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County's best take the stage

January 27, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HAGERSTOWN - Bethany Stavrakas began playing the cello in the sixth grade at Smithsburg Middle School because she simply liked the sound over other string instruments.

"I thought the violin was a little screechy," the 14-year-old girl said minutes before joining fellow members of the 2008 All-County Middle School Orchestra on stage Saturday night at North Hagerstown High School.

Now three years into playing the large instrument, Stavrakas' goals for at the least the next four years are clear.

"Right now, I just want to play in high school ... and see where it takes me," Stavrakas said.

Multiple auditions and hours of practice helped land her a chair with about 80 of Washington County's most talented musicians in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades for the annual performance.

"It's a lot of hard work getting ready for it," said Stavrakas, who also said the ensemble practiced Friday for seven hours as part of preparations.

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The middle school orchestra performed first, followed by the 2008 All-County Senior High School Orchestra.

At the direction of guest conductor Stephen Czarkowski, the middle school orchestra performed five selections, including a cheek-popping, foot-stomping, finger-snapping piece titled "Bio Rhythms" by Richard Meyer.

"Now we know why they had a seven-hour practice," master of ceremonies Edward Masood said after the crowd warmly applauded the performance.

Elizabeth Schulze, guest conductor for the senior high school orchestra, told those gathered that the students under her direction Saturday practiced 13 or more hours together.

"In my seventh year, this is the best one yet," Schulze said of the group. "I look forward to saying that each and every successive year."

In a nontraditional display of its own, Schulze had the high school orchestra stand for a performance of a medley of songs from "Grease."

Boonsboro High School senior John Slick was one of several graduating seniors who Schulze recognized for planning to continue their music study in college.

Slick had a solo on the French horn, an instrument he's played since the sixth grade, and hopes to study music education at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

"Nobody picked it," Slick said of the horn. "I wanted to be different."

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