Tiger musicians visit ‘Music City.’

November 30, 2021

Shelby Band students, under the direction of Erin Ray, perform outside of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. -Contributed photo

Tiger musicians visit ‘Music City.’

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

SHELBY — Shelby High School band and choir students had the trip of a lifetime when they visited the “Music City” — Nashville, Tennessee.

The action-packed trip included performing outside the iconic Country Music Hall of Fame and a jazz combo recording at RCA Studio B.

 A total of 56 band students, 12 chorus students and 20 chaperones loaded onto charter buses and headed south, Nov. 18. The group returned Nov. 21 after the whirlwind adventure.

“The itinerary was pretty packed,” said Shelby Band Director Erin Ray. 

“When we arrived that evening after having dinner at the hotel, we went on a haunted tour in downtown Nashville.” The tour provided insight into the town’s fascinating history.

A group photo outside of the Grand Ole Opry.
– Cotributed photo

The next morning, the musicians prepared for their concert at the Country Music Hall of Fame and toured the facility. 

Thomas Verrier from Nashville’s Vanderbilt University provided the concert band with an educational clinic. Verrier is senior band conductor and director of wind ensembles at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music

“We’re hoping to perform one of the pieces he gave us at the clinic at our festival coming up in March at MSBOA (Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association). So, it was really beneficial.”

The group enjoyed dining and touring music venues and shops. They visited the famous Grand Ole’ Opry and toured the historic Hermitage, learning about seventh US President Andrew Jackson. 

The Shelby Jazz Band had the unique opportunity to record at Studio B. Built in 1957, RCA Studio B became known as the birthplace for the “Nashville Sound.” Ray was pianist with the band, playing on a piano that Elvis Presley played for a majority of his recordings there, she said.

The Shelby group had dinner at the Wildhorse Saloon, which is Nashville’s premier line dancing venue. “There were these giant statues of horses everywhere. They were also able to do some line dancing.”

Ray, who is a 2014 Shelby High School graduate, said she is honored to “carry the torch” for retired Shelby Band Director Curt Isakson. Long-time director Isakson took the band students on many trips including the most recent journey to New York City in 2019. 

The students have a two-year payment plan to fund the trip, she said. Assisting with fundraisers and volunteering with events helps pay their expenses. Ray said she is working on finding more volunteer opportunities and scholarships for kids, so that eventually there will be 100 percent participation. “I want to make sure all of them have that opportunity.” The high school band includes about 70 students.

Ray is already working with Shelby Choir Director Gustavo Morales on next year’s trip. They will announce the destination next spring. This year was the first year that the chorus students joined the band on the trip, and they will continue to be involved in future expeditions.

On the final leg of the trip, the bus carrying the instruments broke down about an hour south of Shelby on a back road near Muskegon, said Ray. The other bus drove back to Shelby to drop off the passengers and returned to the break-down location, where it was loaded up with instruments to take back to the school.

The musicians made it home safely and likely mesmerized by the musical experience. 

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