Students' musical talent takes center stage at contest


February 28, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LYRICS FROM long ago regrettably say: Rock 'n' roll is here to stay.

This was soundly evident Saturday night in the Battle of the Bands 2000 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. The event pitted 11 rock 'n' roll ensembles from 10 high schools in Anne Arundel County against one another, before an audience of several hundred, mostly students.

It is fair to ask whether a middle-aged Old Crank has any business writing about rock 'n' roll concerts. He hangs out on the lower end of the FM dial, comfy among the classical music and talk shows. The first thing he heard on the radio Saturday morning was Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," a lovely start to the day.

Old Crank does have this thing about youth. He knows they are necessary. And some, even those among the pierced-flesh and purple-hair crowd, can be, like, interesting human beings.

One of those interesting human beings was Billy Shue, lead singer for Ignition, the St. Mary's High School entry. He explained that the group has been together for four years, practicing mostly in the homes of band members Andy Owen, Travis Todd and Jeff Geisler.

Gigs come regularly, but making money, he said, is of little consequence. "We are playing to make a name for ourselves as a good local band," he said.

Shue admits to being a bit of a ham and likes being in front of a crowd. "I love entertaining people," he said. "It's a passion in my life." He plans to pursue that passion in college, in TV and radio broadcasting.

The players Saturday night tended to be clean-cut and their effort was earnest, polished and, yes, loud to Old Crank's ears. More significantly, almost all the music was original, with jazz and even classical riffs finding their way into the performances.

This doubtless would warm the heart of someone like Bill Thayer, a Southern High music teacher. Big-band music is about as contemporary as his curriculum gets.

"We do have guitar classes that are mainly classical in nature," he said. "And they tend to be very popular. A lot of the kids in these classes perform in garage bands.

"We want to encourage all kinds of music. So far as this competition is concerned, the kids are doing this out of the sheer joy of doing it. As a music educator, that's the ultimate."

One of the judges, Jim Borchelt, owner of Cafe Gurus in Annapolis and an organizer of the Eastport a' Rockin summertime concert, said, "I think in general the bands were very good, very talented."

He added that it is hard to define rock 'n' roll these days. "The winning band had a rockabilly sound, some sort of fast country. And that keyboardist for the Cob Project had a lead-in that sounded almost classical."

The concert was the second annual, the work of Nancy Almgren. "I started it to find more activities for young people," she said. "I went to Carol Parham of the Board of Education and they came on board immediately as a sponsor." Parham is superintendent of the county public schools.

"We like to put them in front of their peers, in a professional setting, with a green room and all the rest," Almgren said. "Some of these kids are performing on stage for the first time. I want them to feel as though they were at a rock festival."

Almgren is a stockbroker and this is her project for Leadership Anne Arundel, a program promoting community service.

The top four bands and their sponsoring high schools, in order, were: Random Order (Archbishop Spalding), Emphatic! (Severna Park), Inspected by 3 (Chesapeake) and Point Blank (North County).

The best singer was Matt Hutchison (Spalding); best drummer, Matt Klier (Chesapeake); best bass, Nick Delaney (Spalding); best guitar, Jay Orem (Severna Park); best special effects, Tim Fitchet (Severna Park); best keyboard, Jeremy Ragsdale of the Cob Project (Broadneck); and best songwriting, Random Order.

Old Crank, incidentally, chatted up the obviously talented saxophonist from Arundel High's Better Than Nothing, Ben Britton.

His name was like that of the late classical English composer, right?

"Not quite," Britton said. "He spelled his name e-n."

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