Orchestras' best perform

January 17, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Top orchestra students from eight Washington County middle schools and six county high schools joined together Saturday night for this year's performance of the All County Middle and Senior High School Orchestras.

"This event kind of brings together the best of all orchestras in the county and showcases all the top students," said Rob B. Hovermale, the school system's supervisor of visual and performing arts.

For the eighth year, the All County Senior High School Orchestra was led by guest conductor Elizabeth Schulze, the conductor of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

"I think it's one of the best groups I've conducted over the eight years," Schulze said of this year's high schoolers.


The group had to do without one of its five combined-group rehearsals because of snow, but the students were up to the challenge and ended up playing the most difficult four pieces of the seven they had to choose from, Schulze said.

Students said playing in All County was a great honor.

"To me, it means a lot," said North Hagerstown High School junior Michelle Ferreira, 16, the high school orchestra's first violin. "It's really great to get to play with the county's best players, and especially to be under the direction of Elizabeth Schulze."

Ferreira said Schulze motivates the students without being strict.

"We all love her," she said.

North Hagerstown High School orchestra director Kathy Shrader said Schulze treats the students as young colleagues rather than young students.

"It's one of the best musical experiences they will ever have and they will remember it for the rest of their lives," Shrader said.

The All County Middle School Orchestra was led by guest conductor Stephen Czarkowski, who teaches at Shepherd University and works with many of the county's cello students through a preparatory program.

Czarkowsi said the selections for the middle school portion of the concert were not out of the students' reach, but gave them something to work on.

Northern Middle School eighth-grader Andrew Higgins, 14, the middle school orchestra's first violin, said the songs were "tricky."

"They looked really simple, but some parts were just confusing," he said.

Elizabeth Kramer, 16, a North Hagerstown High School junior who was selected to play with the middle school orchestra as well, said the middle school orchestra's song "Castle Lore" was her favorite because it incorporated unique techniques such as use of a chain in the percussion section and violins stomping their feet in time with the music.

"They're really a good preparation for the high school All County because they're pieces that middle schoolers can play, but at the same time they're really neat pieces," she said.

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