Music for the hometown crowd

Washington county high school bands to join forces Tuesday

Washington county high school bands to join forces Tuesday

October 02, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

Showcase of Bands is not a competition.

The evening, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, at School Stadium at South Hagerstown High School, is an opportunity to hear seven high school bands of different sizes with different musical selections.

But there is unity in the desire of each ensemble to strut their stuff, show off their talents - all for a hometown crowd.

Jordan "Jelly" Hullinger, senior trumpet soloist with the South Hagerstown High School Rebel Band, has played in three previous showcases.

"I think it's pretty neat, because the crowd is not there for the football, it's there for the band."

The bands take turns hosting the event, which is in its 27th year as a celebration of Washington County high school marching band music. The Boonsboro High School Warrior Band has that role this year.


Under the baton of band director Stacha Schiller-Stinson, approximately 85 musicians and color guard members will open the evening with the national anthem.

"That's an honor," says Schiller-Stinson.

"I like the fact that it's a community event," says Heidi Sines, 17, the Warrior Band's senior drum major.

Drum major is a leadership position, she says. Among her responsibilities is conducting the band for field shows.

A band member for all of her high school years, Tuesday's performance will be Sines' final Showcase.

"I know I'm going to cry," she says.

Senior trumpeter Andrew Waters, also a four-year Warrior Band member, is looking forward to Showcase.

"It's going to be pretty neat being out front," he says.

Adam Stephens, 14, plays baritone sax in the Warrior band. He is one of about 30 freshmen in the ensemble, which has only about 10 seniors, Schiller-Stinson says.

"It's a very young group," she says.

Andrew says learning the music is easy; the hardest part is learning to march. "Once you get clear of that, it's a lot of fun."

Including the guard, the Smithsburg High School Leopard Band has about 145 members, says Gary Rupert, band director.

The Leopard Band will present "The Music of Earth, Wind and Fire," something a little different for a marching ensemble. "I tried to find something the kids would enjoy," says Rupert, who has been at Smithsburg for two years, having spent 15 years at Middletown (Md.) High School and nine years teaching in Pittsburgh.

Clear Spring High School Blazer Band Director Bill Mott is in his second year at the post. He had been away from teaching for several years and is glad to be back. "I like working with the kids."

The Blazer Band plays a lot of parades, and, for the first time, the band is playing for the high school's home football games. For the first time, Clear Spring High School has a football team.

Mott's 66-member troupe doesn't compete. "We just want to entertain, and the kids are enjoying it."

At Hancock Middle-Senior High School, Michelle Barsh is director of bands - the sixth-grade band, the combined seventh- and eighth-grade band and the Hancock High School Panther Band. In the 18-member high school band, there is one flute, one alto saxophone, and no tuba, French horn or trombone. With such a small number of players, instrumentation is a challenge, Barsh says.

But the ensemble will groove to the sounds of Motown with the "Hits of the Temptations." Barsh says she believes the selections fit her musicians.

The South Hagerstown High School Rebel Band will present a jazzy program with variety, says band director Tony Domenico.

Music is chosen to showcase the talents of the musicians, but it also has to please the audience, he says.

For the second year, marching band is offered as an extracurricular activity at South High - not during the school day. There were students who wanted to take music class but didn't want to be in the marching band, Domenico says. The change has resulted in 40 to 50 additional students being involved in music classes.

About 75 to 80 kids auditioned for 65 spots in the marching band. That number allows the Rebel Band to compete in its desired size category.

Since Showcase of Bands is not a competition, do Domenico and his players approach the evening differently?

"I hope not," Domenico says.

"We're always competing with ourselves," he explains. He wants each performance to be better than the one before it.

The evening will end with all seven bands joining together for "Resounding Joy," which combines Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and Peter Ilich Tchaikovksy's 1812 Overture.

"We had talked about a change of pace from a traditional march," Schiller-Stinson says. "It's a nice piece."

The young musicians will have had their sheet music for a couple of weeks by showtime. All seven bands will come together to practice for the first time about an hour before the performance.

Schiller-Stinson is not worried about that, but she laughs that the scaffolding she will climb to conduct the huge ensemble looks a little dangerous.

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