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Musicians keep up skills with limited performances in Pratt

Kylee Hopkins
Pratt Tribune
Allison Kirby (left), Kahrie Stegman (middle) and Grace May (right) pose for a picture after performing in Pratt Musical Expressions concert December of 2019. [File photo]

Despite months of the coronavirus pandemic, Pratt Musical Expressions still displays the love of music and talent in community members through simple Sunday afternoon performances at the All Saints Episcopal Church.

COVID-19 has shut the doors of many business and organizations across the nation, but Pratt Musical Expressions is lucky enough to continue a seven-year tradition of local musicians coming together to share their love of music. 

Led by director Duane Hanks, founder of the the group, Pratt Musical Expressions’ most recent concert was a small and socially distanced event on November 8 that featured 2020 Pratt High School graduate Kahrie Stegman, who sang for limited attendees.

Prior to that, several local performers took to the stage on Sunday, July 12, 2020. Despite being in the heart of the pandemic, the program was full. With eight performers and an audience of about 30 people socially-distanced, there were those in attendance who said the concert was one of the best ever performed.

Brandon Wade, choir director at Pratt High School and one of the regular performers for Pratt Musical Expressions said the concerts were an important part of his life.

“I am super thankful that the Episcopal Church and Duane Hanks opened the doors to allow musicians of any age in Pratt and the surrounding areas, to perform music that you normally wouldn’t hear,” Wade said. “As a musician who spends most of his time teaching others how to perform and play, it’s fun to keep my craft sharp.”

According to Hanks, the first performance occurred on the snowy afternoon of February 24, 2013, and this first concert for Pratt Musical Expressions was held at the All Saints Episcopal Church. 

“The way it started was that piano there,” Hanks said. “I purchased that piano from a local church for $150 and I spent a year rebuilding it and about $1,500. When that was done, we brought it here [All Saints Episcopal Church] and so then we had a nice instrument to use for a concert series.”

That first concert had a collection of seven local musicians who shared their talents. Local musicians performed all types of music ranging from vocal southern gospel hymns, to a piano solo of a Guns N’ Roses ballad.

Many more concerts followed, featuring many different types of music, as well as many different performers. But always, the  main goal of Pratt Musical Expressions is to bring musicians together and allow them to make connections with other local musicians. They work on and share their skills with others.

“I think over the years if I added them up, I would have probably a few dozen different musicians involved,” Hanks said. “I think that at our peak, our concerts were getting about 60 to 65 people at a concert.” 

From the beginning Hanks publicized events by having people give him their email if they wanted to be informed or their text number, or however they prefer to be contacted. He said that some people even preferred to be contacted by mail. He provide a space for that information on the concert program for name and contact information.

“I think that I have met my goal very well,” Hanks said. “Some musicians really, really, appreciate it -- who have become regulars and they just love doing it. They like having the opportunity to perform, and I have seen people who keep their instruments up and they practice more. Sometimes they will tell me what pieces they’re working on, so I know they are looking forward to it.”

Nancy Kerr, a regular performer for Pratt Musical Expressions, said Pratt Musical Expressions provided a wonderful opportunity for both performers and attendees. 

“As a performer, I welcome the chance to prepare and perform musical selections that can represent music from opera to folk music,” she said. “Every concert showcases the talent found in our community.”

The concerts are always on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. and they normally last to 4:45 p.m. with refreshments served afterwards. 

“Pratt Musical Expressions has fulfilled its purpose of bringing musicians together to create and perform music for each other as well as for an audience to enjoy,” Hanks said. “We did the first one as a concert and have been doing it ever since.”

For more information about Pratt Musical Expressions, contact Duane Hanks by email at blackkeyglissando@gmail.com.