Gospel Train Big Band to hit high note for Salvation Army

The Gospel Train Big Band will perform a free concert next month to benefit the Salvation Army.

The performance, featuring big-band music of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 10, at the Salvation Army Gateway Church, 824 Union Road.

While the concert is free, those attending will be given an opportunity to make a financial contribution to the Salvation Army to help develop and support programs, services and activities for underprivileged children.

Tom Walker, organizer of the event, stated in a news release, “Everything we will do that night will stem from the swing band era of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. In the late 1940s, touring bands stopped traveling for two reasons — the expense of taking 20 musicians on the road and the introduction of rock ‘n’ roll. Four of the most popular bands in the country disbanded in the late 1940s and many that enjoyed the big-band sound have not had the opportunity to hear a live performance of this type in quite some time.”

Those attending also will enjoy the vocals of Walker’s wife, Marsha, who has been a professional soloist for the last 25 years.

Tom Walker’s parents were Salvation Army officers, so he grew up in the Salvation Army. He was born in Columbus, Miss., but moved with his family to Gulfport and Natchez as they took new appointments with the Salvation Army.

After graduating from high school in Mobile, Ala., Tom Walker attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received his undergraduate degree in music. During his time at USM, he played in the jazz band, which is where he began appreciating the big-band sound. He then completed his master’s degree in music at the University of North Texas in Denton and his doctorate degree in music from the University of Northern Colorado.

“I taught music for 23 years at Oklahoma State University, where I was professor of trombone, director of jazz studies, director of music technology and was associate dean,” he recalled.

He has performed and recorded with the renowned University of North Texas One O’Clock Jazz Lab Band as well as the 10-member jazz trombone ensemble Spiritual to the Bone that has recorded five CDs and toured Europe and Australia. He now serves as dean with the Division of Continuing Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is a member of the Salvation Army St. Louis Gateway Citadel Corps Band.

Tom Walker said bringing a big-band performance to St. Louis County is something he has wanted to do for years.

“It provides me an opportunity to blend my love for big-band music with my love for the Salvation Army,” he said. “There is nothing like doing something like this to benefit children in need. I appreciate the opportunity to give back to a program that has been so important in my life.”

The performance will be a blend of the big-band sound with some of the most-loved gospel songs of all time, including “Amazing Grace,” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Marsha Walker has given more than 1,000 performances as a musical-theater actress, been featured at civic and church events throughout the Southeast and has been a five-time artist with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Charlotte Phil-harmonic Orchestra.

For more information, call (314) 631-1133.