The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022

In the jungle…the mighty jungle…

There is a first time for everything, and that time is now!

Van Wert Live and the Van Wert Civic Theatre proudly announce a collaboration that puts the region’s most talented performers on the Niswonger Performing Arts Center Stage. For the first time ever, the Van Wert Civic Theatre will command the Niswonger stage in their production of Disney’s The Lion King Jr., a live experience that will captivate the audience at 7:30 p.m. January 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 23.

The African savannah will come to life with Simba, Rafiki, and an unforgettable cast of characters as they journey from Pride Rock to the jungle… and back again.

So why is this special and how did this unique opportunity come to life? The pandemic challenges of the past couple of years provided the perfect environment to look at new ways to work together to drive organizational missions forward for the benefit of community and culture. The Van Wert Civic Theater and the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation, support missions that complement one another. Each organization has the same key ingredients to fulfill their efforts – a product, a stage, and an audience.

The Van Wert Civic Theater curates its own product with a talented pool of regional performers while the VWAPAF engages outside artists to perform on a Van Wert Live stage. By working together, the Van Wert Civic Theatre provides the product, made possible by regional talent, Van Wert Live provides the Niswonger stage, and we both work together to sell tickets and build an audience. With a title as exciting and colorful as Disney’s Lion King Jr, coupled with the proven artistic acumen of The Van Wert Civic Theatre, ticket sales have proven as hot as the Sahara!

Mary Ann Falk, Board Member of the Van Wert Civic Theater, shared how this collaboration grew into a reality.

“What if VWCT did a youth show in January?” Falk pondered. “What if we used the NPAC stage to perform one weekend with greater audience capacity? What if we went as big as we could? This is how community theatre begins…with an idea.”

“No show is ever cast before it is publicized. Lion King Jr. was selling tickets before it had a cast. We send the call to the community and hope someone shows. Until November, Lion King was just an idea. Now it is a living, breathing show created by youth, families, and volunteers from right here in our community.”

So what should the audience expect from this monumental Van Wert Performing Arts first? We turn to experienced VWCT Director Doug Grooms to share about the electrifying performance that awaits us?

“When I dove into this production of Lion King Jr., I had a fairly clear overall vision for how I wanted the final production to look and how the process might work to bring this production to the stage,” Grooms said. “The best parts of this production, however, are the elements that have been added and enhanced through the creative collaboration with the performers and adult volunteers. When we are in a place where we feel that we belong and are safe to explore, risk, and make mistakes, we are all at our best. When we can work together to share ideas and craft solutions, we are all at our best.”

Tickets are available now at from only $10. You will be amazed at how fun it is to celebrate our young performing artists. The VWCT and the Niswonger Stage may be the door to opportunity for young artists, but it’s certainly an avenue to adventure for our audience.

POSTED: 01/18/22 at 1:47 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Country royalty coming to Van Wert…

Chicks With Hits, a country music lover’s dream concert, features a trio of 90s country superstars including Suzy Bogguss, Terri Clark, and Pam Tillis. Tickets are on sale now for their performance presented by H.G. Violet Equipment at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. March 10. With 36 top ten singles between them, the audience will be singing along to their favorites all night!

Although each has achieved personal career success, the artist with country royalty roots is Pam Tillis. She is best known for some of her hits such as Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life) and Tomorrow’s World. The daughter of well-known country singer Mel Tellis, Tillis first entered the show biz at the tender age of eightーwith a performance of Tom Dooley on the Grand Ole Opry Stage Concert in 1965. Singing and performing music through the years, she eventually released her debut single, “Every Home Should Have One” when she was twenty-four. Although the single was not a commercial hit at the time, it would act as a kick-start to her professional singing career.

Pam Tillis

Carrying on with her music, she continued to release a number of records during the 80s including, Killer Comfort (1983), Love Sneakin’ Up on You (1983), Goodbye Highway (1984), One of Those Things (1985), Those Memories of You (1986), amongst several others.

Since then, Tillis has released well over fifty singles and albums throughout the years including the 90s hits, “Shake the Sugar Tree” (1992), “Romeo” (1993), “Cleopatra Queen of Denial” (1993) and “Let That Pony Run” (1993). A celebrated country singer-songwriter, Tillis has received many awards over the years for her contributions to music such as a Music Row Award of the Year, a Country Music Association Award for “Female Vocalist of the Year, a Country Music Television Award for “Top Female Video Artist” as well as a Grammy Award for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals” for her work in the collaboration, Same Old Train. In addition, she has also received many award nominations including two for the Grammy Award.

