As Electric Prairie was finishing up the first set, there was a middle age woman in the front row with the biggest grin imaginable, laughing really. Nancy sat down with her at the break and asked what was so funny. She told Nancy that she had just proven that a fifty-year old woman could do anything she wanted to do. “When you told me you were going to form a band and start playing clubs, I thought you were nuts, but here you are.”
Actually Nancy Meis’s path to the stage of Homer’s Coffee House was a bit unusual. Nancy trained as an opera singer and received a music degree from Clark College in Dubuque, Iowa. She married a young attorney named Paul Wenske and they headed for New York City to stake their claim on the Big Apple. Nancy soon learned that the only thing she liked about being an opera singer was singing. Paul was also learning that being a lawyer wasn’t all that great either.
As Paul made his move to journalism, eventually becoming a columnist and feature writer for The Kansas City Star, Nancy joined the business world. She received a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Oklahoma and became a successful marketing executive.
She continued to love music becoming the managing director of a touring opera company. She worked in marketing for several arts organizations and played the krumhorn and recorder in renaissance band. She eventually became Marketing Director for United Press Syndicate.
Paul and Nancy moved to Kansas City where they raised their family in the suburbs. When their daughter, Alexis, began singing at the Overland Park Lutheran Church, Paul decided that he would join her on guitar. Not wanting to miss out, Nancy began singing too, and a family band was born.
Nancy remembers singing with an opera company as work. There were hours of practice, long rehearsals, and strenuous material, but all of a sudden singing was fun again. They discovered traditional music from Appalachia, and Irish and American folk songs. It was a thrill to hear how her and her daughter’s voices blended together. It wasn’t long before they added none-family members and took the name Electric Prairie.
Electric Prairie is a family affair. Now that Alexis is married with a family of her own, it is a great reason to get together and enjoy each other’s company and play music. They also enjoy the affirmation they receive from their fans. As Nancy says, “How many things can you do where immediately afterwards people come up at random and tell you what a good job you did.” Everybody needs affirmation, but few people are in a position to receive this kind of immediate gratification.
For Paul and Nancy, music is their creative outlet. The band gives them an opportunity to experiment with new sounds, new ideas, and try them out with little risk.
Since forming Electric Prairie, Nancy has been amazed at how their social life has expanded. They have met hundreds of people that they would not have met otherwise, including being invited to play at inner-city Gospel music festivals. It was through music that they are being exposed to whole cultures that they knew very little about before. Paul has even been inspired to produce a documentary film about Gospel music in Kansas City.
After Paul had a heart attach in 2001, the Wenske’s decided that they would do exactly what they wanted to do and that music was going to be a big part of their life.
Can a middle-aged woman, whose children are raised, start her own band and start playing gigs? Ask Nancy Meis.
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