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All-County bands perform annual concerts

January 31, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

About 300 young people saw years of work pay off Friday as they performed with Washington County's best scholastic musicians.

"It's very exciting,'' said Samantha Mertz, a 17-year-old clarinetist from South Hagerstown High School who played in Friday night's All-County Band Concert. "I'm very proud that I could take part in it."

"It's an honor to play with the best musicians in the county," said her cousin, Melissa Mertz, 17, who plays the flute and piccolo at North Hagerstown High School.

But the pride of the students was at least matched by the 1,500 parents, grandparents, siblings and others who filled the auditorium at North High. As the music ranged from marches to swing, cameras clicked and video recorders rolled.

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"We are very proud that she would be part of representing the county and the band," said William LaPole of his daughter, Jessica, a 13-year-old clarinetist from E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

The all-county band was actually three bands: the All-County Senior High School Band; the All-County Middle School Band; and the All-County Jazz Ensemble.

Susie Kunkle, music resource specialist for county schools, said the program is not only fun, but a great learning experience.

"It gives the students an opportunity to play with musicians on their level," she said.

The students agreed.

"It's a great experience. I always have lots of fun with it. I love that big band sound," said Levi Higgins, 18, a tenor saxophone player from Hancock High School. "Your skills are put to the test, so to speak, at a concert like this."

"I learned a lot of different skills in playing the flute in different dynamics and tones," said Hillary Wade, a 13-year-old student at Smithsburg Middle School.

The concert also gives the students a chance to work with some impressive guest conductors, including Mark McCoy, director of bands at Shepherd College, and Chris Vadala, director of jazz studies at the University of Maryland.

"It's exciting to work with the caliber of musician like Chris Vadala," said Brian Foltz, a percussionist from Williamsport High School.

Before the performance, Foltz and Tim Sterling, a bass player and another Williamsport student, shrugged off the suggestion that they might be nervous.

"At first I thought was going to be a little nervous, but now I'm more excited than anything," Sterling said.

"Because jazz is a little more laid back; you just go after it," Foltz said.

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