Pam Tillis fell in love with music at an early age. Band, chorus, talent shows, church, and the creative community of Nashville all helped to shape the young singer. Growing up, Pam was in a variety of bands, spanning from jazz and alternative country to top 40. She sang demos and lent her voice to many national jingles including Coke, Country Time Lemonade, and a Coors Silver Bullet with country superstar, Alan Jackson.

At the same time, Tillis worked as a staff writer for Elektra Asylum Publishing and later took a job writing for Warner Brothers Publishing, which resulted in her songs being recorded by some of the biggest names throughout all genres of music, including artists like Chaka Khan, Juice Newton, Dan Seals, Gloria Gaynor, Conway Twitty and the top ten “Someone Else’s Trouble Now “for Highway 101.

Pam has performed on the stages of Broadway in New York, modeled on the pages of Glamour Magazine, and is a proud member of The Grand Ole Opry. Some of Pam’s most memorable award moments are being a three-time CMA award winner including the prestigious 1994’s Female Vocalist Of The Year Award, and being nominated multiple times for Grammy’s Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1993 for “Maybe It Was Memphis, in 1996 for “Mi Vida Loca” and in 1998 for “All The Good Ones Are Gone”. Pam is also proud to be a 9-time Academy of Country Music Award nominee, a two-time Grammy award winner and six-time Grammy nominee, and an American Music Award’s nominee. Most recently, Pam has celebrated an IBMA award win in 2004 for Recorded Event Of The Year “Livin’ Lovin’ Losin’” and most recently a 2012 IBMA Song Of The Year nomination for co-writing, Dale Ann Bradley’s “Somewhere South Of Crazy”.

Though Pam has rolled easily with the tides and has drawn something from every new twist the ever-changing country music world has shown her, Pam Tillis has always insisted on writing and cutting songs that speak from the soul. The results have been records that emanate an almost painful beauty. With more than 30 singles charting on US Billboard charts, 10 studio albums including her favorite, the critically acclaimed 2002 “It’s All Relative” (a tribute to her father, the great Mel Tillis), and 3 other releases “Rhinestoned”, “Recollection” and “Just In Time For Christmas” off her own label, Stellar Cat Records. In 2012 Red River Entertainment released ‘Dos Divas’ a Country Duo album with fellow superstar Lorrie Morgan under the name Grits and Glamour.

Whether it’s on the elaborate stages of the Grand Ole Opry or in the intimate setting of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert, you will experience that feeling of delight that comes from Pam Tillis singing exactly what she is meant to sing at that moment. Stay connected with the American country star, by following her Twitter at @pamtillis or on her official Facebook page at @pamtillis. More information about the Chicks With Hits concert can be found at

The stars have returned to the Niswonger stage. Each performance is like writing yet another page of our musical history as we work our way to over 300,000 entertained!

POSTED: 01/11/22 at 10:10 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

A New Year…

It’s 2022 and the entertainment in Van Wert is fresh and new! 

Blue Man Group has released for sale and has proven to be in great demand with ticket buyers from around the region securing their seats for this May 8 performance. 

Popularity is certainly a consideration when programming shows at Van Wert Live venues. In order to make Van Wert an entertainment destination by providing experiences that are so good they demand a return, we must first begin with market demand. What we’ve found over the years is when a patron has a positive experience on a show they know they will enjoy, they are more likely to purchase tickets for an event that is a bit outside of their entertainment tastes. It is because of this desire and willingness of patrons to open their entertainment repertoire that we can present international touring orchestras in Van Wert.

Such an orchestra is The Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra who will make a rare visit to the Niswonger stage as part of their first United States tour at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 22. The program will include Beethoven’s, Overture to Egmont, followed by Greig, Piano Concerto, and closing with Brahms, Symphony No 4. The Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in December 1944. Its beginnings go back to numerous chamber and solo concerts given by musicians who after World War II established ties within Poland. The repertoire and artistic considerations, as well as the joy of making music together, led to a premiere chamber music concert, held on February 10, 1945 in the hall of the Music Society. 

The Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center February 22. Photo submitted

The Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra has gone on many concert tours but this is the first tour to the United States. They have performed tours in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Germany, South Korea, Denmark and Ukraine and were acclaimed both by the critics and the public. The orchestra participated in numerous international festivals and Franco Ferrara Conductors’ Seminar in Siena. The Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic is the largest music institution in eastern Poland. It is visited not only by local music lovers, but by cosmopolitan Polish and international patrons alike who seek art of the highest quality. The Philharmonic offers symphony concerts, recitals, organ and chamber music soirées performed by the most prominent Polish musicians and internationally acclaimed artists.

It is our hope that this rare opportunity is greeted with the artistic interest that the Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra is deserving. This performance is the perfect opportunity to share the arts with a friend without the necessity of traveling to an urban environment to satisfy the craving for a cultural adventure. Van Wert Live is pleased to bring extraordinary talent right to you in 2022!

POSTED: 01/05/22 at 9:20 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

What’s Blue And New?

Last week, Van Wert Live along with presenting sponsors, Jim and Mary Pope, announced that the stage sensation Blue Man Group will perform at the Niswonger on May 8. If you’ve ever heard or seen the Blue Man Group perform, you know its members march to the beat of their own drums and pipes! The performance-art trio debuted in 1991 in Manhattan when creators Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink produced the multimedia show. The original act involved making live art, playing musical instruments, and even involved food.

Over the years, the act has evolved into one of the most popular, and eclectic live shows not only in New York, but around the world. What makes the Blue Man Group distinctive is the appearance of its members (bald, blue heads, and stark, black clothing), how they create musical instruments with PVC pipes, and what they use on stage to create moving pieces of art.

So they’re blue, they play music, they’re popular – but why? Here’s all you need to know before you go.

How does the Blue Man Group make music? It takes a special kind of talent and creativity to take plastic piping and be able to turn it into something that makes music. But, that’s exactly what members of Blue Man Group spend hours experimenting with and perfecting. Recently, the group allowed Insider a peek into its studio to learn about how the team pulls things together (or even sometimes breaks them apart) to develop its signature sound.The drum bone is one of the group’s mainstay instruments. To the untrained eye, it looks like a couple of pieces of twisted plastic that aren’t overly complicated. However, looks can be deceiving, according to Blue Man Group’s sound engineer Andrew Schneider. “It basically has five notes total, but it takes three of them to play it,” he told Insider. The audience will also experience the Big Drum and the Paint Drums that when played display a rhythmic explosion of colors.

The Blue Man Group is coming to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center May 8.

What is Blue Man Group All About? At a Blue Man Group show, you’ll rock, laugh, and party. As three bald and blue men explore our world, together we’ll discover music, comedy, and surprises at every turn. By the end of this spectacular journey, you’ll be saying “I don’t even know what just happened but I loved it.”

What language is Blue Man Group performed in? Blue Man Group performances are euphoric celebrations of human connection through art, music, comedy, and non-verbal communication. Since the Blue Men don’t speak, Blue Man Group is universally appealing to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds.

What is the poncho section and will I get wet sitting there? During the Blue Man Group performance, materials sometimes splatter off of the stage. We call this “The poncho section,” because we provide disposable plastic ponchos for audience members to wear if they prefer. You will not get “wet,” but you may be splashed with materials. All materials are washable, but we suggest you wear your poncho and comfortable washable clothing that does not need dry cleaning.

In all, there are 70 Blue Men who have visited over 25 countries, used 18,000 buckets of splashed paint, and broken 23,000 drumsticks.

Blue Man Group – Hard to Describe. Easy to Love. Over thirty-five million people of all ages and cultures know what Blue Man Group is really about. Now it’s your turn to experience them LIVE in Van Wert! Over 300 tickets have sold as part of the Member Pre-Sale. General Sales begin on Tuesday, January 4. Anyone can become a Van Wert Live Member for as low as $100 and access early ticket buying. Find out more about the colorful world of live entertainment at

POSTED: 12/28/21 at 1:41 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Farewell 2021…

The curtain closed on the final Niswonger show of 2021. 

The Texas Tenors provided a perfectly pleasing reminder of why they have returned four times to entertain a Van Wert audience who adores them. With the Saltzgaber auditorium filled to nearly sold out status, there were smiles for miles as The Texas Tenors enthralled with harmony and humor and a promise to once again return. These very talented gentlemen have become like family to our staff and our audience. The realization that relationships are part of the live entertainment experience is worthy of reflection.

