Public-school band members spend hours practicing their art, perfecting their songs.
When they are finally polished and ready to perform in concert, the audience is predictable.
It's a loyal following of parents, younger siblings and maybe some grandparents here and there.
Smithsburg Middle School band director Gary Rupert said Washington County Public Schools' annual Swingin' in the Park Jazz Festival allows students to be heard by an audience that extends beyond their schools and families.
"Quite often, the students work really hard and nobody hears them play outside of their school. It's not like going to an away football game or basketball game and you get to see the other team play," Rupert said. "This is an opportunity for students to get out and perform for somebody other than their own community."
Nine jazz bands and a vocal ensemble from schools throughout the county participated in the festival Saturday at the City Park band shell in Hagerstown. The event, which dates to 1998, traditionally features middle and high school bands. This year, the Fountaindale Elementary School Jazz Ensemble joined the mix.
Onlookers occupied lawn benches throughout the day as each band played a 30-minute concert. Children spun and danced, while many adults in the audience swayed and tapped their feet, keeping time with the classic big band, funk, Latin and jazz-rock offerings.
Stephen Jordan, 44, of Boonsboro, went to the concert to see his daughter Kara Fields, 14, perform with the Boonsboro High School Women's Ensemble.
"This couldn't have been in a better setting," Jordan said. "These kids are awesome and this is a great way to show off their talent."
Roy Wolf, 66, of Hagerstown, said he went to the park just because it was a nice day, then came upon the concert and stayed, listening for more than an hour.
"(The bands) sound really good to me. I like jazz," Wolf said.
Zachary Mutchler, 14, of Smithsburg, plays tenor saxophone with the Smithsburg High School Jazz Band. Zachary said he likes playing for a broader audience.
"It's more fun to have more people come and watch. You can actually show people how good you are and what you can do," he said. "Plus, it helps jazz stay in schools. It promotes it."
Rupert said jazz band is a medium that allows students to experience music in a more creative way than traditional school bands. Open solo sections in jazz pieces give students range to improvise.
"With jazz, five different people can play the same piece, and it can sound like five different songs," Rupert said. "It allows them to color outside the lines. It gives them confidence and strength in playing that they may not get in other settings."
Liza Dennis, 15, a drummer with Smithsburg High School Jazz Band, said jazz gives her freedom to play more expressively.
"The paper is used as a guide," Liza said. "The music comes from the heart, not from the paper."