Teachers band together Making music: Robert Stojakovich, band director at an Annapolis school, and Rosemarie Schwer, a teacher there, perform with Midnight Hour.

March 09, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The spotlight hits a dark-haired woman holding a microphone. Her makeup is dramatic, her hair a tussle of big curls with large earrings swaying beneath them. She wears tight black pants and a black blouse with sheer neck and sleeves.

"They'd probably fire me if I came to school dressed like this," said Rosemarie Schwer, a Bates Middle School teacher.

But it's Saturday night in the back of Mike's Crab House in Riva, and Mrs. Schwer is transformed from an enrichment teacher at the Annapolis school to the singer in Midnight Hour, a nine-piece rock band that plays an eclectic mix of R&B, Motown and pop music from the '60s on.

Mrs. Schwer, 33, said she never thought seriously about being a rock singer -- what with teaching, two young children and being a leader of her daughter's Brownie troop.

But in May, Robert Stojakovich, the band director at Bates, persuaded her to join a nameless band that rehearsed in his basement after he heard her sing the national anthem at a school assembly.

Her voice was so clear, so expressive that day that the students were silent within moments, recalled Bates Principal Sarah McGowan. But while they know she can sing, "Oh, say, can you see . . .," hearing her belt out Gloria Estefan's "Anything for You" while food and drink go by is a different matter.

It is an eye-opener for her students, who have heard Mrs. Schwer talk about respect but never heard her sing "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

"It took me a while to realize it was her," Erin Coppedge, 15, said between sets on a recent Saturday night.

The Coppedge family was seated at the end of a long table in the restaurant section of Mike's, a casual place on the South River with a split personality. The smoky, rowdy bar is at one end, and the restaurant at the other. In between, Midnight Hour spilled down from a platform, its wires linking instruments and equipment, and its trademark gray banner behind Mr. Stojakovich.

Kelly Coppedge, 13, who plays viola in Mr. Stojakovich's orchestra class, was stunned to hear him sing. But there he was, letting loose with a strong "Beginnings" in the first of four sets. Mr. Stojakovich also plays keyboard with the band.

"Kids are sensationalists -- they don't believe it until you show them," said Randy Norris, 31, Midnight Hour drummer and band director at Severna Park Middle School.

Showing them gives teen-agers an insight into the possibilities of combining their talents, career goals and education, said Ms. McGowan, who encourages Mrs. Schwer to sing at school, accompanied by Mr. Stojakovich.

Two band members say they can't shake the image of "Mr. S." as their teacher.

Guitar player Jeremy Gilless, 24, of Galesville was one of Mr. Stojakovich's students when he taught at Southern High School about seven years ago. Now a senior music education major at Towson State University, Mr. Gilless remains self-conscious about calling his former teacher "Rob."

"Mr. S." also taught Andrew White, 23, of Arnold at a summer band camp when the teen-ager played oboe. Now, Mr. White plays bass by night and is a teaching assistant at the Chimes School in Baltimore by day.

The band's followers include the Bates staff, the county's network of middle school enrichment specialists, other music teachers and employees at Goddard Space Flight Center, where Mrs. Schwer's husband, Ken, is a weather satellite engineer.

Even the obstetrician who delivered Mrs. Schwer's son, Brandt, now 3, has heard the band.

"We like brass, and they have brass. I was impressed," said Dr. Henry J. Sobel.

The band has its roots in the Bayside Big Band and the Anne Arundel Community College Jazz Band, which account for six of the members. The "computer geeks" are trombonist Harold Woomer, 33, of Columbia; saxophonist Stuart Bailey, 31, of Annapolis; and trumpeter Jim Tavener, 45, of Crownsville. John Windsor, 29, of Glen Burnie is a trumpet-playing land surveyor.

Not only does the band attract families, Mr. Bailey said, but it is a lot like a family.

Pub Date: 3/09/96

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