No matter what show you choose, the adventure is always different – Who is on stage, who sits beside you, how the show makes you feel – every show is unpredictable in its ability to form a memorable story. And that is the intangible richness of live entertainment. Part of the sheer excitement is the very nature of the unknown. 

The Texas Tenors wrapped up 2021 performances at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Photo provided

The most common statement shared by patrons when departing is, “Wow! I had no idea I would like it so much.” Looking out upon the full house on Saturday was the sweet realization that we are remembering just how much we like it. Live entertainment is alive in Van Wert and it is inspiring and uplifting lives. We are grateful for each customer and the relationships that we have built over the nearly 15 years of savoring experiences together from the Niswonger stage.

This week, we announced yet another national touring act to the dynamically changing Van Wert Live roster. Blue Man Group will burst on the stage on May 8 and deliver an adventure like no other. You have to see it to believe it. 

Blue Man Group joins a line-up of events that includes two nearly sold-out shows of Girl Named Tom, Broadway’s An American In Paris, Michael Bolton, Country hitmakers Suzy Bogguss, Terri Clark, and Pam Tillis in Chicks With Hits, Peter Noone, an adorable furry dog named Scooby-Doo, and so much more! Gifting entertainment is giving an adventure that is unpredictable and has the power to create lasting memories that live on and on. 

I’m forever grateful for the influences in my life who valued the forever gift of live entertainment and provided a treasure trove of experiences that made me hungry for more!

From the VWAPAF Board and Van Wert Live Staff, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and an adventure-filled 2022. We look forward to making more memories with you!

POSTED: 12/22/21 at 4:03 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Broadway! It’s a Big Deal

Just what is Broadway? Is it a type of show or a place? As its name would suggest, Broadway is a wide street in New York City that stretches the entire length of Manhattan. Broadway is the oldest north-south street in New York City and existed as a path traveled by American Indians long before Europeans arrived. Today, there are many famous landmarks and sites along its several mile length but one small stretch comes to mind when most people hear the word “Broadway.” The stretch between 42nd and 53rd streets, including Times Square, that is considered the home of the American theater industry.

Broadway is coming to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in February.

The famous Theater District section of Broadway is also called “The Great White Way.” This name reflected the fact that Broadway became one of the first streets in the U.S. to be lit with electric lights making it possible for millions of lights on theater marquees and billboard advertisements that added energy to the electrifying environment.

The Theater District is home to 40 large professional theaters that each seats 500 or more people. They feature an ever-evolving variety of productions, including plays and musicals. Each year, the best Broadway shows are awarded Tony Awards.

Broadway shows are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City becoming an annual ticket grossing industry of over $1 billion annually. Shows that are popular and profitable run for several years. Shows close when they stop drawing new audiences and become unprofitable. The longest-running and most profitable musicals in Broadway history are The Phantom Of The Opera (1988 – present), Chicago Revival (1998 – present), Cats (1983 – 2000), Les Misérables (1987 – 2003), The Lion King (1997 – present), A Chorus Line (1975-1990), Oh, Calcutta! (1976-1989), Mamma Mia! (2001-2015), Beauty and the Beast (1994-2007), Wicked (currently playing at the Gershwin Theatre), Rent (1996-2008), and Jersey Boys (2005-2017).

Thankfully for our rural audience in Northwest Ohio and beyond, production companies take Broadway shows on tour. Venues across the United States clamor for the opportunity to make deals on Broadway tours with some of the brightest and best talent dancing their way onto stages on any given night. The Niswonger Performing Arts Center is one such venue. Our 1200 seat house competes for a single or double production date which makes it a challenge to compete with markets who can sit a show down for a week. The deal-making process looks like this: the rider outlining all production, tech, hospitality, and covid requirements is scrutinized by the Van Wert Live Team to identify all expenses. The largest expense is the IATSE Crew that works under the guidance of Hugh Saunier, VWLive Technical Director, to build and remove the lavish sets. Once expenses are identified, sponsors are engaged and ticket scaling is set. This takes into account what the market can afford. Sponsor dollars are essential in off-setting ticket prices as their investment goes 100 percent toward show expenses. Now the decision rests on marketing assumptions – Is there enough demand for this show? Is it priced in a way that the market can afford? If either of these questions is “No,” there is no show.

