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The beat goes on at first day of school in Washington County

Band members get back into rhythm of routine

August 21, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Devin Moorer, a sophomore at South Hagerstown High School and other members of the drumline play their instruments outside during the first day of school in Washington County.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

South Hagerstown High freshman Jake McCarter said he was a little nervous about his first day in high school, thinking he would get lost and worried about the stereotype of first-year students being “fresh meat.”

“Now that I’ve started high school it’s, like, a lot easier and a lot more fun than I thought it would be at first,” said Jake, 14, of Hagerstown.

Jake was playing the marimba, similar to a xylophone, in Band Director Scott Benford’s fifth-period percussion class.

He was one of more than 22,300 students expected to start the school year on Wednesday in Washington County Public Schools.

School system spokesman Richard Wright said several students ended up on the wrong school bus during the morning or afternoon routes, and a few buses were running late, which is normal during the first week of school.

Each school was visited by a member of the instructional staff from the school system’s central office at some point Wednesday, Wright said.

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Starting this school year, South High and other comprehensive high schools in the county changed to a schedule in which students take yearlong rather than semester classes for many of their subjects, including band.

That meant Benford had to break up the band — for class.

Instead of teaching approximately 100 students in one class, the band was split into units to be taught separately. Fifth period, for example, is for the drum line and keyboardists.

The band has been practicing most of the summer, so the percussionists jumped into warmups and practicing soon after class started.

Sophomore Alex Curca stood with his back to the tam tam and concert bass drum,  a mallet in each hand to strike the instruments.

Meanwhile, the leader of the class’ keyboard section, sophomore Chad Shumaker, helped out a new transfer student.

And senior Bradley Morris, leader of the class’ drum line, instructed the drummers during warmups outside, while the keyboardists got started in the bandroom.

Then the two groups got together to practice “Jailbreak,” a Frank Sullivan composition that is the first of four movements the marching band performs at shows.

Benford provided immediate feedback to some students, giving directions to the class about tempo and volume.

Like Jake, freshman Naomi Tasker said she was apprehensive at first about starting high school.

“But, now that I’m in it, it’s actually, like, not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s actually a lot better,” said Naomi, 14.

Junior Sam Biggus, who plays bass drum, said he wasn’t “that into” the start of the school year.

“But then, when I went around and saw all of my friends, and saw what classes I was taking, I realized that it would probably be an interesting year,” Sam said.

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