WASHINGTON — It’s not every day that high school kids get to put on a Broadway style show in their own auditorium. It’s also not every day that those same high school kids from a small southern Indiana town better known for its athletic prowess than anything get to perform with a Grammy nominated and top rated musical group out of Branson, Mo.
On Friday night, the possibility of being on stage with the Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band that was hand selected by Louise Harrison, George’s sister, will become a reality for students involved in the Washington High School band.
About 18 months ago, The Liverpool Legends and Louise Harrison started “Help Keep Music Alive,” a program that pairs high schools across the country with the musical foursome to earn funds for music education. So far, about 50 shows have been put on.
“Before the program was started, we’d have student groups come to Branson and open shows for us,” said Marty Scott, who portrays George Harrison. “We thought afterward, wouldn’t it be great if we do something to help the schools.”
Each participating school is provided the music charts for the Beatles songs so that students can learn the music before the full length concert. “Everyone knows these songs and a lot of times, the kids don’t think they know the songs but they do,” said Scott.
The Liverpool Legends will perform the first half of the show and the high school band will participate in the second half. The concert will cover early Beatles music all the way through the Sergeant Pepper era.
“This is not a high school production. This was voted the top show in Branson and people will be able to come here, to Washington, Ind., and see this great show at a great price,” said Scott.
The local show has already drawn concert-goers from several hours away including Carl Wagonblast from Merrillville, Ind.
“It’s just an awesome, awesome show. I first saw the legends when they were playing in local county fairs around 2007,” Wagonblast said. “It was just like being at a Beatles concert. The guys in the group are just awesome and so personable. They work so well with the kids.”
Wagonblast and his wife will make the four hour and 20 minute trek from Merrillville with a group of friends.
“We are going to leave home early, drive down and grab something to eat and watch the show then head back home.”
Every aspect of the show is just as it would be if the performance was taking place in Branson but the students will get to work with technology and lighting crews as well.
“Our tech crew worked the stage for Journey and our lighting people have worked on cruise ships. They are all very good and show the students the ropes,” said Scott.
“It has been widely reported and proven that music is the one perfect way for humans to communicate and relate to each other regardless of culture or the part of the world they live in,” said Louise Harrison.
“My brother and his pals instinctively knew this and joyfully used music to unite in many ways all the people or at least all the people that would listen. This is part of why it is really important to keep music alive in schools.”
So far, Harrison and Scott have said that students who have played the group have had a very positive experience. “They walk away knowing they have been part of something positive and full of joy,” Harrison said.
“For me,” Scott said, “it is so fun because the kids don’t know what to expect when we (the band) gets to the school. We tell them, Okay, we are doing a rock and roll show here so forget everything your teacher has told you!’”
Music programs are seeing major cuts in funding and many schools’ programs have been either cut or drastically reduced but “Help Keep Music Alive” isn’t just about raising money to support music programs.
“We can’t change the world. We just want to do something for someone,” said Scott. “Maybe we will inspire a kid to go into music or the arts and if we do, then it’s all worth it.” Harrison added, “I hope they (the students) will each take this with them as a lesson for how to deal with all of life’s problems with peace, love and music.”
Harrison, 82, who is quite active in the Liverpool Legends and just returned with the band from a touring event in Israel, said both her “mum” and dad were the original “Beatle Boosters.”
“They not only supported the lads but also answered thouands of fan letters, telling me, ‘It is our responsibility as family to give back the love.’”
Both Harrison and Scott encourage students wanting to pursue music as a career to work hard and apply themselves, and never give up. Most importantly they said, “Only do it because you love what you are doing not to get rich. Rich has nothing to do with lots of money.”
The concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Washington High School auditorium. About 200 tickets remain for the event and can be purchased in advance for $25 by calling 254-1598. Tickets will also be available at the door for $30.