BY LARRY BLOCK –
As a part of The OLT Regional Musicians Series, Saturday night, August 31, at 7:30 PM, popular Hot Springs-based singer, Laura Lee Williard, will bring a live performance to the stage of the Ouachita Little Theatre (OLT). Accompanied by local percussionist, Larry Block, she will perform a combination of songs made popular by well-loved entertainers including Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, U2, Leonard Cohen, Lefty Frizzell, and others, including songs she has written herself.
Williard took violin lessons for several years in grade school before teaching herself the guitar at the age of fourteen. With a melodic, yet surprisingly powerful voice, singing came naturally to her as a child, and as she grew older, she sought to emulate the vocal style of her hero, Joan Baez. Along the way, she also developed the underrated, yet invaluable talent of harmony singing. She has received professional voice instruction, and also developed an interest in, and proficiency at, the wonderful cowboy art of yodeling. She developed a strong foundation in folk music prior to discovering Bluegrass in 1990. In her strong alto voice, she found she could hold her own in the late-night bluegrass jams around the fire in the campgrounds of the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas.
She has proven particularly adept at entertaining young audiences, and has successfully performed for preschool audiences and toddler play groups in Kansas City, as well as coffee houses, art openings, holiday parties, and as a street musician in Seattle. She has also been sharing her musical talents with nursing home residents since 1997. Most recently, she was accepted by the Arkansas Arts Council, as an Artist-in-Education. In this, she has successfully blended her professional background of education, instructional design and child psychology with her music, to offer workshops and residencies to enhance the educational experience in Arkansas schools.
“If there are some younger members in the audience, I might start with a fun children’s song “Chicken Lips & Alligator Eyes” to get everyone laughing together, Williard said. “If the audience is a little more senior, I do an easy-to-listen-to ballad like “Roseville Fair” by Bill Staines and a few more older traditional songs like “In The Pines,” Banks of the Ohio,” “Freight Train,” and then bring in some more contemporary selections, and even a few gospel songs the audience can sing along with, and I do some contemporary pop songs that younger folks might be hearing on the radio like Mumford & Sons’ “Make This Place Your Home,” she went on to say.
Tickets are $10, $8 for students and seniors, 60 and over, available at the door at 6:45 PM, and by advance reservation at (479) 243-0186. For more information visit www.oltmena.com.