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Community band fills musical void

May 09, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - Never mind the mineral spas, the apple butter and the great outdoors. There was something missing in Morgan County.

At least Rindi and Doug Sherbert thought so.

"There was a big hole in the community," Rindi Sherbert said. "We had theater. We had art. But no music."

Rindi, a trumpeter, and Doug, an alto saxophonist, came to Berkeley Springs from Annapolis when Doug's job with Verizon moved.

They wanted a place to play music. Rindi said that as the daughter of a Big Band-era trumpeter, this was important for her.

They settled on The Rohrersville Band in southern Washington County, although, frankly, 50 miles was a long way to go.

The Sherberts had an idea: Why not start a band right there in Morgan County? They put an ad on the radio and waited for the responses.

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Rindi Sherbert said that the ad, plus buzz in the community, gave the Morgan Community Concert Band about 15 musicians at the start.

The Sherberts took turns conducting. Then, they asked Mark McCoy, the chair of the department of music and theater at Shepherd University (formerly Shepherd College) if he could lend them a student conductor.

Sherbert retold that evolutionary story last week in between, and over, the tweets and croaks of instruments warming up.

It was a Thursday night, the day the concert band meets each week to practice at Warm Springs Middle School.

Conductor and musical director Bennett Lentczner led the band through some get-loose bars with an eye on the next concert, which is at the end of the month.

Lentczner was a movie theater discovery for the concert band.

He said he went to The Star Theatre in Berkeley Springs one night and met owner Jeanne Mozier. She found out he was a conductor. You must call Rindi Sherbert, Mozier told him.

Having Lentczner as the leader has given the band a fantastic lift, Rindi Sherbert said.

Lentczner has a deep musical background.

He is a Juilliard School of Music graduate and has a music degree from New York City's Columbia University and a doctorate in conducting from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

He has held a variety of music-related positions. He was provost and chief executive officer of the New World School of the Arts in Miami, a center for dance, music, theater and visual arts.

Berkeley Springs wasn't in the plans two years ago for Lentczner and his wife, Linda Whitesitt, who were living in Silver Spring, Md.

They wanted to get away from the Washington, D.C., area, so they drove to Cumberland, Md., to look for a house.

On the way back, they took a detour through Berkeley Springs and instantly liked it, Lentczner said.

They came back a few weeks later for another look. Within 48 hours, they bought a lot on which they would build a house.

They then found the band. Lentczner conducts and Whitesitt plays the bass.

The band has gotten big enough - it has about 35 members - to draw musicians from outside the county, including Martinsburg, W.Va., and Hagerstown.

Genny Wagner and Eve McGrory of Hagerstown, both clarinetists, said they are eager to play with the Morgan Community Concert Band.

McGrory, 66, studied piano as a child, but stopped as a teenager. She tried to get back into it as a mother in her 20s.

"I couldn't do it," she said. "I couldn't get back to the level I was when I quit."

When she became a teacher at Old Forge Elementary School west of Smithsburg in the 1970s, she still knew enough piano to lead the class in song at the start of each day.

In 1997, the year after she retired from teaching, her mind wandered back to music. Growing up in Jersey City, N.J., McGrory said, girls weren't allowed to play in the band.

She joined Hagerstown Community College's New Horizons Band to learn the basics. After ruling out the saxophone, McGrory pulled her daughter's clarinet out of the attic.

"I tried it and I loved it ..." she said. "I'm still mastering the instrument."

She's on her third clarinet.

Including the Morgan Community Concert Band, she belongs to five musical groups.

Wagner, 76, can appreciate that; she's in four bands.

"I'm crazy," she said.

Barbara Cashion of Halfway had no musical background when she took up the oboe with New Horizons.

"I like the sound of it," she said.

Cashion, a retired Shippensburg (Pa.) University sociology professor, went on to the Wayne Band in Waynesboro, Pa., and the Morgan Community Concert Band.

"I do this because it's how you learn," she said.

"The reason we come here is because of the wonderful conductor ..." McGrory chimed in. "It's worth the trip."

Quickly, it was time to practice. The women shifted their attention to their sheet music.

Lentczner, 66, paced them through John Philip Sousa's "El Capitan," stopping repeatedly to critique and to sound out, with his mouth, musical phrases as they should be.

Make the quarter-notes different from the eighth-notes, he said. Add spaces before and after the accents.

"Hey, that's much better than it was last week," he said. "Hey, thank you."

Next was a piece by Anne McGinty.

We always do at least one song by a female composer, Lentczner announced for a handful of visitors, sparking a humorous interlude about sexism. Then, it was back to work.

Rindi Sherbert is satisfied.

She said Lentczner has created an appealing atmosphere to play and learn, and it shows.

The band puts on four shows a year, including a Fourth of July show that is becoming a bigger and bigger deal.

"He took us from a community band into an ensemble ..." she said. "Every time we play, people say, wow, how much better we've gotten."|5/9/04

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