Area musicians to be part of inauguration

December 26, 2008|By JANET HEIM

SHARPSBURG -- For the most part, their careers as musicians take Bob Sykes and Scott Silbert to cities such as Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

That suits them just fine as long as home is in Washington County.

Both Sykes and Silbert are career musicians with impressive résumés. It wasn't through their work that they met, however, but through Salem United Methodist Church in Keedysville.

"That's what has kept us connected," Bob Sykes said.

The Silbert family -- Scott, wife Jennifer and two children, Henry, 11, and Sam, 9 -- moved to Sharpsburg 13 years ago. Scott grew up in Orlando, Fla., and Jennifer was raised in Kenosha, Wis.

The Sykes moved to Sharpsburg three years ago. Bob, who grew up in northern Virginia, and his wife, Sherry, a native of western New York near Niagara Falls, have two children, Donald, 7, and Emily, 5.


Sykes, who plays piano and keyboard, is the chairman of the jazz department at the Levine School of Music in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Sherry was working in the office at the music school and vowed she wouldn't get involved with a teacher until she met Bob.

He also teaches private lessons and performs mainly weekend band jobs.

"It's a juggling act to get everything in," Sykes said.

Silbert is the chief arranger for the United States Navy Band, and also teaches private students and performs with various bands.

Their paths to music couldn't have been more different. Sykes, 51, said he took a year of "imposed" piano lessons as a child, but had a knack for being able to play music that he heard on the radio.

While in high school, Sykes played in different bands. After high school, he took classes at a community college and worked in construction for three years.

Sykes realized that construction wasn't the career for him and gave his interest in music a try. That led to jobs in piano bars, as a church organist and playing for cover bands, before deejays became popular.

"I was coming up in a time in the Washington area when there was a lot of work for musicians," Sykes said.

He has played at the Kennedy Center, Washington museums, Strathmore and Blues Alley, and also plays for corporate functions and weddings. He is to perform at a private inauguration party in January.

Silbert's calling to music began in junior high, when he started playing saxophone. He now plays flute, a variety of saxophones, clarinet and piano.

"I pretty much knew then what I wanted to do," said Silbert, 45.

Silbert attended a local college for one year and worked as a full-time musician at Disney World for nine years. Then in 1991, he auditioned for the U.S. Navy Band and got a job as a civilian. He joined the arranging staff in 1999.

Boot camp took him to Washington, D.C., where he met his wife. She was singing and dancing with a band in the area.

Scott Silbert recently performed at the reopening of the American History Museum.

Silbert is choir director at their church and plays with the Martinsburg Jazz Orchestra. He will march in the Inaugural Parade with the Navy Band.

Both musicians have toured abroad.

Their wives would like to see them play more local jobs, which would mean more time at home with their families.

Shepherdstown, W.Va., Pen Mar Park, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the Sharpsburg Library and Gala in the Stacks at the Washington County Free Library are recent venues where one or both of the musicians have played.

"They're lucky they do what they love to do," Sherry Sykes said.

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