The Garland Opry presents toe-tapping family entertainment every Saturday. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. with a local or touring country band followed by open auditions. Two of the Dixie Chicks and LeAnn Rimes started their musical careers on the wooden stage in downtown Garland, on the northeastern boundary of Dallas.
"We're very family-oriented," says Joni Boyer, "and it's a great place for young talent." Boyer is treasurer of the nonprofit Garland Country Music Association, which prides itself on helping young and old performers develop stage skills.
Lately, the volunteer music organization has been on rocky shoals because its one paid employee, Jaree Brasher, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. She scheduled the music for nearly two decades.
"We're all helping out, but Jaree is so important to the success of the organization," Boyer says. Brasher has begun chemotherapy and helps out by e-mail. An April 14 fund-raiser will, in turn, help her: "Half of the money goes to Jaree and half to the Opry," Boyer says.
The Garland Opry began 32 years ago as a place to share songs and experiences. For three years the organization has rented the bottom floor of a 109-year-old building. The front windows of the 180-seat auditorium look out over a small park that was the town square when cotton fields separated Garland from Dallas.
Every year starting in mid-April the Opry conducts a 16-week talent search. The audience selects weekly winners by secret ballot. The finals are held Aug. 19 at the Granville Performing Arts Center in Garland. The top performer takes home the $1,000 prize; second- through fourth-place winners earn cash, too.
"We really try to make the kids feel at home," Boyer says of the musicians and singers trying to climb the performing ladder. "It takes a lot of guts to get up there onstage. That's a pretty tough first step. We want to encourage every effort."
The Opry's reputation for helping young talent largely arises from Brasher's promotional efforts. "Jaree built a relationship with the parents and the performers," Boyer says. "She has the passion for the music. The Opry's her baby, and the kids are her family."
Danny Brasher, Jaree's husband, also takes a strong role in helping the performers learn the ropes. As the leader of Silverado, the Opry's house band, he acts as stage manager and gently coaxes timid first-timers through the nuances of working with a band.
"He makes them feel comfortable, and the kids really look up to him," Boyer says.
The Garland Opry is at 115 N. Sixth St. (at West State Street). There are a couple of restaurants in the area, and the theater sells snacks and soft drinks. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children and seniors. Everyone must have a ticket, even the audition contestants. Performers should sign up before the regular performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Talent Search is the Opry's biggest annual fund-raiser. Hopefuls can download an entry form from the Web site (www.garlandopry.com). Contestants must advance through four rounds of performances to reach the finals. The contest is open to all ages.
The benefit for Jaree Brasher and the Opry will be held at 7 p.m. April 14. The concert with regular Opry players and special guest will be held across the street from the Opry hall at the 350-seat Plaza Theater. Tickets are $8 for all ages with a silent auction after the show.
For more details about Opry events, call 972-494-3835 or visit www.garlandopry.com.
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