THE "RATTLESNAKE RIDGE" march is so new, it will debut as a highlight in the Sousa Style Concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of Westminster High School.
Eighth-grade instrumentalists at Shiloh Middle School composed the snappy march from a group of melodies they wrote and scored for band in a music composition "mini-course" taught by Philip Stephenson, instrumental music instructor at the school.
Glenn Patterson conducts a professional band that assembles once each year to give the Sousa Style Concert. Musicians volunteer for the band, he said, including "local quality musicians" such as instrumental music teachers from county schools, local colleges, private music teachers, and exemplary high school musicians invited to balance sections.
Crowd-pleasing music is the standard at Sousa concerts. That's why the Shiloh composition was selected for the program.
"Sousa was always interested in presenting music with audience appeal," Patterson said. "For instance, he introduced jazz, in the original ragtime, to European audiences."
The march to be played at the Sousa concert was named after Rattlesnake Ridge, the land Shiloh Middle School was built upon, and dedicated to past principal of North Carroll Middle, N. Richard DeLong. It started as a jumble of melodic ideas in October.
"We chose a scale to use, took our instruments home, and made up four to eight pieces," said clarinetist Alyssa Ray, one of the nine eighth-grade composers.
"We worked together for a final melody version," said Stephenson, explaining how favored melodies from the nine pupils were cut and pasted to develop the march. "After the melodies were written out, we put in a bass line, and chords after that, and then decided what instrument plays what part and where," he said.
The composers had access to a computer software program, Finale 2000, that enabled the music to be scored for instruments and played back using the computer soundcard. In the computerized playback, the snare drum was substituted with a police whistle, and most of the instruments sounded like children's electronic toys.
Two weeks ago, the eighth-grade band received individual parts for the first read-through.
Stephenson helped them decipher changes in key and tempo and how the leading melody moved throughout the band instrumentation.
When they began to play, the full-bodied sound was distinctly more attractive than what the computer had given them.
"It was pretty good for the first time sight reading," Alyssa said.
"Those sixteenth-notes were Rebecca's favorite theme," said Kristin Duling, a clarinetist referring to a fast passage that had originated with flutist Rebecca Dickinson. Fellow flutist Laura Schaefer likes the challenge of fast notes. "I think they sound cool," said Laura.
Other members of the composition group are Amy Klinefelter, flute; Jordan Fisher, contra-alto clarinet; David Campbell, trumpet; James Paul, trumpet; and Adam Brodowski, violin (this columnist's son). The band will play the march during its spring concert.
A little tweaking will take place before the Sousa concert, when the composition group will hear their piece performed by professionals.
This year, proceeds from the concert will be split between Carroll County Arts Council and Shiloh Middle. The music composition program at Shiloh invites nationally recognized composer Quincy Hilliard in alternate years to teach instrumental students at all levels several days at the school. This will be his third visit to Stephenson's music pupils. Stephenson began his music composition program about five years ago while at North Carroll Middle School. The program has received statewide recognition.
With "Rattlesnake Ridge" ready, the composition group intends to next create a piece for orchestra.
Tickets to the Sousa Style Concert are available at area music stores and cost $5 for adults, $2.50 for students and $4 for seniors. A family ticket costs $10. The snow date is Feb. 19.
Blue Ribbon night
From 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow, Spring Garden Elementary will celebrate its selection as a Maryland Blue Ribbon School. Spring Garden is on Boxwood Drive, Hampstead.
Principal Gloria Julius will share attendance statistics and test results.
Children's work will be displayed in classrooms and halls. Julius recommends that visitors read the children's literary and mathematical works, and study their science and social studies projects, to discover why the school has received the recognition.
Reservations are open for the annual Dinner Theater concert by the 20 singing members of North Carroll Ensemble at the school March 2. Up to 300 guests will be accepted for dinner. Additional guests may attend just the show by the ensemble in the auditorium, which follows dinner.
The menu will include hors d'oeuvres followed by roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and desserts. Seating for dinner begins at 6 p.m. in the school's commons area, which will be decorated for the event.
Doors will open at 8 p.m. for the public to attend the 90-minute show in the school auditorium. The show will include Broadway hits and contemporary songs with choreography and three costume changes.
Tickets to the show only are $4 for adults and $3 for students. Tickets to the dinner and performance are $13 for adults and $7.50 for children younger than age 11.
"The ensemble is well-known in this area," said booster parent Laverne D'Alesandro. "We have quite a following for this event, and it books up quickly."
Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.