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Jazz bands win top honors

June 01, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Two school jazz bands from the Tri-State area - Jefferson High School in Jefferson County, W.Va., and Waynesboro Area Middle School - won top honors in April at a national competition held in Branson, Mo.

Both bands represented their states in the finals.

The two bands held a reunion concert Tuesday night in the Waynesboro Middle School auditorium.

Phillip Thorpe, band director at Waynesboro, said his was the only middle school jazz band in Branson. It won a Superior One rating, the highest possible at the competition.

"That placement was beyond by my wildest dreams," Thorpe said. He said his students did well because they are committed to jazz, work hard at it and show a real love for playing it.

The Jefferson High School Jazz Band, under the direction of Rob Perks, came in first in the competition.

Thorpe said bands from all 50 states were invited to compete in Branson, but only seven showed up. Asked if he was disappointed that only a few states were represented, Perks said his students went up against the top jazz bands in the land.

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"For our size we did very well," he said. "I didn't know what to expect when we got there."

The Jefferson band flew to Branson, and the Waynesboro students rode for 19 hours on a bus to get there.

Thorpe said his students got to see several stage shows, attend a concert by The Glen Miller Orchestra and even talk with members of the Miller band.

"They were wonderful. They had a really good sound," said Sarah Devlin, 13, a Waynesboro eighth-grader who plays trumpet.

She said she got some tips from a trumpeter in the Miller band. "He told me to blow through my stomach, not my lips," she said.

Courtney Etter, 13, a seventh-grader, plays alto sax. She said her new braces got in the way at first. "I'm getting better at it," she said.

She said the trip made her feel mature. "We did a lot of stuff and we had fun."

She wants to spend her life performing, "acting, writing, playing music or dancing."

"It's an amazing way to express yourself and have fun at the same time," she said.

John Grantham, 18, a drummer with the Jefferson High band, said he's proud of the first-place win. "We're just a band from West Virginia. A lot of people don't give West Virginia much respect."

"After we heard the other bands, then heard ourselves, we knew we were the best," said Emily Byrer, 17, a Jefferson High senior.

David Crowther, 18, a trumpeter, said he was glad to play away from home for once. "Usually when we play it's against bands that aren't far away."

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