sure we had clean clothes. She was also our road manager."
The family lived in rural South Dakota. "I grew up on a small ranch on the border of North Dakota and South Dakota," Rory says. "We had a North Dakota telephone number and a South Dakota address." In addition to the drums, Rory learned to play guitar early on. "I have a unique style of playing. At the age of three, I couldn't fit my hand around the neck of the guitar, so I figured out how I could make it work. I play overhand. As a child, I flopped the guitar on my lap and learned to play chords and licks. As I grew older, I kept playing that way because it worked for me. I didn't want to learn a new way of playing."
Today Rory's brother works as a drummer and bass player in Austin, where he lives. Rory's sisters still play music for fun. Rory lives and works in Nashville. "Being in Nashville was a turning point for my career. I started visiting several times a year starting in 2000 and made the move in 2008."
Rory always knew he would be a musician. "It's been a crazy career for me. When I was playing with our family band, I wasn't sure what I would be doing later in life, but I never imagined some of the things I have had the opportunity to do."
Rory's career was slowly taking off from starting a recording and production company with a friend back in South Dakota to having a television show on the Christian Network. "There just wasn't enough opportunity for me in rural North Dakota," Rory says.
Rory has a musical versatility that is awe-inspiring. He currently plays in jazz trios and a polka band with Alex Meixner. "We are in our busy season," he laughs. "I like the variety of what I do. I recently played with an old R & B singer by the name of Swamp Dawg. We did a bluegrass record of all his old R & B hits. I played banjo, guitar, and mandolin on the album. I look forward to that record coming out. It is always fun to be in the studio."
Rory has also played with John Cowan (formerly with New Grass Revival). "That's what got me on the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. I also played piano and harmonica for Ricky Skaggs when he was doing a resurgence of his country stuff." Rory enjoys "statement-making" music. "I have my feet in a lot of different worlds."
Rory is looking forward to performing with the Nashville Symphony soon. "You'll never believe what instrument I'll be playing." Rory plays many instruments, including guitar, saxophone, clarinet, accordion, bass, harmonica, mandolin, drums, piano, and banjo. But when he performs with the Symphony, he won't have to arrive with anything but himself and a tube of ChapStick. "I'm going to whistle," he laughs. "No kidding. They needed someone to whistle in the Symphony's performance of Into the Woods Suite by Stephen Sondheim, so they called the Nashville Musicians Association and asked for the best whistler in town. Turns out I'm one of the few professional whistlers in this area. It's just another part of the weird, cool stuff I like to do."
With all that Rory does, it may be hard to realize that he is blind. "I was born with no sight, as were all my siblings," he says. His parents were both sighted and reared their children to be independent. Rory has a girlfriend who is legally blind. "I met her online during the pandemic," he says. "She moved to Nashville, and we get along well together."