By Paul Thompson
Suspended high above the crowd at the Sprint Center last weekend, a woman twists acrobatically around a hoop. Every successive act of dare-devilry she makes is driven by a Spanish flamenco beat, building the pace of the Dralion show. It’s trademark Cirque Du Soleil: a unique fusion of acrobatics paired with live, exotic music.
This is Anthony Cooperwood’s favorite part of the show, which he’s seen hundreds of times. The 1989 GHS graduate plays a vital part in Dralion, laying down the driving bass line on the performance. Utilizing his vast musical knowledge, Cooperwood has played this riff on his electric NS bass for audiences across the country.
“It’s high energy, and it grooves like crazy,” says Cooperwood.
Cooperwood has been touring with Cirque Du Soleil since 2001, when he was discovered while working for the Big Apple Circus in New York. It was a whirlwind time for the former Grandview student.
“I submitted my materials to Cirque, and next thing I knew I was out on the road,” he says fondly. “It was a feeling of wonder and amazement. It was also a feeling of being a professional; I was just trying not to mess up.”
Cooperwood’s parents L.V. and Jesse had never heard of Cirque Du Soleil when Anthony made the band, they just knew that it was a huge career step for their son. It wasn’t long before they received an education.
“I was not familiar with Cirque Du Soleil, so he had to tell us about it. When I told one of my nieces about it, she went gung ho,” his mother Jesse said with a laugh. “It wasn’t long before I heard all about it.”
The talented musician, who plays keyboard and bass for Cirque Du Soleil’s Dralion, once crafted his trade within the walls of Grandview High School. He played piano in the jazz band, first chair flute in the symphonic band, and bass drum in the marching band during those years. His parents were Anthony’s biggest supporters. They were the ones who initially steered their son towards music.
“Actually, he started taking piano lessons when he was seven,” said Jesse. “At that point he was taking lessons just because we wanted him to stay busy.”
Later, when Anthony branched out and experimented with new instruments in high school, his parents realized that he had a real talent. At that point, they started to audiotape all of his performances at school.
“On our way home from the school, we would take our time getting home, and we would play that music over again,” says his mother, Jesse, about the tapes.
Now Cooperwood is back in Kansas City, performing at the Sprint Center with Cirque Du Soleil. Friends and family will be pouring in to support Cooperwood.
“It’s wonderful. Everything has been so nice here in Kansas City. Being able to play in front of friends and family is really great,” Cooperwood says.
As usual, he took the opportunity while in town to stop by his old high school. Usually, he stops by a band class to talk to some students. Band Director Danny Watring, after all, was his instructor and one of his biggest influences back in the late 80’s during his time as a Bulldog.
But this time Cooperwood spoke to over 200 students during a Q&A that included two other Cirque Du Soleil performers. Anthony couldn’t have been happier with the event. He passed on some advice to kids who hold similar musical aspirations.
“Work on the fundamentals and basics. Remain focused on improving yourself and your instrument. That will lead to more development and more fun,” Anthony advises those who dream to follow in his footsteps. “You have to remember to always make it fun. I do it for work, but it is always fun.”