At Towson High, students make music where they can

Though construction delay has them cooped up, gala at Meyerhoff is their focus

April 12, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Complications in Towson High School's renovations have put a damper on the music department's high note, forcing band and orchestra members to scramble for places to practice and perform.

Concerts have been held in borrowed auditoriums at nearby schools. Performances of the school musical are being shifted to the cafeteria as construction continues on Towson's auditorium and two music studios. Musicians have crowded into halls, a faculty room and a trailer for practice.

If that weren't bad enough, somebody broke into the trailer recently and stole stereo equipment worth $2,000.

"The renovations started about three years ago and since then, everybody else has moved back to their rooms except for us," music department chairman Barry Karow said. "We moved from the band room to the auditorium, to the auditorium lobby, then to a faculty room and now we're in the trailer.

"After somebody stole our stereo equipment, we kept thinking, `What next?' It doesn't do anything for your faith in humanity, that's for sure. But it's funny, just when I think the kids will get discouraged and not want to do it anymore, they keep ticking on."

The band played on, Karow said, even on days when students had no idea where practice would be held. Even when the room was too small for everyone to fit inside, and instruments occupied the hall. Even when summer heat was unbearable in the trailer.

To reward the department's resilience, members of the Towson High Music Boosters, the Towson Alumni Association and the state chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence are sponsoring this year's Spring Gala concert at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on May 6.

The school's orchestra, band, jazz ensemble and choral group are expected to perform with several members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

"I've been to concerts there, but I'm excited about what it will be like to actually play there," said Mariana Escamilla, 15, a freshman flute player in the concert band. "We've been practicing a lot to play there. It makes it all worth it."

Pizza and Christmas wreath sales have been among fund-raisers held to collect about $18,000 to pay for the hall, program books and other costs.

"They've had to really be creative, so we thought it would kind of be a reward for students," said Patricia S. Schminke, whose daughter Beth plays the flute in the school band. "It was also an opportunity to raise funds to purchase new seating for the band to sit on in the new auditorium. These kids are really working hard. They deserve it."

The $17 million renovation project, which includes rewiring the school, replacing the electrical system and adding an elevator, was supposed to last a year and half, school officials said. A six-month delay turned into a yearlong delay because of construction problems.

"It has not been an ideal situation," said Principal Gwendolyn R. Grant. "Now we're hoping it will be ready in a month or two."

Until then, the school's 200 instrumentalists will continue creating music in the trailer as they finesse the bouncy and upbeat "Dance of the Comedians" from Bedrich Smetana's opera "The Bartered Bride" or the exotic "Bacchanale" from Camille Saint-Saens' opera "Samson and Delilah."

The trailer's acoustics aren't great, but the promise of the Meyerhoff is more than enough incentive, the young musicians say.

"It's been tough and it's been discouraging, but we're getting by," said senior Peter Reynolds, 17, who plays tenor saxophone in the band. "We just kept looking forward to when we were going to be in the new auditorium. But now we're really excited about playing in the concert hall. It's so impressive."

Anyone interested in donating money to the Spring Gala concert should send checks to Towson High School Music Boosters, c/o Towson High School, 69 Cedar Ave., Towson 21286.

Pub Date: 4/12/99

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