170514_NWS_Celebrate-CB-Opening2_jshearer

Sarah Girres of the band Taxi Driver performs during the Celebrate CB opening ceremony at Tom Hanafan River's Edge Park on May 12, 2017.

Editor's Note: This story first ran in print on May 30, 2019, as part of our annual Faces of the Community series, which highlights the unsung heroes of southwest Iowa. Check out the rest of the Faces of Arts & Culture section by clicking on our e-edition here.

She’s the lead singer in Taxi Driver, but her passion for music is what drives her.

Sarah Girres has been fronting the popular local band since 1998.

“I had just come back from college, and I missed performing, and I wanted to perform again,” she said.

Girres visited area music stores, checking the bulletin boards for postings asking for female vocalists. Al Irions, co-founder of Taxi Driver, was working in one of the stores and happened to see her looking at a note he had posted on behalf of the band. He asked if she was looking for a singing opportunity, then sat down at a keyboard and had her do an on-the-spot audition. After she sang, he asked her to come to practice that week, and she became part of the band.

After 20-plus years in the band, Girres said it has been “awesome.”

“I can’t imagine not being in that band,” she said. “I’d be lost without it. We get so much joy out of it, and our fans are so incredible.”

Taxi Driver does have fans who follow the group from gig to gig, Girres said. Band members call them “Cabbies.”

“It’s awesome to know you share part of people’s story with the music you sing,” she said. “We’re a very interactive band, so I feel like we all get involved with our listeners.”

The band has had its current members for about five years, “and it’s a tight-knit, really close group,” Girres said. Co-founder Michael Pujado, a drummer, is no longer a regular member of the group but fills in occasionally.

Taxi Driver has performed for many community events in Council Bluffs and the surrounding area. The band performs about three times a month and just about every weekend in the summer, with weddings, street dances and corporate events the most common occasions, Girres said.

“I love that we perform here, because I get to see so many people from my past,” she said.

Girres spent part of her childhood in Cedar Falls and came of age in Council Bluffs.

“I started singing in my grandpa’s basement on his trampoline — singing ‘Elvira,’” she said. “My family’s always been involved in the fine arts. My grandpa, he could play anything — fiddle, organ, drums …”

Her mother, Marilyn Weber, played piano, organ, banjo and autoharp, she said.

Growing up, Girres played violin, trumpet and a little guitar, she said. Her brother played trumpet in school.

“Mom and Dad and I did several musicals together at Chanticleer,” she said.

Girres sang in choir and show choir at Abraham Lincoln High School and graduated in 1993. She attended University of Northern Iowa and sang in the choir, which got to perform at Carnegie Hall. During college, she and a male vocalist performed mostly country music together to a recorded background.

“I love performing,” she said. “Just put me on a stage and give me a microphone. And I really love our fans. We’ve gotten to meet so many people — especially in small-town Nebraska.”

Girres followed her father, Warren Weber, and mother, Marilyn Weber, into education. She has taught special education since 2001 and currently works in the Green Hills Area Education Agency’s Early Access program.

Warren served Council Bluffs Community School District as a social studies teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School, curriculum director, principal at Thomas Jefferson High School and director of secondary education. Marilyn was a librarian and retired as director of media and technology at Loess Hills Area Education Agency.

Girres and her husband, Chris, have two daughters — Baylie, 14; and Preslie, 11.

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