Whether he is playing solo, on the road with his reliably tight five-piece band or filling up theater stages with a nine-member ensemble, Chad Hollister gives rock ‘n’ groove a positive spin. That will be required Saturday, Sept. 20, when he plays a 7:30 p.m. concert at the downtown Strand Theatre. Originally planned as a benefit for Hope Elephants, the evening has become “a memorial for Dr. Jim,” said Hope Elephants Director Andrew Stewart.

“I’m in such shock and sadness,” Hollister said Sept. 9, the day Hope Elephants founder Dr. Jim Laurita died. “It’s really thrown the Midcoast into a spin.”

That it has, which makes remembering Hollister’s last trip to the area bittersweet. He, his wife and their two children were here in June when Hollister performed at, and for, Hope Elephants as a form of music therapy. The idea came from the facility’s practice of piping in classical music during feeding times, something resident pachyderms Rosie and Opal seemed to enjoy.

“It was amazing to me … Opal leaned down, picked up her food bowl and put it in front of me and ate while I played,” he said, adding that Laurita noted both animals seemed very intrigued by his shiny guitar.

A large part of Laurita’s efforts was to try out all kinds of therapeutic modalities with Hope Elephants’ retired circus animals in hopes that other caretakers might adopt those that prove to enrich the animals’ lives.

“I hope and pray that that will continue, with the passion of Jim,” said Hollister.

The Vermont-based musician’s passion is writing and performing music that encourages audience members to embrace the positive and make the most of their lives, so his draw to the animal rescue facility is a natural. What drew him to Hope initially was Jimmy Blanchette, a friend going back to the days when Hollister regularly played at the Sea Dog in Camden.

“We played all the Sea Dogs, probably 1996 to ’99, when Pete [Camplin] and his dad owned it. We had crazy after-hours parties, living the youngster life, and established some good friendships,” Hollister said.

He said he has always considered Maine “a really cool sister-state to Vermont.” He and his bar band played at Carmen Veranda in Bar Harbor, “Alive at 5” in Portland, were favorites on WCLZ and appeared at Longfellow Square.

“We’ve had a rich Maine history,” said Hollister, adding that when he put his five-man band together, he looked for “the best musicians in town — these guys can play rings around me.”

He described the larger outfit put together to play theaters like the Strand upping the ante; the nine-piece has three horns, pedal steel, mandolin, drums, two guitars and percussion.

Hollister still plays a lot of solo shows and will perform a solo set the night before on WCSH’s “207” program. He writes what he performs and has self-released six albums, with another sometime in the future. Of late, he has been releasing songs as singles; the latest is “Breathe,” which can be heard, along with trove of others, on broadjam.com.

“I jumped off the cliff years ago. I realized that if I was to make a career in music, I had to do it on my own,” he said.

That career has included opening for Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Paul Simon and other legends. These days, his playing is balanced with another career — being a husband and father. The video for “Grow,” a song likely to be heard Saturday night, include footage shot in his home of his wife Katie and their children (the latter literally slept through the final scenes). Vintage footage in the video comes from the 8mm movies made by his late father.

“That was a one-day shoot, a day I played a benefit for autism in Montpelier,” he said, adding that his wife, “who works as our school’s lunch lady,” is “amazingly supportive.”

Hollister said every concert is different, as he and the band mix and match songs to suit the occasion. The concert at the Strand will give a few nods to the Sea Dog days and he hopes to see some folks from back in that day.

“For sure we’ll play ‘Wake Up,’ which we always closed with there,” he said.

Hollister’s music ranges from gotta-dance tunes to contemplative ballads, but they all share a positive outlook. He said one of his favorite stories to tell about visiting the Midcoast is from one of the band’s first gigs, before they made friends to stay with.

“We were at the 7 Mountains Motel [in Rockport] and Jenny asked what kind of music we played. I said it’s rock, but with a positive message and good lyrics. She said, ‘Oh, it’s the GOOD rock!’,” quoting the motelkeeper in classic Maine dialect.

A positive message is what is needed these days. In talking about Hope Elephants and its founder’s untimely death, Hollister quoted the opening lines of his song, title track of one of his albums, “Life”:

“Treat the world

the way you want to be treated.

Seize the day

like you are needed.”

Tickets for the benefit concert are $40, available via the Strand box office; call 594-0070 or visit rocklandstrand.com. Thanks to event sponsors Allen Insurance and Financial, Dowling Walsh Gallery and Goose River Greenery, all proceeds will go to Hope Elephants — specifically to the Jim Laurita Fund. For more information about Hope Elephants and the Fund, visit hopeelephants.org.