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MSO benefit takes country approach

March 21, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

Patty Enders walked into the room wearing overalls, ostrich cowboy boots and a green straw hat.

"This isn't your typical outfit for a symphony fundraiser," she said. "But we're a little laid-back tonight."

Enders was among 150 people Saturday night who attended Diamonds and Denim at Cortland Mansion in Hagerstown. The Maryland Symphony Orchestra Guild sponsored the event with proceeds benefiting the MSO.

"This is the first time we've had two major fundraisers in the same year," said Maureen Sasse, who served as co-chairwoman. "We do the traditional ball, but we wanted to do something that was the antithesis of the ball. So we came up with this."

The most recent MSO ball was in November 2005.

Sasse said the idea behind the country-themed fundraiser was simple.

"We wanted people to learn more about the guild, as well as the MSO, in a friendly and relaxed setting. Some people may not attend a formal event, but they would definitely participate in something where they could wear their blue jeans."

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The evening featured bluegrass and country music by Twin Hill Express; line dancing and a Southern-style buffet that included pork barbecue, chicken, baked beans, corn bread and apple crisp.

Even the room was decorated with a down-home theme - from bales of hay and old quilts to red bandannas that served as part of each table setting.

Attracting a great deal of attention during the evening was a raffle that featured a diamond pendant necklace donated by R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, a pair of designer jeans (sized to fit) - decorated by an artist from Boston - and a cowboy hat.

The plan for the evening worked, Sasse noted.

"We've had an incredible response to tonight's event," she said. "It's been a tremendous success - so much so that we will absolutely consider doing this again."

"We're so happy with the great response we've had for tonight's fundraiser," said Yvonne Thomson, who served as event co-chairwoman.

Guild member Jeanne Stoner of Hagerstown thought the evening was "fun but also very creative."

"We're always trying to find some new endeavor to support the symphony," she said, "and this is a wonderful idea. I hope we do this again."

John Treadway of Rocky Ridge, Md., thought the evening was different from other guild fundraisers he had attended.

"But it's different in a good way," he said. "It's a fun and exciting way to get together to support the symphony."

Treadway, a member of the MSO board of directors, said his attire for the evening was "very far west - as in Australia."

He was wearing an authentic Akubra, a hat synonymous with Australia, and Indiana Jones.

Jo Ann Bousum, a guild member who distributed fliers and posters for the fundraiser, said she was pleased with the response she received from businesses in the community.

"It was a bit overwhelming," the Hagerstown resident said. "Everywhere I went, people were more than willing to display posters for the event. People seemed eager to help out. It's wonderful to see such support for the symphony."

Bousum added that the people she has spoken with in the community are appreciative of and supportive of the work of MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze, who also was present.

Schulze, who also is the conductor of the MSO, arrived wearing a black Stetson accented with rhinestones.

"I think the fundraiser is fantastic," she said. "I love it. I also love the fact that I get to wear one of my pairs of boots."

Not everyone attending the fundraiser was local. Bill Ether of Charlotte, N.C., joked that the event "got such good press, I had to come up to attend it."

Ether, a brother of a guild member, thought the Diamonds and Denim fundraiser was a unique way of getting people together to support the MSO.

"I think it's wonderful," he said. "When you think of the symphony, you think of tuxedos and gowns. This is just a laid-back, fun evening and it's for a very good cause."

Ether said he has loved music all of his life and is happy to see that there is so much support for the symphony locally.

"The thing is, the symphony is for everybody," he said. "I hope people realize that."

According to Sasse, Saturday night's fundraiser was expected to raise several thousand dollars for the symphony through admission tickets and raffles.

"The main goal is to raise money to support the MSO, which is such a gem in our community."

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