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School bands perform for chance to compete at state level

March 30, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

A band mom peered through a hole someone had scratched out of the sliver of frosted glass in the door.

That hole, slightly below eye level, was the only way to see what was going on in the sight reading room. She could see South Hagerstown High School's concert band inside performing a melancholy song.

The band was one of the 54 ensembles to enter that room to sight read - perform on the spot after seeing sheet music - during the Washington County Public School's Western Maryland Large Ensemble Festival.

Until Tuesday, bands, orchestras and choral ensembles from every high school and middle school in the county will perform in the festival and will be judged and ranked on how well they perform. High school bands performed Wednesday.

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Ensembles that receive a 1 - the highest ranking on a scale of 1 to 5 - are eligible to perform in the statewide festival in May.

Every county high school and middle school must send at least one music ensemble to the festival, said Rob Hovermale, the board of education's coordinator for visual and performing arts.

"They leave here with the knowledge of what they're doing right and what they need to do to improve," he said.

In addition to performing in front of an adjudicator, or judge, at South Hagerstown High School's auditorium, student ensembles must do a sight reading.

Musicians get no time to rehearse the song and only get minutes to review it, said the sight reading's adjudicator, Otis Kitchen.

"I don't know how they do it," said Becky Clevenger, the self-described band mom who was trying to peek inside while South High's concert band played.

The festival's rules let only the musicians, band director and adjudicator in the sight reading room, Hovermale said.

Clevenger, wearing a green South High windbreaker, walked back and forth in the hallway, folding and unfolding her arms as she waited for her son, Mark Clevenger, who she said is captain of South High's percussion section.

Afterward, Mark said he had to follow five different parts during the sight reading.

Kitchen, who has been involved with music for 60 years, said confidence and good communication between the musicians and the band director are key to doing well during a sight reading.

Hancock High School's concert band was setting up for its concert performance just as South Hagerstown wrapped up its sight reading.

Hancock band director Micah Socks said communication is important because the band only has 16 members. "Most of these people are playing their part independently. They can't rely on anyone else," he said.

That also means sour notes stick out more, Socks said.

"We actually practice sight readings," he said.

Concert adjudicator Jon Bauman - a composer, conductor and former instructor- said musicians on any level have a lucky job. "We have a gift to give to other people, for free, a lot," he said. "It makes the world a better place. Isn't that great?"

South High trumpet player Heather Carabaugh, 17, said music is her life.

"I like the feeling it gives you. I can't live without it," she said. "It's something you can't really explain, like love."

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