Students of jazz get lesson in blues

June 02, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - When blues legend "Guitar Shorty" took the stage to share some tips at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts Sunday afternoon, Bradley Reynolds, 16, of Smithsburg, paid close attention.

After all, he was on next.

The Smithsburg High School sophomore said he took advantage of this weekend's Western Maryland Blues Fest to soak up inspiration for the tenor saxophone solos he improvises during performances with the Smithsburg High School Jazz Ensemble.

The ensemble performed before and after Guitar Shorty's blues lecture and workshop in the museum as part of the final day of Blues Fest.

Smithsburg High School band director Gary Rupert said he encouraged the ensemble members to get out and experience some of the music festival's other acts as a way of enriching their sense of style.


The big band-style jazz music the group plays is an extension of the blues style, and some of its songs, such as "Da Blues Done Gotcha Again," capture the woeful spirit of blues music, Rupert said.

Trombone player Joseph Kelly, 17, of Hagerstown, said he could hear a connection between the ensemble's music and the other blues acts.

"The roots of how they got started are a lot of the same," Kelly said.

Rupert said it was important for young jazz musicians to listen to the stories, as well as the music of more experienced artists.

"Most of the kids didn't grow up listening to that type of music," he said. "It dawned on me, most of these kids have never lived through difficulties."

The jazz ensemble performance attracted an audience of about 50 people, including some who had no relation to the musicians.

Helen Zimmerman, 77, of Hagerstown, said she and her husband were considering going to see the Ray Birely Orchestra at Pen Mar Park when they saw the Smithsburg High School Jazz Ensemble on the Blues Fest schedule.

"I said they'd be just as good," Zimmerman said.

Walking out of the performance, the couple said the decision turned out to be a good one.

"They're fantastic," Zimmerman said. "They're a really good group of musicians. It makes you feel good, especially if you're grandparents like we are, that kids are interested in music."

The Herald-Mail Articles