Bands play on at festival

Contest: High school bands and color guard units step lively at Howard's inaugural Music in Motion festival.

October 24, 2001|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sounds of drumbeats mingled with musical notes from piccolos, clarinets and brass instruments at Centennial High School for the first Howard County Music in Motion band festival in Ellicott City.

With Atholton, Centennial, Hammond and Long Reach high schools serving as noncompeting hosts, the event Saturday featured performances by 11 high school marching bands and color guards from Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. An exhibition by West Virginia's Shepherd College Marching Band told the legend of Billy the Kid through songs by Billy Joel.

"It's an unprecedented type of show in Howard County," said Steve Marini, event coordinator and an Atholton parent.

"I think this [is] what we were hoping for when we started planning this event 18 months ago," added Martini, referring to the pomp and pageantry and the large turnout of spectators.

Howard County Music in Motion is a nonprofit corporation formed by parents to produce the show in conjunction with school band directors. Proceeds will help fund school music programs. The festival also was part of the USSBA -- United States Scholastic Band Association, part of a nonprofit organization that supports youth and the arts.

Becky Odum, a parent with the Long Reach Boosters, was glad not to spend hours on a bus to participate in a band event. Organizers wanted to hold a competition in Howard County to showcase marching bands on home turf, Odum said.

Each band's performance had a theme that was carried through with its musical selections, choreography and props.

River Hill High School -- the only Howard band entered in the competition -- performed a tribute to the Beatles. Centennial presented "Latin 2001," and Atholton took the audience on a journey through Native American culture with its "Dreamcatcher" show. Hammond's "A Civil War Suite" celebrated American history, while Long Reach performed music from Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

Though the host bands did not compete, each was scored with the competing bands by nationally recognized judges. Students gained artistic experience and satisfaction, and listened to other bands -- something they don't often do, said Max VanDerBeek, director of Centennial's Marching Eagles.

Rose Song, Stephanie Covert, Christine Yu and Colleen Bredland, all juniors at Atholton, echoed VanDerBeek's objective. And the band members said they also relished the opportunity to see other units perform.

The festival was opened and closed with patriotic music performed by combined bands from the host schools.

Throughout the event, the parking lot and football field at Centennial resembled a carnival as the aroma of food wafted through the air and people of all ages meandered about. Parents and faculty organizers ran to and fro. Groups of students in uniforms and costumes of all colors moved in formation.

With amazing precision and speed, vehicles pulled carts loaded with percussion instruments, keyboards and assorted props -- including a huge cactus -- on and off the field simultaneously as one band exited and another entered. Behind the youths, six parent "pit pals" loaded a truck with drums, tubas and other large instruments too heavy for the bus.

The festival was opened and closed with a rendition of patriotic music, performed by combined bands from the host schools.

"I think we worked hard and put forth a great show," said River Hill band member Leif Ellingson, 16.

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