When a school of music also contains a live-performance venue, it’s an indicator that the lessons stick. Such is the case with the Columbia Academy of Music, where private practice rooms sit just steps from The Bridge, a club accustomed to welcoming musical talent from down the street and around the country. A stage within range of instruction can inspire even the most stage-frightened students to step into the spotlight, where they’ll get the hands-on, feet-on stage experience that renders books worthless.
The academy’s tuneful staffers are no strangers to this kind of public performance—some instructors have shared the stage with the likes of Chuck Berry, Sting, and Hank Williams III—but many also are experts in what goes on behind the music. In lessons tailored for all ages, skill sets, and music-making manners, the school strengthens the confidence of budding musicians in once-a-week sessions. Instrument instruction infuses students with techniques across a range of musical genres; audio-production and engineering courses teach students how to make solid records and tolerate most singers’ misguided requests for more Steak-Umms in the monitor.
At Valley Speedway, locals gather around the racetrack to watch ULMA late models, Show Me Vintage racers, A-mod cars, and street-stock vehicles compete in open-wheel racing. Races take place on Friday and Saturday evenings and, unlike most parent-teacher conferences, welcome family members of all ages. After gates open, fans can nab eats and drinks before they settle into their seats. Those who prefer a more hands-on approach to high velocities can also register as a driver or take classes at the speedway.
At Sideshow, people dance to music from DJs and live acts, sip from glasses filled with one of more than 20 beers, and play games such as pool. Sideshow's daily specials fuel merrymaking and include such deals as the Saturday Friction dance party, with $5 A.B.C. doubles and $4 long island iced teas, $2 Tuesdays, a celebration of the traditional start of weekend with $2 well drinks and domestic bottles, and Ladies' Night on Wednesdays. Twist and wheel across the open dance floor to a wide variety of DJs and live musical guests, with upcoming performers including gypsy rockers Vagabond Swing on December 1 and the indie group Scouts on December 9. Guests reserve relaxing time-outs in the VIP Blue Ribbon Room lounge, or challenge each other's ability to clobber shiny spheroids at one of the pool tables.
In its nine years as a professional theater company, the Maples Repertory Theatre has expanded its production schedule from three to six full-scale shows, as well as staging occasional cabaret concerts. "No one really expects a town the size of Macon to support professional theatre," says Artistic Director Todd Davison. "We are proving that great theatre is valued by people even if they don't live in a metropolitan area." The company produces its shows at the historic Royal Theatre, named because of the moat that once encircled the VIP seats. Built in 1889, the intimate, 400-seat venue was originally an opera house and underwent an extensive renovation in the 1990s.
From June to November each year, a cast of actors, directors, and designers descends upon Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre to produce eight celebrated shows, many along the lines of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Music Man. The cozy, unassuming theater has been welcoming performers for more than 50 years, staging renowned productions and Broadway plays to the delight of theater fans and comforters that aspire to be stage curtains.
In August of 2009, the five women who founded the St. Chux Derby Chix found themselves on the wrong side of the Missouri river. In search of a local roller derby league to join—but unwilling to drive or quantum leap over to St. Louis—the women decided to start their own league. Through word-of-mouth, the news spread quickly, and soon, female competitors from across the county were signing up. By December, the St. Chux Derby Chix were born. From young professionals and college students to moms with college-aged kids of their own, the Derby Chix roster steadily grew. So much so that they now have enough players to field two teams: the Pack in Black and Helles Belles. Both clubs compete at Matteson Square Garden, where fans of all ages are invited to kick back and watch the fast-paced action.