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Schools' jazz bands were swingin' in park

May 08, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Sean Cremins plays the baritone sax with others from the North Hagerstown High School Jazz Band at the "Swingin in the Park" concert Saturday held at City Park.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- A trumpet wailed, a trombone growled and a clarinet embroidered the tune.

It was a day of jazz, as about 200 students from Washington County Public Schools presented Swingin' in the Park, an annual program that showcases the talents of both middle and high school bands.

The Saturday concert was held in the band shell at City Park in Hagerstown before a sizable audience that soaked up the music.

Gary Rupert, band director at Smithsburg High School and one of the organizers of the event, said the program has been a tradition for a number of years and is an opportunity for students to showcase their talents.

Each group had 30 minutes of performance time, he said.

"One of the nice things is this is not a competitive setting," Rupert said. "It's a chance for the students to perform, as well as listen to their peers from other schools."

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Rupert said the concert was held for a number of years at Hagerstown Community College, but last year moved to City Park, where there was more foot traffic.

"It's a very nice, relaxed atmosphere," he said.

The event is open to all middle and high school jazz bands, Rupert said, as well as vocal groups. There was no vocal participation this year.

While not all young people can identify with the uniqueness of jazz, Rupert said his students at Smithsburg High School "are exposed to the genre a lot."

"I'm a jazz musician, so I always have jazz music playing in the classroom," he said.

Rupert said many of the older students have a better understanding of jazz than the younger musicians "who are learning notes and rhythms."

"The seniors understand the improvisations, how to build a solo," he said. "They feel the passion of the music, beyond the notes."

Mary Norwig of Hagerstown said she was taking her daily walk through the park when she heard music coming from the band shell.

"I just had to take a seat and listen," she said. "Nothing is better than music in the park."

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