Pastoral western Howard County, known for small farms that produce corn, soybeans and milk, is growing a more exotic international export: jazz musicians.
The Glenelg High School Jazz Ensemble will travel to Europe again this summer to perform at the prestigious Montreux and North Sea jazz festivals, with a performance in between at the Jazz Cellar in Freiburg, Germany.
It will be the ensemble's fourth invitation to Montreux, in Switzerland, and its third to the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, Netherlands, in the past 10 years.
"They're the two premium festivals; it's quite an honor and a feather in their cap," said Barry P. Enzman, music director at Glenelg for two decades, who led the jazz ensemble in a fund-raising concert for the band Friday.
The European invitations are as much a tribute Mr. Enzman's program as to the musicians themselves.
Since arriving at Glenelg 20 years ago, Mr. Enzman, 42, has had a strong influence on the school music scene in western Howard, building an aura around Glenelg's music program that is felt in the area's elementary schools.
Although it is tempting to imagine him scouting the back roads of western Howard looking for a saxophonist practicing in a corn field -- the musical equivalent of legendary Indiana basketball coaches -- Mr. Enzman's groundwork makes it possible for him to simply wait for talent to find him.
"He doesn't need to recruit at all," said Mike Blackman, elementary band teacher for Bushy Park and Lisbon elementary schools, whose students eventually go to Glenelg. "The band is such a presence in the community. The parents are enthusiastic enough to start their kids as early as possible, which is fourth grade."
That kind of community support and enthusiasm is rare in an era when budget constraints are putting the squeeze on public school music programs nationwide, music educators say.
"They obviously have some strong system, which, unfortunately, not the case across the state," said Chris Vadala, director of jazz studies at the University of Maryland College Park and a frequent judge at band adjudications. "I think they rate way up high in jazz ensembles across the country."
Mr. Enzman was born in Reading, Pa., and earned his undergraduate degree in performance and music education from Lebanon Valley College. He earned a master's degree in music education from Towson State University.
He came to Glenelg after the Howard County supervisor of music education heard him during a performance in Hagerstown. The supervisor asked Mr. Enzman whether he had teaching certification, which Mr. Enzman did, and told him to stop by for an interview.
Mr. Enzman, who lives in Sykesville with his wife, Jodi, is active in developing interest in music among the elementary and middle schools that feed into Glenelg High, staying in close touch with music teachers in his region.
Before Friday's concert, for example, he called Mr. Blackman to tell him that the guest soloist at the concert was a trombone player, adding, "You should push your trombone players to go."
In addition to working full-time at Glenelg, Mr. Enzman -- who majored in flute, clarinet and saxophone in college -- plays on weekends with his jazz band, Cashmere, which he credits with keeping him invigorated as a music teacher.
"I'm in the thick of it. I think I bring that angle to the rehearsal," he said. "I know the jazz idiom."
The fruit of his enthusiasm was on display at Friday's concert, which drew 800 patrons at $10 apiece to raise money for the band's traveling expenses this summer.
Each musician needs to raise about $1,800, and members plan to do so by selling tickets to jazz ensemble concerts, citrus fruit and submarine sandwiches.
The 21-member band played "Samba di Minor," "Blues for the Windy City" and "Big Dipper," among other numbers, at the concert.
During the first set, alto saxophonist Chris Seymour and trombonist Brian Pirrone played together. Both are first chair musicians and a study in sartorial contrasts.
Chris, who tends a 70-sheep family farm in Glenwood, wore a navy blue jacket and green khakis.
Brian, who lives across the street from Glenelg High, sported a gray jacket, black slacks, a metal medallion draped around his tie and shoulder-length black hair.
The two improvised together in the first half of the concert, Chris matching Brian's virtuosity measure for measure.
Brian and Chris, both seniors, plan to take different paths after graduation.
Brian has an audition next month at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and intends to stay with music. Chris plans to attend Duke University, major in biochemistry and join its jazz band.
After intermission, the band performed with guest soloist Rick Lillard, who played trombone with the Air Force's jazz ensemble, the Airmen of Note, and has jammed with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan and Louie Bellson.