On September 16, 1986, country music legend Randy Travis performed at the Colony Theatre in Marietta, Ohio, just as his career was taking off. Almost 30 years later on Thursday September 15, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., Travis will return to the stage of the present-day Peoples Bank Theatre. Travis will not be performing, due to a stroke he suffered three years ago, but he will make an appearance to be honored and enjoy the show. Chuck Lipps, VP of Rick Modest & Associates, was a member of the opening band The Breeze at the 1986 show and opened many others for Travis from 1987 through 1997. He has continued his friendship with Travis over the years and is very proud that RMA could put this show together.

The show will feature The Randy Travis Band with special guest vocalist Kevin Denney. Opening the show will be two former members of the Breeze, drummer Lipps and bass guitarist Ron Bevan, along with lead guitarist Dave James and steel guitarist Gary Carter. Carter was in Travis’s band at the 1986 show.

“To come full-circle almost 30 years to the date in the same venue is historic and certainly a part of country music history for Randy, myself, and the theatre’s executive director Hunt Brawley,” Lipps says. “From 1986 CMA Horizon Award winner to 2016 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Randy has cemented his place in country music forever, and part of it started right here.”

Having Travis there in person is a miracle in itself. In July, 2013, he suffered a heart virus followed by a stroke that left him unable to sing. But with his intense therapy and determination, he has made great strides and “giant baby steps” in his abilities in the past three years.

“I was fortunate to visit with Randy this past December and again in May, and I saw improvement over that time,” Lipps adds. “His wife, Mary, is his rock. I truly believe he will sing again. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor him. He’s a big reason I’m still in the music business.”

Rick Modesitt & Associates is producing the show, and all proceeds will go to the newly established Randy Travis Foundation for Viral Cardiomyopathy Detection, Stroke Rehab and Music for Underprivileged Children. Tickets will go on sale at noon on August 24 at peoplesbanktheatre.com and at the Box Office: 740-371-5152.

All Esbenshade Series performances are free and open to the public. Beginning August 22 you may reserve your seats for free at https://peoplesbanktheatre.com/events/category/esbenshade-series/ or call the Peoples Bank Theatre Box Office at 740-371-5152. Subscribe to our email list to be notified when reservations open.

For anyone who hasn’t attended an Esbenshade Series performance at Marietta College in recent years — or if you have — you should be in for a real treat this year as the schedule is filled with exciting acts.

Musical acts are the driving force behind this year’s five events — four of which will be held at the new Peoples Bank Theatre in downtown Marietta — including Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, as well as the Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling.

“We have an exciting line up of performers for the 2016-17 season,” said Tanya Wilder, Director of the Esbenshade Series. All performances are free and open to the public. Reserve your seats for free at peoplesbanktheatre.com or call the Peoples Bank Theatre Box Office at 740-371-5152.

The 36th season begins with author Kao Kalia Yang on Friday, September 16. She will give a lecture to the freshman class at noon, meet with international students and education majors later in the afternoon, and then give a 7 p.m. lecture for the community in the Alma McDonough Auditorium.

Yang is a teacher, public speaker and writer. She is also the author of the award-winning book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir and the book, The Song Poet. She is a graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her family.

The rest of the Esbenshade Series performances will take place at Peoples Bank Theatre, beginning with Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn at 3 p.m., Sunday, October 9. Fleck has been called one of the world’s premiere banjo players. Fleck was raised in New York City and love watching The Beverly Hillbillies as a young boy. The bluegrass sounds of Flatt & Scruggs flowed out of the TV set and into his young brain. Earl Scruggs’s banjo style hooked Béla’s interest immediately. Fleck’s wife, Abigail Washburn, is a well-known Nashville-based claw hammer banjo player. Abigail and Béla are touring the world as a “trio” with their young son, Juno.

Gavin George, a 13-year-old piano prodigy from Westerville, Ohio, will close out the fall semester with a concert at 3 p.m., Sunday, November 20. George was a gold-medal winner in 2010 and 2011 in the American Association for the Development of the Gifted and Talented International Piano Competition, and he performed twice in Carnegie Hall. He made his orchestral debut at the age of 7 and is hailed as one of the world’s most talented up-and-coming pianists.

The Esbenshade Series returns in the spring semester with The Shaolin Warriors from China, known throughout the world for their deadly martial-arts prowess, at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 5. Beginning at a very early age, the Warriors are trained in mental and physical disciplines that allow them to perform stunning, spectacular feats of athleticism. This wonderfully colorful and choreographed theatrical production features many forms of Kung Fu.

The final performance of the 2016-17 season features the famous jazz sounds of Branford Marsalis & Quartet, along with Kurt Elling at 7 p.m., Sunday, April 23. Marsalis formed his own quartet in 1986 and, with a few minor interruptions in the early years, has sustained the unit as his primary means of expression. Elling is a jazz vocalist, composer, lyricist and vocalist.

In part, these events have been funded by the Frederica G. Esbenshade Memorial Fund, which provides annual income for the purpose of bringing lectures, performing artists or programs of diverse nature to the campus for public appearances. The endowed fund was established in 1980 by Harry H. Esbenshade, Sr. and Harry H. Esbenshade, Jr., husband and son, respectively, of the late Mrs. Esbenshade of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. All events are free and open to the public.