Washington Co. 2011 Elementary Arts Festival burst forth in flurry of song, dance and visual expression

November 19, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • From left, Sierra Tosten, Grace Hurwitz and Kayley Repp of Hagerstown warm up Saturday night for the orchestra portion of Washington County Public Schools' first Elementary Arts Festival at South Hagerstown High School.
By Alicia Notarianni

Washington County middle and high school students of the arts have all-county events.

Why not elementary school?

For a time, the quietly recurring question among elementary school circles went without a satisfying answer, said Robert B. Hovermale, Washington County Public Schools' supervisor of visual and performing arts.

Saturday night, the answer burst forth in an exciting flurry of song, dance and visual expression at Washington County Public Schools 2011 Elementary Arts Festival.

A staggered audience of more than 1,400 people packed the auditorium at South Hagerstown High School. Hovermale said about 320 students from 13 of the system's elementary schools participated in the pilot project. The program included dance, vocal, orchestra and band performances. Visual works of art also were on display in the lobby.

The young musicians were selected by their teachers. They practiced with guest conductors Tuesday and Thursday night and Saturday morning.

"We wanted to give elementary kids a chance to experience this process of performing on a big stage for a large audience with a guest conductor," Hovermale said.

Lindsey Sullivan, a music teacher at Paramount Elementary School, helped organize the event.

"I think a lot of people don't realize the potential that young people possess," she said. "They'll be surprised at how expressive these students are at such a young age, by how much they are able to do."

For example, Sullivan said, festival vocalists performed three-part harmonies, a skill she said remains challenging for students through middle and into early high school.

Vocalist Ryan Lesher, 10, is a fifth-grader at Eastern Elementary School. Ryan said his favorite song during the rehearsal process was Aaron Copland's "I Bought Me a Cat" from "Old American Songs — Set 1." Hagerstown Choral Arts founder Gregory Shook conducted the choir.

"You have to have some skills," Ryan said. "And you gotta get used to a big crowd watching you. Now, I want to do it a lot."

Meaghan Dalcollo, 10, of Keedysville, played clarinet with the band. Meaghan said she enjoyed the challenge of playing with a large group and of learning more about musical direction.

"It was hard to learn how to stop and rest at the same time with a group this size," Meaghan said. "I had to learn to respond to the conductor's motions. I've always wondered what the motions are and how the band uses them."

Sierra Tosten, 10, of Hagerstown, who played with the orchestra, said the festival experience helped her grow musically.

"Some of these songs are definitely harder," she said. "They go a lot faster."

Kindergartner Megan Athey, 5, of Hagerstown, had a drawing depicting a cherry pie on display.

"It makes me feel like I'm the goodest artist in the world," Megan said.

Evelyn Shanholtz, 9, of Hagerstown, sang with the chorus. Evelyn's grandmother, Ann Clarkson of Columbia, Md., said she enjoyed watching the interaction between the students and the guest conductor.

"You could see how (Shook) taught them what to watch for in his cues," Shanholtz said. "The students would all react to him with big smiles. He really 'kept' them."

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