Public takes note of jazz students

May 20, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

Dark clouds and the threat of rain did not stop the fourth annual "Swingin' in the Park" jazz festival from happening Saturday.

"It's hard to scare jazz musicians," said event organizer Tony Domenico, director of bands at South Hagerstown High School.

More than 50 people came out in mid-afternoon to watch the event at the Alumni Amphitheater at Hagerstown Community College. Domenico expected the crowd size to grow throughout the day.

The all-day show included performances by eight Washington County middle and high school bands.

The finale was to take place in the evening when Steve Fidyk, a drummer with the Army Blues, a U.S. Army jazz ensemble, was the guest conductor for the All-County High School Jazz Band. The all-county band is made up of selected members of the eight individual school bands.


The goal of the event is to showcase jazz musicians in the county, Domenico said.

"What a great way to show the high level of musicianship," said Garman Bowers, director of the jazz ensemble from Springfield Middle School. He added that jazz is one of the most difficult types of music to perform.

Bobby Stone, an eighth-grade trumpet player in the ensemble, said the event lets musicians see how their band compares to others.

The event was not a competition, but some band members were critical of their own performances. That was the case with the jazz ensemble from Boonsboro Middle School.

"We are not happy with it," said Brad Smith, the assistant band director.

It was the band's first public performance of the year and they were nervous, he said.

The ensemble practices about one hour a week, he said.

Eighth-grader Andy Seabright said that while the band's overall performance was disappointing, most of his four or five solos on trumpet came out fine. Seabright said he has been playing the trumpet for three years.

Performing next was the jazz ensemble from Springfield Middle School, whose selections included "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" and "Crocodile Rock."

"I think we did awesome," said eighth-grader Zach Shank.

"They did great," Bowers agreed.

It was the band's fourth performance this week, following three shows at the school earlier in the week. The ensemble practices about two hours a week, he said.

Audience member Shelly Felix of Cumberland, Md., said the bands she heard sounded good.

Domenico, Fidyk and others attending and participating in the event said festivals such as Saturday's are important to remind the community of the importance and value of jazz and jazz programs in the schools.

The jazz programs help balance students' education, said Judy Gower, a parent of a student in the jazz ensemble from Williamsport High School. The programs also keep students out of trouble, she said.

Since the festival is relatively new, some people in the community probably don't know the event exists, Domenico said.

Spectator Tandy Diaz proved his point.

As she left the event she said, "I didn't know they did this. Is this the first year?"

Told otherwise, she said she plans to return next year.

"It was great," she said of the event.

But, she added, "It could have been a little warmer."

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