Bands showcase student talent

February 01, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

About 140 middle-school musicians were on stage in the North Hagerstown High School auditorium Saturday night, playing their hearts out under the baton of a guest conductor from West Virginia University.

When they ended their concert with a Gershwin medley, the students were rewarded with a standing ovation.

The middle-schoolers were on stage before the high school musicians took over under the direction of Mark McCoy, director of bands at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The occasion was the Washington County Public Schools presentation of the All County Middle and High School Concert Bands.

The best and the brightest from the county's eight middle schools were chosen to play in the concert by their school band directors, said Tony Domenico, band director at South Hagerstown High School.


The middle-school musicians wore their school band uniforms on stage.

"That's so their parents can pick them out," Domenico said.

The high school students had to audition for a chance to play, Domenico said.

About 65 students from the county's seven high schools auditioned behind a screen before the band directors.

"We didn't know who was auditioning behind the screen," Domenico said. About 50 students were chosen to play in Saturday's concert, he said.

"It's really an honor for these students to be selected," Domenico said. He likened it to a baseball all-star game.

The students practiced for about 17 hours for the concert, mostly with John Hendricks III, associate director of bands at West Virginia University, and McCoy, Domenico said.

The program recruits guest conductors to work with the students every year. They usually are from a college or military band, Domenico said.

Brenan Gelwicks, 17, a senior at North High, plays trombone. He wants to major in history in college with a minor in music.

This is his fourth year in the all-county concert.

"This is the best one we've done," he said. "The music directors are the best that I've had a chance to work with."

Laura Walling, 17, a South High senior, played string bass Saturday. She hopes to be a performance major.

Jessica Shuff, 13, attends Northern Middle School. Shuff, who plays clarinet, said she was nervous about getting on stage before such a large audience.

The auditorium has a capacity of 1,400 and appeared to be three-quarters full Saturday night.

"What if you make a mistake? What if you squeak? It would be, like, really embarrassing," Shuff said.

Gillian Kramer, 13, a Northern Middle School saxophone player, is at home on stage. She's been acting since she was 4.

"I've been in the Washington County Playhouse and on stage in The Maryland Theatre," Kramer said. "Someday, I hope to be on Broadway or in the movies."

Kramer also is making contingency plans for her future if she doesn't get to Broadway or Hollywood.

"I'm going to college to be a lawyer or a doctor or something like that so I'll have something to fall back on," she said.

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