The sound of big band music returns to the Coleman Theatre Saturday with a benefit concert to help with the ballroom restoration project.

Oklahoma gospel singer Ernestine Dillard and the Tulsa Praise Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m.

Ticket prices are $25 for premium seats, $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and $12 for students 18 years old and younger.

Public fund-raising efforts to finance the ballroom restoration project at the Coleman Theatre, after being postponed due to the tornado earlier this year, began in June.

The cost of the project is estimated to be $1.8 million. It will restore the 5,000 square feet upstairs ballroom area to include seating for up to 500 people at receptions and conventions.

"So far we have accumulated approximately 75 percent of the cost," said Barbara Smith, manager of the theatre. "We have the names of 104 contributors to carve into the marble wall, but there's still room for more."

Dillard and the Tulsa Praise Orchestra first performed at the Coleman following the Picher tornado.

"They were sponsored by the Humana Insurance Company," Smith said. "They came to raise money for the victims of the Picher tornado.

"That's just the sort of things they do."

She has been looking forward to the Dillard and the orchestra's return visit.

"The members of the orchestra all wear tuxedos," Smith said. "Their music is so good.

"I can't wait to hear them again.

Dillard is best remembered as "the singer who helped heal the wounds of our nation" during the memorial service for the victims and families of the Oklahoma City bombing tragedy, as she performed "God Bless America."

"She brought the president to tears," Smith said.

Dillard had been nurse for 30 years before becoming a singer.

She lives in Bixby with her husband, the Rev. Loomus Dillard.

She is an Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame inductee in Gospel Music as well as a recipient of the Living Legend award from the Society, Inc., an international arts organization.

Tulsa Praise Orchestra was the brainchild of trumpeter Bob Archer, the idea was to form a big band made up of Christian musicians performing predominantly Gospel music.

Now in its 14th season, the Tulsa Praise Orchestra has performed more than 350 concerts throughout Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and New Mexico.

Members of the band include: on the saxaphone, Tim Moore, Trey Beauregard, Steve Janke, Destiny Provanka, Nancy De Graff, Tony Caughern and Aaron Caughern; on the trombone, Bob Barrows, Jim Davis, Dale Seefeldt, Richard Carson and Lind Wickersham; on the French horn, Karl De Graff; on the trumpet, David Schroeder, John Cooper, David Ganzert, Travis Vernier, Bob Archer and Chuck Green.

Also part of the band are drummer Tom Claiborne, pianist Terri Graves, bass Gerald Wood and Melinda Acevedo and guitar Jim Campbell under conductor Bob Holzmann.

For the best seat selection, Smith recommends purchasing tickets in advance of the concert.

To purchase tickets or for more information about the Tulsa Praise Orchestra Christmas performance, call the Coleman Theatre at 540-2425, visit the website at or stop by the box office window at 103 North Main in Miami.