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Band wants to get Washington County alumni marching

July 24, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Clear Spring High School Band Director and North Hagerstown High graduate Joel Guyton leads a rehearsal of the Washington County Alumni band July 17 at The Barn at Springfield Farm in Williamsport.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Joel Rice remembers the day when Washington County high school marching bands were 200-plus members strong.

In recent years, the 1985 North Hagerstown High School graduate has noticed a decline in the size of the county’s marching bands as they perform at the annual Showcase of Bands and in the Alsatia Mummers Parade.

“Band used to be the thing to be in,” said Rice, who also played on the golf team and was in the orchestra.

Fellow North High band colleagues of Rice’s, Dawn Raynor (Class of 1986) and Chris Stockslager (Class of 1990), have joined his crusade, along with a committee representing other county high schools, to generate more interest in marching band, including band front, flags and rifles.  

“The main goal is to get middle school kids inspired to go into band. The smaller band sizes triggered this,” Rice said.

Rice had hoped to form a band for last year’s Mummers Parade, but it wasn’t until Raynor came on board and created an email list and Facebook page that enough people expressed an interest.

About 60 musicians showed up for the first practice on May 22, but more than 100 said they’d like to march.

Twenty-five more people have contacted Raynor since the May rehearsal, raising hopes that the goal of 200 or more musicians will march with the band in the parade.

The biggest obstacle is finding a place to practice, since schools are closed for the summer. On a Sunday in July, a rehearsal was held at The Barn at Springfield Farm in Williamsport.

Ages of the participants range from graduates from recent years up to a musician in his 90s. Participation is not limited to county high school graduates if others want to join in, Rice said.

“Everybody’s welcome. There’s no age limit,” Rice said. “If you aren’t a product of Washington County Public Schools, we’ll adopt you.”

The alumni band committee members are a cross section of the county’s bands, Stockslager said. Representation from Hancock and Smithsburg high schools is still needed, though.

Committee members include Keith Crumlich, Boonsboro, percussion; Doug Hornbecker, North Hagerstown High, trumpet; Mark Lochbaum, North High, trombone; Jeff Mussolino, North High, trumpet; Dawn Raynor, North High, clarinet; Joel Rice, North High, trombone; Brian Rizer, Williamsport, percussion; Dana Schoppert, South Hagerstown High, baritone; Herb Smith, South High, baritone; Lindsay Stine, Clear Spring, trumpet; and Chris Stockslager, North High, tuba.

Clear Spring High School Band Director and North Hagerstown High graduate Joel Guyton is serving as the rehearsal conductor.

Rice said had it not been for band, which he started while in middle school, he might not have gone to college. Being a band member put him with a peer group of motivated college-bound students, he said.

“I think you’re more well-rounded, with the academic piece, and the other leadership skills because of band,” Raynor said.

Raynor, Rice and Stockslager continued with band in college, even though none of them earned music degrees.

Raynor switched instruments and played trumpet with the University of Maryland marching band all four years of college. She started out as a music major, but graduated with a degree in accounting and works for WPS Solutions in Hagerstown.

Rice said he was the only business major playing in the Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) marching band when he was a student there. He owns Rice Insurance Agency, which has offices in Halfway and Baltimore.

An accounting major, Stockslager played with the Shippensburg (Pa.) State College (now Shippensburg University) marching band two of the three years he was a student there.

Raynor and Stockslager play with the Hagerstown Municipal Band — Stockslager for 21 years consecutively — and all three play with the Williamsport Community Band.

The alumni band committee has tried to remove most obstacles to participating. Do you need an instrument to play? They’ll do their best to find you one to use.

If you haven’t played or marched since high school, join the club. Many other musicians are just getting reacquainted with their instruments.

The committee has chosen two pieces — “Hosts of Freedom March” by K.L. King and “National Emblem March” by E.E. Bagley — since they are not too difficult to play, but will make a statement as the band marches down the parade route.

“The community has gone out of their way to get instruments and mouthpieces for people, provide transportation. We want it to be fun, relaxing and not stressful for anybody,” Rice said.

Realizing that many alumni musicians might have other parade commitments, Rice said band coordinators are working with parade planners to try to get a spot early in the parade to accommodate those commitments.

“Everybody’s guilty of not being active enough. What other way can you entertain yourself for basically no cost?” Rice said.

Rice, Stockslager and Raynor acknowledge that their high school marching band memories are from a time before the days of Advanced Placement classes and a four-period school day.

That being said, though, they would like more Washington County students to have the marching band experience they did, developing music and leadership skills that shaped them into the adults and business people they are today.

The committee is seeking business sponsors to help offset the costs of uniforms and equipment. The uniforms will probably be T-shirts or windbreakers with alumni band logos.

For more information:

Go to www.facebook.com and search for the group Washington County, Md., Alumni Band.

Send an email to Dawn Raynor at draynor@wpssolutions.com. Call Raynor at 240-420-6250 or Joel Rice at 301-582-2417.

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