Springfield, MO teenager spends senior year on tour with Tony Orlando
It’s Captain Sibley’s last year of high school, but he doesn’t spend time in a classroom.
The Springfield senior is learning online, exclusively, with the intention of graduating mid-year, a semester earlier.
Captain needs maximum flexibility as he is frequently on the road, playing electric bass in Tony Orlando’s tour band.
“I am really, really grateful for everything I have been blessed with recently, regarding this circumstance,” he said. “I’m grateful for everything – for this opportunity.”
The multi-instrumentalist, who is the son of two musicians, grew up surrounded by music.
Her father is well-known local musician Nick Sibley – who writes jingles, performed in Nick, Ruell and Ned The Band, and is a member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Her mother, Tina Sibley, plays violin and piano, is involved in local theater, and has taught orchestra at Kickapoo High School for three decades.
Captain said he learned his first ukulele song when he was 9 years old. In college he got serious about the cello and later the electric bass.
“I wanted to join an orchestra because my mom was an orchestra teacher and I played bass on a song when my dad was playing at McSalty’s (restaurant) and so the group director at Jarrett (college) thought I could play bass and I couldn’t, ”he recalls.
“They needed a bass player for a jazz band and I could kind of pretend on bass but I really couldn’t play so I told him I could. So that spring I had learned.”
More confident, he became a member of a group called the Minnows made up of classmates he had known from his days at Rountree Elementary. They played concerts locally.
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Captain knows how to play guitar and piano, but he keeps coming back to cello and bass. At Parkview High School, he was part of a marching band, jazz orchestra, advanced orchestra, choir and youth symphony.
He performed, performed in shows at Springfield Little Theater, and was hired to perform in the orchestra pit for shows at various high schools.
He walked away from those commitments and chose to go online completely during the pandemic, spending more time arranging and composing music.
The captain said both parents influenced him deeply, but in different ways. His mother plays with precision and urges him to read music. Her father prefers to “fly by the seat of his pants”, thinking and writing quickly.
“I am able to read (music) which gets me called out for a lot of gigs, but I’m also able to improvise and that helps if something goes wrong,” he said. “I know what to do. I can think on my feet.”
As a little boy, Captain met Tony Orlando, who has been performing since the 1950s and is known for his hits “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” and “Knock Three Times”.
“He’s the nicest man in the world. I love him, you know,” he said.
Orlando opened a Branson Theater in the early 1990s and tours regularly, often making stops in Las Vegas and along the East Coast, where he grew up.
The singer-songwriter has a band on tour, but his longtime bassist and guitarist were unavailable for two concerts in late August.
Orlando turned to Nick Sibley, who has already replaced and agreed to take one spot and had an idea on how to fill the other.
“He said ‘Come down and listen to my son,’” Orlando told the News-Leader, admitting he was skeptical.
“Out of respect, I come down like ‘This young man can’t have a catalog of old songs. He’s never worked with a crazy artist who doesn’t follow a set list. How is he going to do that? ‘”
Orlando listened and agreed that the captain was good but “was playing very deliberately, probably out of nervousness.”
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The performer invited the teenager to accompany his father to concerts in New Jersey and Long Island and suggested that he bring his bass and work on some of Orlando’s hits. But, no promises were made.
“I had about five days to learn a bunch of songs. I mean, like, two hours of a show,” Captain recalls. “And it’s all improvised. You never really know what song is going to be called.”
The captain was hoping that if things worked out he could take the stage and perform for a song.
Things changed quickly on the East Coast.
From the scale, Orlando got a call from musicians and longtime collaborators Toni Wine and David Orlando, his brother. They were playing songs with Captain.
“(Toni) calls me and she says, ‘I’ll put your brother in a minute but this kid can play.’ She said ‘Tony, he’s ridiculous. He’s awesome,’ “Orlando recalls. “And my brother said ‘Brother, don’t even worry. This kid has it.'”
Orlando, convinced by Toni and David, invited Captain to play the whole show. It is a decision he does not regret.
“I’ll tell you how (good) he is. Number one, I turned and winked at him, gave him a thumbs up. Second number, third number, better than ever. Incredible, ”he recalls.
“This Harry Potter-looking musician, handsome, intelligent, calm and brilliant – at 18 – takes the stage and wows them.”
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The captain said the experience was exhilarating.
“I was really nervous but every time I got on stage I wasn’t. It was like a fight or flight and I knew I couldn’t get anywhere,” he said. . “I had to fight through the music and just be very careful.”
For the next gig, two nights later, Captain was on stage again. Concerts followed in Atlanta and at The Mansion Theater in Branson, among others.
Captain said he learned a lot from his music teachers in Springfield and every artist he spent time on stage with. He’s in awe of how Orlando calls songs based on what he thinks the crowd wants at the time.
“It’s a very, very good way to play because he takes the crowd into consideration. He interacts with the crowd more than anyone I have ever seen,” he said. “It’s just a whole different art form. It’s so organic.”
Captain will be busy with the Orlando group for the foreseeable future. He said there are quite a few concerts in December and that they will be going to Canada in early 2022.
He plans to go to college and his shortlist includes the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Belmont University, and Berklee College of Music.
“Ultimately, I would love to write, arrange, record and produce my own music and help other people with theirs,” he said.
In his spare time, the teenager enjoys drawing, spending time outdoors, reading and listening to a lot of music, from Steely Dan to rap and Russian choir music. He also plays music and attends Courageous Church in Springfield – when he’s home.
But the captain wastes no time worrying about the senior rituals he misses while he’s on the road.
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“It’s really ridiculous compared to this opportunity and I’m a lot happier now than I was in school,” he said.
Orlando said not only could Captain play, but he had great instincts, good manners and his work ethic was impressive.
“It’s up to Captain Sibley to be the captain of his ship and not mess it up with whatever is going to happen to him,” Orlando said. “He’s charismatic. He’s super talented and he’ll be famous. He’ll end up being a great producer, a great songwriter or an artist in his own right.”
About the series
The Future of the Ozarks series, featuring amazing students in the Ozarks, will be released on Mondays.
The series will feature students with incredible talent, achievement or passion to help others. To nominate someone, email Claudette Riley, education reporter, with details and contact information at [email protected]