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Youth rocks Maryland Theatre as fundraiser

August 12, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde and Buckethead didn't play at The Maryland Theatre Saturday, but 14-year-old Justin Parks did: The Halfway teenager wailed a mix of the musicians' guitar licks from the historic theater's center stage - all in the name of charity.

Justin was among 30 Tri-State area musicians who played at The Maryland Theatre Saturday in a benefit concert set to raise money to bolster theater programming aimed at area youth.

Josh Morningstar, the benefit's co-organizer and a local musician, said the theater "receives practically nothing in funding from the city, state and county" and needs more money to bring in bands and musicians that appeal to the younger generation.

"The theater is a beautiful place and it's part of the history of downtown Hagerstown and to lose it would be an incredible loss to the area, especially with the new arts and entertainment district that's coming in," Morningstar, 24, said.

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Maryland Theatre Executive Director Brian Sullivan said the theater is "lacking overall funding."

Sullivan said he has been building programs for the past two years that he hopes will ensure a good cut from the Maryland Arts Council budget when he approaches the council next year for funding. Community oriented programs help strengthen his bid, he said.

More than 200 tickets - at $15 apiece - were sold for the concert, which drew about 30 people in its first 90 minutes. Sullivan said he wasn't concerned about the turnout because he enjoyed giving local musicians a chance to play there.

Watching the band Revelation play from a flat-screened television in the theater lobby, Sullivan said, "It's just really neat to see them up on the stage. It's that generation's theater, too."

Jason Resau, a 27-year-old guitarist with the band Lumpy Jones, said he's played local bars, but was excited to play at the theater. Resau remembered going to the theater as a "little kid in school to see all the plays."

"We wanted to help out, keep The Maryland Theatre going and such because it's home, it's our hometown," Resau said.

Revelation lead singer and guitarist Steve Goodwin and bassist Chuck Banks shared that sentiment.

Goodwin said, "I never thought they'd have a band like us play here." Goodwin said he felt honored to play on the stage where he saw Willie Nelson perform.

Banks said, "It's a very good benefit. It brings the local music scene to light."

Performing at the theater was nothing new to 12-year-old Spencer Morgan who's rapped as Lil' Spence at the theater for another event.

"The Maryland Theatre is a great place around here and not that many people know about it," he said.

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