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Smithsburg grad performs at Carnegie Hall

January 21, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - On Sunday, 2001 Smithsburg High School graduate Joshua Neumann got the chance of a lifetime: an opportunity to perform at New York City's Carnegie Hall.

"It's probably the No. 2 performance hall for symphony orchestra in the world," said Neumann, 24, now a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "It's kind of hard to draw a real comparison to it."

Neumann is the principal timpanist for the university's School of Music Philharmonia, the audition-only group that performed at 8:30 p.m. Sunday in Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium.

He studied percussion performance at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., but traces the start of his musical career back to a classroom at Smithsburg High School.

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"I know I was very well blessed by teachers who were passionate and knowledgeable and able to pass that on to their students," said Neumann, who played in the school's marching band, concert band, wind ensemble and other groups. In particular, he remembers the way band directors Harry Wacker and Duane McNairn kept band fun while still holding the group to high standards.

"That just sort of infected me in all of the most positive ways, because I caught the bug and I haven't looked back since," Neumann said.

It was in high school that Neumann decided to devote his studies to music, he said.

"I sort of gave in to it in my senior year," Neumann said. "I say gave into it, because one of the more common sentiments about trying to have any kind of career in music is don't do it unless by not doing it, you put yourself in harm's way mentally or emotionally."

Neumann said he was considering studying to be an engineer, but realized his life wouldn't be complete without music when he found himself spending calculus class looking forward to going to band.

"It would always refresh my spirits," he said.

The plans have changed somewhat since then, Neumann said. After practicing five to 10 hours a day as an undergraduate student, Neumann decided to seek a master's degree in music history.

"I decided I didn't want the practice life of being a performer," he said.

For the Carnegie Hall concert, the university's orchestra has had the music for about a month and met together four times for about two hours each, Neumann said.

Meanwhile, most of his energy has been focused on research for his thesis, he said.

Down the road, Neumann hopes to earn a Ph.D. in musicology and teach at the college level.

"From there, I guess doors are just sort of randomly opened," he said.

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