Broadway returns to The Niswonger with the classic American In Paris at 7 p.m. Saturday, February 12. Romance! Adventure! Gershwin! Who could ask for anything more? Filled with the music of legendary composers George and Ira Gershwin, this four-time Tony Award-winning masterpiece will delight our Northwest Ohio audience who can get a taste of the Big Apple right here at home.

Gifting Broadway is the perfect way to take advantage of the unique opportunity to experience quality live performances without the travel. Simply visit

POSTED: 12/14/21 at 12:24 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

A triumphant return…

It’s back and more than classical music fans are elated! Van Wert Live and the Van Wert County Foundation are pleased to present Handel’s Messiah at First United Methodist Church in downtown Van Wert at 7 p.m. Sunday, December 12. The doors will open at 6:15 p.m.

Admittance is free thanks to the financial support of The Saltzgaber Music Fund of The Van Wert County Foundation. In keeping with the tradition of Handel’s original performances, a free-will offering will be received with proceeds given to local food banks.

It’s one of the most famous and widely shared pieces of music in history. Handel intended his oratorio “Messiah” for Lent, and it was first performed just after Easter 1742. But over the centuries, public performances of the masterwork became a rite of Christmas because of the sheer beauty of the music. Only the first third of the work was about the birth of Jesus. The second act covers the death of Jesus and the third focused on his resurrection.

George Frideric Handel’s Messiah burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience recorded at 700 was made possible by ladies heeding the pleas by management to wear dresses “without Hoops” in order to make “Room for more company.” Handel’s status was not the only draw; many also came to see the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then caught up in a scandalous divorce.

Handel’s Messiah will be performed at 7 p.m. Sunday, December 12, at First United Methodist Church in downtown Van Wert.

The men and women in attendance sat mesmerized from the moment the tenor followed the mournful string overture with his pointed opening line: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Soloists alternated with the chorus, until, near the middle, Susannah Cibber recited: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” So moved was the Rev. Patrick Delany that he leaped to his feet and cried out: “Woman, for this, be all thy sins forgiven thee!” This goes to show that talent paying clemency for sin is nothing new to today’s culture. I certainly cannot promise this same type of public penance at our Van Wert performance.

In most of Handel’s oratorios, the soloists dominate and the choir sings only brief choruses. But in Messiah, the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages. For those attending the Live performance in Van Wert, under the Direction of seasoned Conductor Paul Hoverman, you will experience this dynamic delivery of the composition.

Handel’s compositional accomplishments even prompted Mozart to confess to being humbled in the face of Handel’s genius. He insisted that any alterations to Handel’s score should not be interpreted as an effort to improve the music. “Handel knows better than any of us what will make an effect,” Mozart said. “When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”

Handel’s Messiah is a biennial staple of Van Wert culture thanks to the generosity of The Van Wert County Foundation, the management of the VWAPAF presenting Van Wert Live events, and the musical expertise of Paul Hoverman, Choir Director at First United Methodist Church.

If you are seeking a performance that will evoke the sentiments of the reason of the season, don’t miss this mesmerizing performance as gifted by professional soloists and our very own regional talent. “And He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!”

POSTED: 12/08/21 at 10:43 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

A Christmas rock extravaganza…

Lights will illuminate the Niswonger stage as the large twelve-piece ensemble of progressive rock’s Wizards of Winter comes to life at 7 p.m. this Sunday.

The audience will be transported away on a magical musical journey, with the live performance of The Christmas Dream, a collection of original, holiday-themed songs.

If you’re into Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Broadway musicals, Christmas music, and Rock N’ Roll, this is a performance that will surpass your expectations. The Wizards Of Winter have been brightening up the Christmas season since 2009. The band, comprised of members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Ted Nugent’s band, Blue Oyster Cult, Def Leppard, Styx and others blend together to deliver an energizing Christmas experience that will be long remembered.

“Screaming guitars, vocal armies, dramatic original, neo-classical music, and a unique story: It’s a Broadway-flavored rock opera with strong visuals, snow, and an appearance by Mrs. Claus,” founder, keyboardist, and musical director Scott Kelly said.

This New Jersey-based ensemble has been touring for over a decade bringing their masterful talent to theatres and performing arts centers. Yes, It’s been a decade since The Wizards of Winter were formed a “one-time thing” to raise money for a struggling Frenchtown, New Jersey food pantry.

