SHERIDAN — Whether it inspires a person to dance, sing, laugh or cry, music digs deep to reach listeners, and seeing performances live only enhances that experience. Now, the Wyoming Arts Council is helping to broaden the borders of Wyoming independent music and provide opportunities for both presenters and artists.
The Independent Music on Tour program was created through a partnership of the Wyoming Arts Council with the Western States Art Federation to bring more, diverse live music to rural parts of the state and to help Wyoming artists branch out beyond the state’s borders. Twenty-five Wyoming artists or groups have been selected to participate in the IMTour’s inaugural year.
Among those 25, three are located in or close to Sheridan; Dave Munsick and the Little Big Band, The Two Tracks and Tris Munsick and the Innocents.
Wyoming Arts Council Community Development and Independent Music Specialist Danee Hunzie said through the IMTour, two types of grants will be available. The grant money, which is available to nonprofit presenters, comes from various state arts councils, as well as WESTAF funds. The first grant is for Wyoming-based presenters to bring more live music to rural areas.
Hunzie said presenters interested are responsible for the logistics of the event, such as planning and advertising. The grant allows the applicant to take in-kind donations, such as a venue or marketing space, while taking the financial pressure off the presenter.
“The beauty of this grant is there’s not a grant match required,” Hunzie said, “which means that for a lot of these more rural communities and places where we haven’t seen a lot of live music, there’s an opportunity for them to host.”
The second type of grant available for nonprofit presenters is for those outside of Wyoming. This regional grant gives Wyoming independent artists on the roster an opportunity to tour outside of the state and gain exposure by helping with the funding.
“So there’s kind of like two purposes; one is to book music in Wyoming, to create that ecosystem here to create live music…” Hunzie said. “The second piece is to get musicians outside of Wyoming to share their talent, to grow their audience base, which will hopefully lead to more gigging and touring opportunities for the musicians in the future as well.”
Tris Munsick is one of the lucky musicians.
He has been playing music with his dad Dave and his brothers, Sam and Ian, since before he hit his teen years. Now, the IMTour is practically a family affair as both Tris Munsick and the Innocents, which includes his brother Sam, and Dave Munsick and the Little Big Band were chosen as part of the program’s kickoff lineup.
“It’s pretty awesome obviously to be involved in this program with my dad,” Tris said. “Maybe it’ll end up leading to some more opportunities to play together, which are kind of few and far between these days.”
While the foursome just played its annual show at the WYO Theater as The Munsick Boys, with Dave in Sheridan, Tris in Dayton, Sam in Banner and Ian more than 1,000 miles away in Nashville, the whole family doesn’t get many chances to jam together.
Tris and the Innocents has played primarily in Wyoming but Tris said they’ve ventured to the Dakotas, Colorado and Montana. He said he thinks the IMTour program will help the band get over the hump of just playing the Western states, allowing the Innocents to travel to where a fan base isn’t yet established.
“So I think for our band at least,” Tris said, “that’s the main benefit of this IMTour is to kind of break into some new markets and some new venues that participate in this program and maybe being able to travel a little further.”
Tris said he thinks the Innocents and other artists like them, who have goals to hit the road and travel are the type of musicians the IMTour is aimed at. He said The Two Tracks also fall into this category.
“They do a great job. We’ve played with them quite a few times,” Tris said. “They’ve really been hitting the road pretty hard as well, so I think it’ll really be beneficial for those guys too. We’re proud of them as well, definitely.”
Tris’ dad is also looking to widen his music’s reach with Dave Munsick and the Little Big Band.
A New Mexico Old Time Fiddler’s state champion, Dave Munsick said he’s evolved to be more of a singer/songwriter. He said his songs tell stories about places, people and times and he’s excited by the prospect of “singing his stories to new ears.” With seven CDs under his belt and a chapter of his life closing, Dave said the IMTour had perfect timing and aligned with his goals.
“I’ve been somewhat under the radar the past few years as I’ve been working as a teacher,” Dave said, “and am now retired and trying to get my music out to other ears outside of Sheridan County. So that kind of fits right with what I’m trying to do now.”
Musicians are on the roster for a year before they have to renew, Hunzie said. She said this was done to keep information fresh and updated, and once the IMTour’s website launches in the spring, more musicians can apply to join. The IMTour website will then serve as a booking website.
Hunzie urged any interested parties to contact her directly, as she said talent reaches far beyond the 25 artists on the list.
“We know that there is so much talent in this state and this is such a small snapshot of this talent,” Hunzie said. “So this is just the beginning of opportunities for presenters for venues, for musicians and for other folks in the industry.”