This week, 31 Mabel-Canton students in grades seven through 12 are in the middle of a fun and educational four-day trip to Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.

"I want to encourage students to broaden their skills and to have a cultural experience," said Mabel-Canton band instructor Katie Larson. "Nashville is just so rich in music...everything from country stars to rock and roll stars like Elvis Presley started out in Nashville...."

Larson added that she felt the rich musical history would serve as inspiration for students. She was looking forward to having her students see music performed live and to get involved.

"To actually live the music is so different from learning about it in a textbook," she added.

The group departed Mabel late Monday night for their four-day trip. They plan to return late Friday night. Trip highlights will include the Grand Olde Opry, The Country Music Hall of Fame, the RCA Studio B (where Elvis recorded some of his songs), Graceland (Elvis Presley's home), the Ryman Auditorium and the Tennessee capital.

"We are going to see just about everything we can see in four days," Larson added.

The group will also take an opportunity to perform pep-band tunes Wednesday morning at Vanderbilt University for Dr. Dwayne Sagen, who will offer the group critiques of their performance.

"He is going to give us critiques back and help us improve our sound, (he will) work with the students and hopefully inspire them to practice over the summer," Larson said.

While the Mabel-Canton band has gone on trips before, this is the farthest reaching trip the group has ever taken. If it goes well, Larson said they hope to offer the trip every few years to give each student the opportunity to participate during their high school career.

"I just want kids to really experience the culture. I think it is so different in other parts of the United States. We can go and experience and live the music," Larson concluded.

While students raised their own funds both together and individually, the Mabel and Canton American Legions along with Greg Davids Insurance have made donations to the trip.

The students will be arriving back in Mabel late Friday night. Check next week's News-Record for trip photos and quotes from the students who participated.