Notes of thanks go out to man who brought music to school

October 26, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Even without lifting his baton, Marvin Hurley had dozens of his former orchestra musicians sounding the same note on Saturday -- a note of appreciation.

They returned to North Hagerstown High School to celebrate the 70th birthday of a man some credit with giving music a foothold in the school system about 40 years ago.

"Marvin brought, basically, orchestral music to this county in a big way," said Todd Medcalf, a 1969 North High graduate and Hurley's first concertmaster, or first chair in the first violin section.

The event featured a reunion concert; many former students once again played under his command.

There also was to be a surprise announcement -- plans to name a room after Hurley at the new Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown.


Austin Abraham, the chairman of the committee that organized the tribute, said more than $20,000 has been raised for the school's foundation toward honoring Hurley, and more will be raised.

"We wanted his legacy of teaching students to appreciate music and perform it well to carry on," said Abraham, a violinist from the class of 1970.

Around the North High cafeteria were signs of Hurley's legacy, including teenage musicians who grew up to be music educators.

Kathy (Hammond) Shrader played violin under Hurley from 1968 to 1972.

"He's been a teacher and a role model, which is why I'm the orchestra director" at North High, she said.

Hurley started teaching in Washington County in 1963.

His wife, Nancy, said he was at North High from 1967 to 1988. For a few years, he taught simultaneously at North High, South High and North Potomac Junior High School, now known as Northern Middle School.

Nancy Hurley said she and her husband met while she was student teaching at North High and he was putting together a production of "The Sound of Music."

She stayed at North for 32 years.

"A lot of these kids had two Hurleys a day," she said.

Many who showed up to salute Marvin Hurley have stayed in touch with him since their school years. He considers them friends.

"He cared about us not only as musicians, but he (also) cared about us personally," Shrader said.

"It's like stepping back in time ..." Marvin Hurley said of the reunion. "It's, in a way, a dream come true ... an opportunity for us to re-establish our relationships ..."

Medcalf, who also went on to teach student musicians, said he adopted Hurley's philosophy of "when they don't practice, you drill 'em to death."

"He was famous for that," Medcalf said. "He'd be at it constantly."

Brian Diefenderfer, a class of 1991 clarinetist, said Hurley instilled an appreciation for music that hasn't faded away.

From Hurley, Shrader said she learned "mostly to play the music from your soul."

About 160 people attended Saturday, including 60 or so former students of Hurley's, said Joel Rice, a 1985 graduate who played the trombone.

Before going live, the Hurley reunion orchestra practiced two hours on Thursday and three hours on Saturday.

"They sound remarkably good," Hurley said.

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