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Their sound is infectious

July 30, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Attention Washington County public school students: Your principal, teacher or school counselor might be a little bit cool.

Well, at least some of them might be.

Washington County public school staff members formed a band called Staff Infection, playing mostly rock and classic rock covers. When they're not writing up detentions, scolding tardy students or gum chewers, or mulling over curriculum and budgets, they're jamming, playing and practicing for shows.

Staff Infection will perform Friday night as part of The Maryland Theatre's Wind Down Friday series, a string of Friday-night concerts held in the downtown theater's outdoor courtyard. Concerts will continue into September.

Vocalist Dave Reeder, WCPS director for middle school education, is the group's unofficial ringleader. He said the band's membership hovers between six and nine musicians -- the lion's share are employed by WCPS.

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The Herald-Mail caught up with six Staffers at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in downtown Hagerstown weeks before the concert. They were joined by vocalist Shannon Kelley, who will perform as guest artist on Friday. Kelley will be a counselor at BISFA.

Staff's set list looks a lot like that of a teenage garage band's, with covers of Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, Van Morrison and Led Zeppelin.

But these guys -- and gal -- have far more experience.

The keyboardist is Rob Hovermale, WCPS supervisor of visual performing arts, who composes music in his spare time. The fiddler is Evan Price, orchestra teacher at Smithsburg middle and high schools.

Drummer Duane McNairn is principal of E. Russell Hicks Middle School. He used to be the band director at Smithsburg High.

Trumpet player Matt Mauriello, assistant principal at Northern Middle School, is a product of Washington vCounty Public Schools. He went on to play in a jazz band in college.

"I started playing trumpet at Bester Elementary School, then went to Hicks, where Rob was my band teacher," Mauriello said.

Staff Infection was born in 1998, at a North Hagerstown High School battle of the bands competition. At the suggestion of the late Lynn Miller, the supervisor of instructional technology and library media programs, the band would play while judges tallied the votes. Reeder was North High's principal back then.

"I said, 'Lynn, we've got to have a name for this group,'" Reeder said. "Lynn said, 'Well, we're all staff, so let's call ourselves Staff Infection.'"

Miller died in 2006 at the age of 51. Reeder said Miller's memory lives on in the band's name.

"We always dedicate our first song to Lynn," Reeder said, "Elton John's 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.'"




Excerpts from an interview with Staff Infection



WEG: I hate to say it, but people -- and I preface this by saying I have relatives who work in schools, though not around here -- but students think of you guys as teachers and administrators, as square. You know, there's no way that my principal could be in a band. Do you guys care at all that they might think you are square?

[Everyone laughs]

Drummer Duane McNairn: They also think I sleep at the school, too.

Vocalist Dave Reeder: I think it's good for students to know that adults who work in schools have lives outside the school walls.

Trumpet player Matt Mauriello: I went to Hicks where Duane is now principal, and Rob (band keyboardist Rob Hovermale) was my band teacher. So I've seen Rob play with Spectrum (a local band). It's kind of neat having a different relationship than teacher and student.

WEG: How did you all get started in music to begin with?

Reeder: I have been singing all my life. I sang in college -- no rock, mostly classical. I was more of a classical singer than a rock singer.

WEG: What about some of you others? Those of you who don't necessarily teach music?

Guitarist J. Scott Woods: A friend of mine in high school taught me some chord progressions. My parents bought me my first guitar. I just kind of fell in love with the chord progressions at (age) 16 or 17. But I've never done anything professionally even close to what I'm doing with this group. It's just an honor that they would let me play.

WEG: So how long to guys see Staff Infection going for?

Reeder: How long has staph infection been around? For ages, right? It's a disease.

[Everyone laughs]

Fiddler Evan Price: Until someone invents a cure for staph infection, we'll be around. When someone invents a cure, that's when we'll go away.

Reeder:We will play forever. It will be made up of us old timers, plus the new waves of people coming. We hope to always perform and have the desire that people will always want to have Staff Infection.

[Everyone laughs]

Reeder: ... We use that play on words a lot.

Piano player Rob Hovermale: We don't take it that serious. I mean, we're serious about it, but we probably have more fun than the people who are listening.

WEG: Anything else you want people to know about Friday's show?

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