By Zachary Reichard | Special to MLive.com
FRANKENLUST TOWNSHIP, MI — After 41 years in music, Dean Rusch isn’t taking anything for granted.
The drummer for the Saginaw-based band CEYX said the trio spent four hours Friday preparing for what would be a three-hour show, the Bay City All Saints prom at the Bay City Country Club.
“You only get one chance to make a first impression,” said Rusch.
Rusch and his band have made plenty of first impressions on the students and staff at Bay City All Saints. CEYX (pronounced seeks) has played the All Saints prom for 26 years, including the last 21 consecutive years, something Tim McCaffery, the development director for Bay Area Catholic Schools, said is special.
“CEYX has really become part of the fabric of All Saints,” said McCaffery.
The trio of Rusch, lead guitarist Bob Strunk and keyboardist Tom Miller have become so much a part of the All Saints family, Rusch said, that they are often asked to perform the weddings of All Saints graduates.
Now CEYX is starting to span generations.
Kathy Swiercz, who works in the development office at All Saints, and her niece Arlena Clayton, a junior at All Saints, were both at the prom Friday. Swiercz saw CEYX play when she was at All Saints in 1980 while Clayton, 16, was getting her first taste of the band on Friday.
“I graduated from All Saints in 1980. I’m not sure they played for our prom, but they did play for some of our dances,” Swiercz said. “I think Dean does a great job, they’ve been together so long it just rolls off so natural.”
Clayton said she had heard about the band from her older sister, and was excited about keeping the tradition going.
“They’ve been here for 26 years, and this is my first prom, so I’ve just heard about it from my sister,” Clayton said. “I found it really cool to have the live band here and keep it along and keep it a tradition.”
Rusch said when he started playing the music in the early 1970s, he would play proms all over the state, from Bay City Central to East Grand Rapids. In the 1980s, he said it started to move towards DJs, and slowly the prom gigs started to dry up, but not at All Saints.
“This one, they’ve always stuck with it,” Rusch said, and added that he thinks it is the only prom in Michigan with a band this year.
Bay City All Saints Principal John Hoving said he learned how much the band meant to the kids when he considered hiring a DJ a few years ago.
“I tried to cancel it one year, but the students let me know how much they liked the live music,” Hoving said.
While the live band might be more expensive, the students made up for the cost through ticket sales and contributions from the junior class.
“That cost is worth it to keep them here,” Clayton said. “It is something you remember because it is different.”
The current lineup has been together for about 20 years, Rusch said, and plays everything from classic rock to funk to some modern top 40 music. CEYX makes sure to take requests, get the crowd involved and make it a fun event for the students.
“The secret is knowing how to play the right song at the right time, and work the crowd,” Rusch said.
All Saints Junior Sam Tany said he is a fan of classic rock and enjoyed having the live band playing.
“The essence of live music is a great thing and it’s a shame it’s dying out,” Tany said.
Rusch said there are no plans to stop, as long as All Saints still wants to have them.
“The joy of it is people still love us and still enjoy it,” Rusch said.
And he isn’t taking that for granted.