Live in Nashville

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Sixty-five students of the West Liberty High School band and choir traveled March 15-19 on a performance tour to Nashville, Tenn.

While in Nashville, students made several public performances, recorded two live pieces at Third Man Records studio, and experienced the sights, sounds and culture of the Tennessee capital.

The tour featured several educational opportunities for students to learn about the music industry. On Thursday, students participated in clinics at Vanderbilt University with Dr. Dwayne Sagen and Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, receiving feedback and critique to improve their performances.

Choir director Nathan Shivers described how Dr. Biddlecombe’s approach to working with the choir resonated with students.

“He put music in the kids’ terms, and I was really impressed by his knowledge of both choral and popular music,” said Shivers. “His comparison between what is happening in the pop music world and our concert literature was great.”

The band and choir also recorded a live-to-vinyl single at Third Man Records, owned by Grammy-winner and White Stripes front man Jack White. In the coming weeks, each student will receive a 45 rpm vinyl record with their joint performance of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Singer-songwriter James Dean Hicks, who has written hit songs for Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, and others, led students through a songwriting clinic at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Hicks helped the group through the process of creating, singing and recording their own original country song.

Each ensemble also performed for the public at iconic venues throughout Nashville.

The choir performed several a capella pieces from the balcony in Ryman Auditorium, one of the oldest performance venues in Nashville and the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Band students performed pieces including Flourish For Wind Band and Kentucky 1800 from the terrace in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In addition to musical performances, the trip included time for students to learn about the culture of Nashville. The group enjoyed the southern sunshine while visiting Centennial Park and the Parthenon, a full-size replica of the Greek Landmark, and learned about the history of country music during backstage tours at the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry.

Of course, no trip to Nashville would be complete without live, authentic country music performances.

Students attended a Friday night performance at the Grand Ole Opry, featuring performances ranging from new singer-songwriters to legendary country acts.

“There were 80-year old stars singing and playing guitar or banjo, right along with these new young performers,” said Shivers. “The thought that we are teaching these kids a lifelong skill is really powerful.”

On their final night in Nashville, the group visited the infamous Wildhorse Saloon for an introduction to line dancing and a night of live country music by local artists.

Students returned home on Sunday morning following a 10-hour bus ride. As they exited the bus with sleepy smiles, it was clear that the memories they made on tour will not soon be forgotten.
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