What Morgan Wallen left behind after his surprise concert for Gibbs High School seniors

When a concert stage was erected on the Gibbs High School baseball field, a big secret was proving difficult to keep.

“By the time the stage was being built, there were rumors about what was going on, so everybody had an idea,” said Abigail Crabtree, a Gibbs High senior.

Credit: Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel

Gibbs graduate and country music star Morgan Wallen didn’t just surprise seniors with a concert – he left behind a gift in the form of $35,000 for the school’s band, chorus and baseball programs.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Crabtree said about Wallen’s March 2 concert. “I feel like all of the seniors needed this. Our freshman year was canceled and a lot of (2020) seniors didn’t get to finish their year because of COVID. It was great to do something fun.”

Crabtree took her boyfriend as her plus one. “He is a big fan and had transferred to online school so he could work more,” she said, adding that it is difficult to live in Corryton and not become connected to country music.

In addition to the concert, students got to play cornhole, take pictures in a baseball field-themed photobooth and enjoy free food such as ice cream, popcorn, cookies, barbecue sandwiches, and nachos. “Everything was free; none of the students had to pay for anything,” said Crabtree. “Everyone had a good time.”

Morgan Wallen’s surprise visit to Gibbs

“On Wednesday night after heading back to the school after a field trip, we saw a massive stage towering over the baseball field fence,” said fellow senior Lorelei Speeks. “I was under the impression that it was some kind of school assembly on the baseball field, but there were semi-trucks full of equipment. I had heard one rumor that it might be Morgan Wallen but thought that was a joke.”

During a senior assembly ostensibly about graduation, Wallen walked out and joined principal Jason Webster on stage. “He said we all get a ticket plus one,” said Speeks. “Then we filed out and got two festival wristbands and a letter with instructions: We could take photos, but if any of our videos included his new songs we had to wait until they were released.”

Speeks admitted that while she is familiar with some of Wallen’s songs, many of her classmates were bigger fans.

“It was cool. He was really interactive and told us why he wrote the songs and played a lot of his popular songs,” she said. “This is definitely one of my top 10 best experiences from high school. My three years leading up to this were ghosted over by COVID. It’s an amazing gift for the seniors.”

Wallen’s donation to the choral and band departments was probably the best part of the night for choir member Speeks. “I ran for homecoming and was trying to raise money for a piano that I might get to use in May,” she said. “His foundation will pay for a new piano for the auditorium and a new electric piano for our rehearsal spaces.”

“Morgan donated $35,000 to support the band, chorus, and baseball team,” confirmed Crystal Braeuner, Theatre Arts teacher, and Will Brimer, choral director at the school. “It is for two clarinets, two saxophones, a piano, an electric keyboard, and a cart for baseball.”

Wallen played on the baseball team when he attended Gibbs.

Wallen’s management wanted to have locally owned small businesses cater the event, according to Staci Meyer, Sugar Queen Creamery co-owner.

“Since the concert wasn’t open to the public and security was tight, we weren’t told before we arrived who was playing last night,” said Meyer, who served their strawberry and cookies & cream ice cream at the event.

“I was impressed with his desire to support the area he was raised in. He delivered a message to the students that no matter where you are from, you can dream big and accomplish your goals. He put on a great show, and I am glad to see him give back to his community.”

After the surprise concert on March 2, Wallen’s “One Thing at a Time” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The album features 36 songs and logged a total of 498.28 million on-demand streams in its first week, becoming Spotify’s most-streamed country album in a single day by a male artist.