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Bands rock out down on the farm at Right Choice Ministries

July 16, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Metal band Ascension, of Hagerstown, was one of the earlier bands to play Saturday afternoon during Rock The Forge 2011 event in Hagerstown, a benefit concert for upgrades to the Right Choice Ministries Center. Left to right are Austin Bowers on drums, Danielle Mellott on lead guitar, Matthew Hall on bass, and Travis Ware on vocals. Obstructed by pole is guitarist Anthony Tardino.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

Acres of cornfields surround the farmhouse of Winston and Susan Herbst on Old Forge Road.

But for the past seven years, the Hagerstown couple has been trying to plant a more meaningful seed — a place where young people can feel loved and inspired.

They have taken their country property and turned it into a social and spiritual retreat for area youths called Right Choice Ministries.

Each week, Susan Herbst said, they provide opportunities for Christian fellowship through games, life-skills programs, discussion groups and counseling activities.

They also provide a stage for young people to share their talents, including music.

Dustin Perrott is one of the musicians who has performed at Right Choice Ministries.

A member of the band Matinee @ Midnight, Perrott said "it's hard getting your name out there and finding a local venue where you can perform."

But Matinee found that opportunity last summer at Right Choice Ministries.

"This was the place where we performed our first show as a serious band," he said. "Now, we've played all over, including Baltimore and the Vans Warped Tour."

So when Perrott heard that a barn and small building on the Herbst property needed restoration work, he wanted to lend a hand.

"I wanted to repay them for everything they did for us," he said. "I wanted to do a fundraiser — and a music festival seemed the natural choice."

Perrott said he put the word out on Facebook, and in the first two days, he heard from 12 bands.

Rock the Forge was off to a rocking start.

More than 300 people were expected to attend the 12-hour concert held Saturday at the Herbst farm.

In total, 14 bands and seven acoustical acts were scheduled to perform.

Perrott said the bands represented a cross-section of music genres, from alternative and indie to pop and rock.

Matinee @ Midnight plays mainstream music with a pop rock/punk influence, he said.

While the festival wasn't billed as a Christian rock event, Perrott said all of the bands were playing music that a young Christian would listen to.

"There are many different beliefs here today and not everyone is Christian," he said. "But it's all about respect, and no one wants to tarnish this event or the image of Right Choice Ministries."

Winston Herbst said he was appreciative of the young people's efforts to raise money for the renovations, noting that electrical work in a building where the young people meet is estimated at $8,000.

"We have a lot of dreams, but we realize we have to take it one step at a time," he said.

Susan Herbst said both she and her husband have worked with young people for years, including as youth directors with the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

The couple always had a dream of establishing a youth center where young people could share fellowship and also feel safe, Winston Herbst said.

"But one day, I realized that place was right here, where I've lived since I was 3 years old," he said. "I'm not farming anymore and we had several empty buildings. So we started the youth center."

Winston Herbst said the property is used for a variety of activities, including worship services, family picnics and graduation parties. There are walking trails and a campfire pit.

The Herbsts said band concerts aren't new to the stage at Right Choice Ministries. But Saturday's concert probably was one of the biggest musical offerings they've hosted.

"It might be loud, but we don't mind," Winston Herbst said. "We have a motto: We may have to age and hopefully, grow wiser. But never grow up."

Ryan Rhone, 18, of Hagerstown, said he came to the music festival to "see bands and enjoy listening to his friends who play music."

Ryan said he also has performed at Right Choice Ministries, sharing spoken-word poetry.

"It's a nice setting for this sort of thing," he said of the festival. "I'm a music lover, so I would definitely like to see more of this kind of thing."

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