History of the Liberty Summer Band
In 1972, Liberty High School’s band directors—Carl Prather, Gene Holt, and Jim Litch—were searching for a way to keep their players playing through the summer months. So they organized a band for high school students and returning college students to play weekly concerts throughout the summer. With a large number of instrumental musicians in Liberty, the group quickly developed into a community band. It is one of the oldest community bands in the metropolitan area.
A 1974 matching funds grant made it possible for the City’s Parks and Recreation Department to construct an amphitheater in Bennett Park, where the band played for 25 years. Since 1999, concerts have taken place at the Rooney Justice Plaza in historic downtown Liberty.
The Band gives four concerts each summer with rehearsals taking place the night before. The first three concerts of each season take place on Tuesday evenings in June. The final concert is a patriotic concert in early July in conjunction with the Liberty’s annual Independence Day celebration.
In all, there have been eight directors of the band. Six of them have been conductors at William Jewell College or one of Liberty’s high schools. The first director was Liberty High School band director Carl Prather (4 years). The two longest director stints came from Dr. Phil Posey (16 years) and Mr. Phil Schaefer (8 years), both retired band directors from William Jewell. Soon to become the third longest-serving director is the band’s current director Shane Fuller, director of bands at Liberty North High School. In 2018, he will mark his eighth season leading the band. Other directors include: Gary Love, Danny Watring, Jim Murray and Eddie Owen.
At the heart of the band are its 65-70 players from Liberty and surrounding communities. While they range in age from teenagers to senior adults, most players actively play with other ensembles throughout the year. More than half of the players have been in the band 10 or more years. Former player, trumpeter Ray Hossman, played with the band during its first 43 seasons.
Each concert features a concert host who introduces each musical selection with information on the story of the piece and its composer. David Fulk has been the concert host since 2008. Hosts prior to this were Steve Lager and Brandi Amos.
In 2013, the band was invited to play for the Missouri Bandmaster’s annual convention. The band and concert goers continue to enjoy the sponsorship of the Liberty Parks & Rec Department, William Jewell College, and the band departments of Liberty Public Schools. Thanks to these community partners, Liberty Summer Band concerts have always been free of charge to the community.