“It was the height of the recession, 2009,” Scott recalled. “The lines at the food pantry were getting longer, while the shelves were growing empty. My wife [vocalist/flutist] Sharon and I, along with another friend, Steve Ratchen, got together for a benefit performance. At the time, we had no intention of becoming a permanent band. The show was so successful, however, that one show became two shows, which became five and then 10 shows.”

In the beginning, the band covered Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music and played traditional Christmas songs. When it was decided that The Wizards of Winter would become an annual tradition, however, Scott decided to compose original music. As for why he decided to forgo covering traditional, time-honored classics, Scott is boldly honest.

The Wizards of Winter will take the stage at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. this Sunday.

“Christmas music is eternal,” he said. “A lot of the holiday hits have been around since the forties. If you develop a holiday album and it contains a couple of classic tracks, the album is going to enjoy a long life. The average hard rock or metal album is forgotten soon after its release. Unless you are a diehard fan, you will never listen to that music again.”

Yes, this band creates original music. Their songs, however, are not completely devoid of holiday classics. Often, the band will tease snippets of Christmas favorites.

“I don’t know if anyone has ever used part of the Handel’s ‘Halleluiah’ chorus during a metal song,” the keyboardist laughed. “Part of the melody from our song ‘Handel’s Torch’ was inspired by the holiday favorite ‘Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella.’ I changed the timing of the original music and then mixed it with Handel’s Messiah. Sometimes, our songs are a mashup of traditional songs that Fred lays all of these guitars over.”

The Wizards of Winter are proud that they attract a mixed audience of children and adults. They are also ecstatic when they recognize returning families who have made experiencing the band’s shows a yearly tradition.

“It’s incredible watching people aged eight to 80, singing along with our Christmas songs,” Scott said. “It is a cool, often surreal feeling. We end the show with our own arrangement of ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.’ The lights go up, people stand and start to sing. It’s an emotional moment even for us and we have been doing this forever. It hits you right in the throat.”

“When you are thousands of miles from home and you look out onto the audience and see people who know your music – your songs – and they are anxious to see you perform and then meet you, it is an amazing feeling,” explains Fred. “And, as a musician, it is a feeling you long for when it stops.”

The current line-up boasts an impressive pedigree. Gaynor and drummer John O’Reilly were both Trans-Siberian Orchestra members. Bassist Greg Smith played with Ted Nugent. Singer Karl Scully performed with Irish Tenors. And Steve Brown, in addition to playing with Trixter, has toured with Def Leppard. But their shows are more intimate than those performed by TSO, Manheim Steamroller, and other holiday-themed ensembles. Steve believes this is partly the result of playing in smaller theaters and not large arenas.

“Having played everywhere from large arenas to performing arts centers, I can say that at smaller venues, there will be awesome acoustics. You will hear this great musicianship and great vocals,” Scott said.

Ciao Med Spa is is proud to present this Van Wert Live Christmas masterpiece 7 p.m. Sunday at the Niswonger Peforming Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased at

POSTED: 11/30/21 at 11:16 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Holiday gift idea…

We are still basking in the afterglow of a very awe-inspiring Denver And The Mile High Orchestra concert last Sunday evening at the Niswonger.

With every live concert experience, the Van Wert Live Team remembers our “why.” Everyone is coming off of a year of struggle and division. Witnessing the power of live entertainment to transform an ordinary evening into a shared experience to remember is what we are here to deliver. The Niswonger Performing Arts Center patron represents a large region.

On any given night, nearly 45 percent are from Van Wert County. Approximately 25 percent travel from Mercer and Auglaize Counties. Our friends from Allen County represent 10 percent. While our audience from Paulding County continues to grow. We are experiencing an increase in the return of Indiana patrons from Decatur, Berne, and Fort Wayne. At any given performance, the community surrounding the stage takes on different demographics but for two hours of time is united, forever bound together by the memories of those moments.

Gift cards for upcoming shows at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center are now available.

Two concerts remain in 2021, The Wizards of Winter, a Trans-Siberian Orchestra style experience at 7 p.m. Sunday, December 5, and The Texas Tenors at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December.

