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All County Band performances allow students 'to have a different musical experience'

February 05, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • The All County Senior High School band is led by guest conductor Sally Wagner, Saturday during the Washington County Public Schools' 2011 All County Middle and Senior High School Concert Band and Senior High Jazz Ensemble performances.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

It was a somewhat surreal scene.

Girls in black satin and velvet gowns sprawled, barefoot, on the library floor. Guys in formal wear kicked back on couches, flipping through magazines. Brass instruments played here and there in the background — trills, scales and tricky, repetitive sequences.

A woman clad in purple sequins sat in a chair, back straight, like a glitzy mother hen, reciting Shel Silverstein poems from "Where the Sidewalk Ends."

This was the scene Saturday night at North Hagerstown High School as students awaited their turn on stage at Washington County Public Schools' 2011 All County Middle and Senior High School Concert Band and Senior High Jazz Ensemble performances.

The mother hen was All County High School Band guest conductor Sally Wagner, a band director from Greenbelt, Md. Students said gaining exposure to different conductors is one of many benefits to playing in All County Band.

Whitney Bloom, 16, a junior at Williamsport High School, said playing flute under Wagner's direction was "awesome."

"It's great to play under someone else," Bloom said. "It's an opportunity to learn from them and to have a different musical experience."

Taylor Whiteman, 16, also a junior at Williamsport High School, pointed out additional perks.

"I like playing with students from different schools, and getting exposure to new literature that maybe your band director wouldn't have chosen," she said.

Robert B. Hovermale, Washington County Public Schools supervisor of visual and performing arts, said the concert bands consisted of 120 middle school students and 79 high school students, plus an 18-member jazz ensemble. Some of the high school students played in both concert and jazz bands. Middle school band directors chose participants, while high school students auditioned.

"This is a big night for us," Hovermale said. "All these kids on stage are top players who have never played together before. This gives them experience playing with different musicians and different directors, and playing in a big ensemble."

Hovermale said directors had scheduled three evening and one daylong rehearsals. Two of the evening rehearsals were canceled due to adverse weather.

Sabrina Williams, 17, a Smithsburg High School and Barbara Ingram School for the Arts senior, played alto saxophone with the concert and jazz bands. Williams said students practice pieces on their own, so the concert came together despite reduced rehearsal time.

"Everyone is reliable and takes care of their own part, so we weren't freaking out," she said. "We didn't come to rehearsal to learn our parts. We came to make everything musical and sound really good."

Jeffry Brodie, a Howard County, Md. band director, conducted the middle school band with a demonstrative flair. He nearly jumped in the air during the final measure of the band's opening piece, "Joy," by Frank Ticheli. Matt Niess, lead trombonist with the Washington D.C.-based U.S. Army Blues Jazz Ensemble and founding director of The Capitol Bones jazz trombone ensemble, conducted the Senior High Jazz Ensemble with a unique, understated style. He spent much of the time with his hands folded before him and his eyes on the score, seeming to enjoy the sounds. From time to time, he'd raise his pointer finger to soloists indicating, "You're on."

"These students are great — enthusiastic and attentive," Niess said. "The energy from the young people is a marvelous thing."

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2011 All County Middle School Band

1st Flutes — Caitlin Boyer, Western Heights; Tanja Cupac, Hancock; Sarah Duckworth, E. Russell Hicks; Danielle Hill, Clear Spring; Lydia Hill, Smithsburg; Laura Manspeaker, Northern; Giovanna Papa, Boonsboro; Tatian Smith, Springfield

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