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City Park hosts Art in the Park

July 14, 2006

The band shell at City Park in Hagerstown reverberated with the sounds of living musical history June 17, when a drum clinic and performance by 87-year-old jazz great George "Butch" Ballard was a highlight of the Art in the Park festival.

The third annual festival was sponsored by the Contemporary School for the Arts and Gallery.

Ballard shared stories of his seven-decade music career, during which he was a favorite sideman of such legends as Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Clark Terry.

"Who haven't I played with?" asked Ballard, whose powerful drumming provided the rhythm on more than 50 recording sessions.

Ballard, who in the last two decades has devoted much of his time to teaching young musicians in his home city of Philadelphia, told the audience that "the key to becoming good is to practice on a consistent basis."

"Learning is a process," he said. "It takes patience, self-determination, sacrifice, the will to keep going when you don't have confidence in yourself."

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State Sen. Donald F. Munson presented Ballard with a proclamation on behalf of Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

Ballard signed autographs, and later made his way to a giant canvas on the park grounds, where visitors to the event could paint or write what they wanted to create a communal work of art.

"I never painted in my life," he said. "I had so much fun."

Art in the Park, which continued June 18, featured live music both days, along with arts and crafts for children, workshops, seminars and demonstrations.

The event is a fundraiser to help the nonprofit Contemporary School for the Arts and Gallery with operational costs such as hiring art instructors, founder Ron Lytle said.

"Art is the experience of transformation," Lytle said. "Life is educating our minds and strengthening our spirits. Participation and interacting with people who have a common purpose helps keep art education in the forefront."

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