The beautifully decorated Niswonger lobby, richly appointed by our Visual Arts Committee (Linda Mechling, Verona Eikenbary, Cara Apperson, Janice Kirchenbauer, and Mary Minnig), and live lobby entertainment warmly welcome our guests. The Niswonger Performing Arts Center has been a destination for Christmas entertainment for the past 14 years. The return of live entertainment has revived the nostalgic environment that has served as the backdrop of treasured family moments for many families near and far. This year, both a new rockin’ Christmas performance and one popular stage favorite remain to make Christmas memory-making complete.

Tickets to a show always make a smile glow. But if their entertainment style you just don’t know, gift cards are a no-fail gift to bestow. Van Wert Live gift cards can be redeemed for tickets at both the Niswonger and The Grandstand. Gift cards are available in amounts that fit everyone on your gift list and budget and can be purchased online at or through the Niswonger box office from 12-4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 12-6 p.m. on Friday.

Please note, the last day to purchase from the box office in person before Christmas is Wednesday, December 22. The good times are still on the way in 2021. Get your tickets for some holiday fun!

POSTED: 11/24/21 at 4:29 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Big Band sounds…

Denver Bierman is bringing his Big Band, Denver & the Mile High Orchestra to the Niswonger stage at 7 p.m. this Sunday thanks to Presenting Sponsor JoAnne Wolford. This concert kicks off the Christmas season at the Niswonger with a setlist that harkens back to Big Band favorites mixed in with Christmas and Gospel. The house will be hopping this Sunday night in Van Wert.

We took a moment to catch up with Denver Bierman to learn more about the Band Leader and his Big Band. When asked who his greatest musical inspiration was, Denver shared an eclectic range of artists that set the tone for his musical style.

“Obviously, Glenn Miller is a legendary classic, and when I was in high school some of that music was my absolute favorite,” Bierman said. “I’ve also loved Harry James and his band, as well as Louis Armstrong. But I would say some of my most heavy influences have come from crooners that came later in the 50s and 60s and even more recently.”

“Frank Sinatra is my all-time favorite, Harry Connick Junior has been my hero since I was 14 years old. Nat King Cole, and I really enjoyed Michael Bublé and even the rockabilly styles of Louis Prima and Brian Setzer. Each one of those artists and their bands have provided massive influences on the sound of our band,”

Denver And The Mile High Orchestra are a uniquely positioned Big Band that cover jazz, gospel, swing, and more. We had to know from Denver, is there any music that’s not part of your repertoire?

“One of the things I love about Music is that as you’re beginning to write a song or an arrangement, it is a completely blank canvas,” Bierman. “I absolutely love taking songs that people have heard one specific way, and painting an entirely different picture of that music. I would say most things are definitely fair game, I don’t think you’re ever going to hear me rap, but beyond that, I would definitely say if it’s got a catchy melody, it’s definitely fair game.”

Denver Bierman and the Mile High Orchestra will be at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center this Sunday. Photo submitted

Denver And The Mile High Orchestra presents a show that is appealing to a mass audience of all ages. How do you craft a show to exchange such varied age groups and tastes?

“Living in an age where entertainment has become more fragmented and much more age and demographic-specific, there are very few entertainment entities out there that do transcend generational gaps,” Bierman said. “I think naturally it just started happening for us in the beginning. We would have grandparents that grew up on big band music that loved being at the shows, we would have adults who would come because it was the style of music that they grew up hearing in their homes when they were children.”

“The one group I never ever expected to resonate with our music were little children. We would have parents bring their little kids to our shows and they would be running up and down the aisles, they would come over to the side of the auditorium and just dance the night away. I was so shocked to see two and sometimes three generations in the same family coming to our concerts together. They may have each enjoyed different songs specifically, but when I realize that families were naturally coming to our shows I tried to develop a show that would be for the whole family. That there would be a little bit of everything for everyone.”

What is it about performing during this time in history that means something special to you?

“I have always wanted to use music as a vehicle to encourage people” Bierman stated. “I’ve always wanted our music to be something that could be an encouragement to families. In a world that is sometimes so difficult and complex and hard, I want our music to be one of the few things that a family can come together and enjoy a couple of hours being renewed, inspired, and encouraged together as a family unit,”

Van Wert Live is honored to showcase Big Band music from the Niswonger stage of inspiration. Don’t miss this opportunity to be blown away by the outrageous musical talents of Denver And The Mile High Orchestra at 7 p.m. this Sunday. You won’t regret it!

POSTED: 11/15/21 at 8:38 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment