Art Within Reach
Dispersed throughout 417-land is a buzzing art scene that is constantly evolving and growing.
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Musician, director, producer, teacher, Rockumentally.com. Photo by Kevin O'Riley
With a bachelor of fine arts in theater performance from Auburn University safely in his back pocket, performer, director and teacher Bucky Heard got his first series of gigs performing shows on cruise ships. While on board, he ran into established performers including Roy Clark (the host of the country variety show Hee Haw), Jim Stafford and Yakov Smirnoff, who kept talking about a showbiz Mecca called Branson. Finally in 1994, Heard and his then girlfriend A.J., who is now his wife, transplanted to Branson. “I thought it would be a short stay,” Heard says. “Now it’s been 18 years, and I’ve been able to do what I love.” Listed on Heard’s lengthy resume of musical ensembles are the well-known nine-piece horn band The Horn Dawgs and Retro, an ’80s cover band. His love of performing led Heard and his wife—a dancer and choreographer—to the Dance Branson School of Arts, where they work with the school’s owner Tonya Coker Rantz to teach everything from tap and jazz to musical theatre to dozens of students of all skill levels. In fact, the Dance Team Production number just won the national title from StageOne National dance competition.
Another project close to Heard’s heart is Rock U Mentally, a kids’ musical production that took Heard from performer to director. “When my little girl was born, I was exposed to hours of kids’ programming,” Heard says. “I’m a horn section guy, and everything my daughter was listening to and watching was synthesized. I decided to make a CD (titled Who You Are is Where It’s At) with songs that would make a difference. None of that Barney stuff and ‘I love you, you love me.’” With a repertoire of songs dedicated to kid-friendly material and stocked with a horn section to boot, Heard next wrote a script and transformed the CD into a musical. Rock U Mentally is now being pitched to the masterminds of kids’ programming at Disney and Nickelodeon in hopes of taking the show from the stage to the TV.