HAGERSTOWN — Performing with the All County Orchestra can be as challenging as a "Hungarian Dance," as enjoyable as a "Fiesta," and as memorable as "Schindler's List," but above all, it is a "Rite" of education that Washington County music students have come to love.
The county's best student musicians gathered at North Hagerstown High School Wednesday night for the concert culminating the 2011 All County Orchestra program.
Delayed because of snow, the concert was initially scheduled for Jan. 29, said Rob Hovermale, supervisor of visual and performing arts for Washington County Public Schools.
Students must audition to be part of the All County Orchestra, said Andrew Doub, a 10th-grade tuba player from North Hagerstown High School.
That makes those on stage Wednesday the best of the best, he said.
For just a few short, intense days, the students work with a guest conductor on pieces that push the boundaries of their skills.
"I have learned a lot here," said Josh Hollin, an eighth-grade string bassist from Northern Middle School.
"Mostly, I learned B flat on the E string," said Serena Seiler, an eighth-grade violinist at Northern Middle.
The music performed challenges students to grow as musicians, said Elizabeth Schulze, music director and conductor of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.
Schulze has guest conducted the All County Senior High School Orchestra for the past 10 years.
"These are among the most accomplished students I have worked with this past decade," she said. "They just get better and better, and that is really a credit to the school system."
This year, Schulze and the county orchestra directors challenged the senior high school students with pieces like Johannes Brahms' "Hungarian Dance #1 in G Minor," Robert W. Smith's "The Rites of Tamburo" and music from the movie "Schindler's List," composed by John Williams.
All County Middle School Orchestra students were challenged by pieces like "Western Dawn" by Alan Lee Silva and "Fiesta for Strings" by Keith Christopher, under the direction of guest conductor Petr Skopek.
Skopek, a music educator, said that in middle school, young musicians are very excited and passionate. Harnessing that excitement so that the students feel the music they play is a key lesson he hoped to teach them this week.
Students learn from working with professionals like Schulze, Skopek and guest soloist, violinist Robert Martin, concertmaster of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, said Sonali Singh, a senior bassoon player from South Hagerstown High School.
"You learn discipline, how to observe and play, and focus," said Katina Greene, a senior string bassist at South High.
And when it all comes together, Greene and Singh said the black and white notes on the page come alive with color, harmony and melody.