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Graceland Bands are Branson Bound!
Panoramic shot of Branson Landing; photo courtesy of Frank Perez

Graceland Bands are Branson Bound!

Graceland’s Symphonic Band and Jazz Band will be heading to Branson for the coming weekend (April 4-6).

The trip, one that Director Frank Perez hopes will open up more opportunities in the future, is the first one of its kind for Graceland in around seven years.

On the trip, Graceland Bands will be performing at various venues throughout the city, gaining practical, professional-level performance experiences along the way.

The weekend will start early on Friday morning, when band students will load up and travel to the Show Me State’s most show-filled site.

Exterior of Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater; photo courtesy of Frank Perez

Exterior of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater; photo courtesy of Frank Perez

Later that day, the Symphonic Band will open for “Legends in Concert” at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, a professional-level show whose tickets cost around $40.  Not only that, but the Symphonic Band had to be accepted to play there, as well, earning the right after submitting a video of October’s concert.

On Saturday, the Jazz Band will perform on the outdoor stage at Branson Landing (pictured above), a waterfront shopping and entertainment destination in the city.  Later that evening, the Jazz Band will be performing a mostly different show as the opening act for “Made in the USA” on the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake.

The Bands will also be staying and watching both the “Legends in Concert” and “Made in the USA” shows, following their opening acts.

Sunday, the Bands will have a concert, made up of selections from the weekend, for the Community of Christ congregation at Branson.  (The service will be at 11:00 am, there will be an alumni lunch at 12:00 pm, and the concert will begin at 2:00 pm.  Alumni can RSVP for the noon lunch via alumni@graceland.edu.)

After this concert, the Bands will be returning to Lamoni.

The plans for this trip have been in the works for some time.

When Perez was first hired (five years ago) there was a plan to go on a similar tour.  However, complications arose and made it impossible.  Hope was not lost, however.

The Music Department, as a whole, developed a plan for expansion a few years back, which included a traveling tour component.  The hope is that, eventually, Graceland ensembles of all sorts will be able to tour nationally and internationally in the near future.  The tentative plan, as it stands, would have a different ensemble touring nationally each year, with an international tour of all ensembles happening every four years (so each music student, at some point in her or his time at Graceland, will have the opportunity to perform abroad).

Perez polled a handful of students about which regional destinations would be good starting places.  Chicago, St. Louis, and Branson were suggested, with Branson ultimately being selected.

Perez happened to meet a former band director at an Iowa Bandmasters Conference who works for the touring company BrightSpark, and the two became friends.  The pair discussed ways to help each other, and eventually Graceland’s Shaw Center was selected to host high school musical workshops and BrightSpark became the touring company of choice for Graceland’s Bands.

(Last year, thanks to this partnership, Graceland hosted a band workshop in the spring, and later this year the Shaw will be the site of a choir workshop.  These hosting opportunities, aside from helping students to better their musical skill, also serve to promote and advertise Graceland to more prospective music students.)

Funding the Branson trip has taken some planning.  Thanks to the Lamoni Pizza Hut’s fundraiser nights, Graceland Bands were able to raise money on March 13th and March 26th, working to help them meet their $18,000 goal.

Donors have also stepped up to provide for the trip, and the Development Office was noted by Perez as being especially helpful, too.

Despite initial difficulties, however, Perez is confident that the program will grow as students come back excited, happy, and motivated.

If you see a band student, wish him or her luck on the Branson trip, and look forward to hearing more upon the Bands’ return!

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Jenna Pitstick

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