Top Washington County student musicians entertain

February 09, 2008|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- More than 70 high school musicians from across Washington County created a cacophony of noise as they tuned their instruments and ran the scales while waiting to take the stage Saturday before a mostly full house at North Hagerstown High School.

Clarinetists held reeds between their lips to get them moist, flutists filled the library with high notes and the air vibrated from the lows pumped out by tubas while a trumpeter played "Ring of Fire."

A sports team will practice together -- almost live together -- for weeks before taking the field, but these musicians from seven schools had about 17 hours of practice before tackling the likes of composers Richard Strauss and Robert Sheldon.

Once they took the stage, however, the All County Senior High School Concert Band sounded as though its members had been playing together since grade school, which is when many of them first picked up their instruments.


"Tonight is the night all the good musicians in the county can get together to show Washington County our talent," said Beth Zimmerman, a flutist from North High. That did not stop some of the musicians from feeling some butterflies.

"Excited and nervous," South High clarinetist Sonali Singh said when asked how she felt. Fellow South High clarinetist Kaitlyn Pettit said the concert is one of the biggest gigs of the year.

"It's definitely one of the best experiences I can imagine because there's so much uniting the people," said Meagan Graff, a piccolo player from North High. In that regard the sports analogy breaks down, since the players are all working together not against each other.

"Even though we're from several schools, all of us are still friends," said Graff.

"As opposed to sports, where everything is about winning," added Zimmerman.

Smithsburg trombonist Erin Kittel, who did three solos with the All County Senior Jazz Band, said the musicians auditioned in January, playing a prepared piece, going through the scales and doing an improvisational piece. That was followed by a pair of after-school practices, a full day together and a couple of hours of practice before the concert, she said.

Because the concert was postponed a week because of foul weather, that full day of practice had come 10 days earlier, Kittel said.

Despite that, the 17-member jazz band put out a tight sound, gliding through Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" and Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" under the baton of the ensemble's guest conductor, Matt Gallagher.

"It was definitely challenging, but it was also fun to play different styles of music and play with the best musicians in the county," said trumpeter David Kurz of Smithsburg High.

In a few years, members of the All County Middle School Concert Band will be auditioning for the All County Senior High School Band. Saturday, they showed off their chops playing a medley of movie themes by composer John Williams, among other pieces.

Dave and Angie Grove were beaming after the middle school performance. Their son, Andrew, played played tuba, representing Western Heights Middle School.

Asked why he chose the tuba, Andrew replied that "I have braces and my band director asked me to switch" from the trumpet.

"And here I thought it was because he liked the tuba," his father joked.

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