At a meeting, music can be much more than background noise. It can energize tired travelers, inspire fresh thoughts and ideas, cement friendships among previous strangers, create memories and soothe tired travelers.
Local music can give people a greater appreciation for a place and its people. By tapping into local talent, meeting destinations help meeting planners find the right music for the occasion. Here are a few examples of how convention and visitors bureaus have helped make music part of meetings and events.
School bands roll in Little Rock
Remember the days when arriving at the airport was a big deal? Friends and family, waiting and waving, thrilled to see you? The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau brought back the excitement of arrival a few years ago during National Travel and Tourism Week. It recruited the Mabelvale Elementary 2 Cold Drum Line to play as tourism industry reps welcomed arriving passengers at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. It’s an idea that could be duplicated for arriving convention goers. The CVB and state tourism department also put another school band in the spotlight a few years back during a Travel South conference event at the Clinton Presidential Library. The energetic Little Rock Central High School marching band greeted arrivals. It was a reminder of the continued vitality of the historic high school, where the nine Black students who became known as the Little Rock Nine integrated the school in 1957, propelling the civil rights movement forward.
Fifes and Drums add a Colonial kick
During the Revolutionary War, the shrill trill of a fife and steady beat of a drum were more than music. Fife and drum corps’ tunes telegraphed essential battle information to troops as far as a mile away. Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums, which was created almost 65 years ago, can be booked to add a Colonial kick to any meeting or event. As they play authentic 18th century melodies, teenage boys and girls march in red waistcoats, tan knickers, white knee socks, buckled black shoes and navy tricorn hats. Many who have played with the Fifes and Drums returned several years ago for a 50-year reunion. “When we marched down Duke of Gloucester Street, every window rattled and we shook the whole town,” said one of the alums.
Soothing sounds bathe spirits in Asheville
In Asheville, where it’s always easy to find yoga and granola, a 45-minute session of sound healing is a New Age way to start or end a day of meetings. Billy Zansky, owner of Skinny Beats Drum Shop, is the maestro who weaves together the soothing sounds of crystal bowls, gongs, harps and other instruments to create a soundscape that calms the mind and boosts the spirit. He can do sessions for up to 30 people at his shop or on site. Practitioners say the meditative melodies ease anxiety, depression, stress and even pain. Or, for a more rousing rhythmic experience, the Asheville CVB can help plan a gathering at one of the city’s many live music venues, including its best known, the Orange Peel. Legends including the Black Keys and Bob Dylan have played there. Although it can handle more than 1,000 people, the venue still manages to feel like an intimate performance space.
Local connections strike the right chord
Having connections to the community constantly pays off for the Hampton, Virginia, CVB. In 2019, it worked with the city, the National Park Service and a special commission to plan music performances for a four-day event that celebrated the 400th anniversary of the first landing of Africans in English North America. The CVB booked university, high school and church choirs, including the 60-person choir from the city’s oldest church. The bureau keeps handy a list of 20 or so DJs and local musical talents. But it can easily go beyond the list, reaching out to local contacts for other options when a meeting planner needs specialized music. For instance, the Association of African American Museums, which held its annual conference in Hampton in 2018, wanted a blues band to play at one of its evening events. The CVB suggested local band Bobby Blackhat, which the crowd loved.
In Macon and Branson, music tops the charts
Music is front and center in Macon, Georgia, and Branson, Missouri. Macon birthed Capricorn Records, the Allman Brothers Band, Little Richard and Otis Redding, and its musical prowess hasn’t dimmed. The city has a wealth of bands and cool stages for performances. For example, when the Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College came to town, the Macon CVB brought in bands to play for the group outdoors at iconic sites, including the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House and Society Garden, a chill beer garden. Meanwhile, Branson’s more than three dozen musical theaters give planners a plethora of stars and future stars to pick from for event entertainment. The CVB there has helped groups book former American Idol contestants to sing the National Anthem for convention openings. Among the possibilities: Luke Menard (Season 7) and Ellen Peterson of Petersen’s Family Bluegrass Band (Season 17). Or, from America’s Got Talent, the Texas Tenors and the Duttons.