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Jazz band is 'all that'

April 22, 1999

Jazz BandBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO., Pa. - The 27 members of the Waynesboro Area Middle School Jazz Band will be in for the fight of their lives next week when they compete against high school jazz bands from across the country in Branson, Mo.

"The fact that we are the only middle school invited is a tremendous honor," school Band Director Phillip A. Thorpe said. "It really floored us. We're out of our league. We play easier music than the high school bands, but we do what we do better than they do what they do."

The band was recommended for the competition by local, state and national music educators.

"Somebody heard us somewhere," Thorpe said.

He said the call inviting the band to play at the first annual Branson Jubilee National Jazz Band Competition came in November.

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"It really put a spark in us," he said.

The band stepped up its practice sessions to four days a week and kids took time for additional practice at home. "The music is too hard not to," Thorpe said. "The kids are really starting to feel comfortable with each other."

Erin Showalter, 14, blends the music together at the piano, an instrument she's been playing since kindergarten. "We had a piano at home," she said.

She prefers jazz over other music. "You can do your own style," she said. "You can really get into it."

Julie Pflager, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, almost seemed dwarfed by the big shiny baritone horn in her arms. She picked the instrument because she wanted to be unique, she said. "Besides, I don't really like high notes."

Saxophonists Veronica Woodlief, Nathan Provard and Kevin Bowman said they were keyed up about the trip, and Jenn Stains, 14, said the braces on her teeth don't get in the way of the mouthpiece on her trumpet.

Dawn Trabing summed up the kids love of jazz. "It's exciting and upbeat," she said.

The band has picked four favorite songs for Branson including "Autumn Leaves," "Birdland," "Harlem Nocturne," and Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk."

On Tuesday, Phillip invited Buzz Jones, band director at Gettysburg College, to help prepare the students for competition. He spent an hour-and-a-half with them stressing unit playing. "He thought they'd do fine," Thorpe said.

Additionally, the band has been working out the kinks by playing in public. The members played for the local Rotary Club last week, will play at Hooverville Elementary School today and will play at a send-off concert Monday with the Fairview Avenue Elementary School Band and two high school jazz bands.

The band is trying to raise $15,000 to cover the cost of the trip. So far it has collected more than $10,000, Thorpe said. Checks can be sent to the WAMS Jazz Band at Citizens National Bank in Waynesboro.

The band was going to appear on stage in borrowed uniforms until some parents found a bargain on new ones that have white pleated tuxedo shirts, blue cummerbunds and bow ties and black trousers.

In all, 46 people, including members, chaperones and parents, will board a 48-passenger coach bus Wednesday afternoon for the 19-hour ride to Branson. Once there, the members will take in some of the sights of the resort town whose roots are in country music and hear a concert by the Glenn Miller Band. "That will be perfect for them," Thorpe said.

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