History of the Liberty Summer Band

The Liberty Summer Band celebrated its 50th anniversary season in 2021 and is one of the oldest community bands in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

In 1972, Liberty High School’s band directors—Carl Prather, Gene Holt, and Jim Litch—were searching for a way to keep their students 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.

In 1974, a matching funds grant made it possible for the City’s Parks & Rec 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 on the historic Liberty Square.

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 themed concert, usually falling the week before Independence Day.

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). Two of the longest director stints came from Dr. Phil Posey (16 years) and Mr. Phil Schaefer (8 years), both retired band directors from William Jewell. The band’s current director Shane Fuller, will mark his 11th season leading the band during the 50th anniversary season in 2021. Fuller is the director of bands at Liberty North High School. 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 ten 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 have enjoyed the longtime sponsorship and support of the Liberty Parks & Rec Department, William Jewell College, and the band departments of Liberty Public Schools. Thanks to them Liberty Summer Band concerts have always been free of charge to the community.