Matuskey, of Bryant Woods, is on a musical mission

January 29, 2003

Alison Matuskey, vocal music teacher at Bryant Woods Elementary School, is running as fast as she can. Named Music Educator of the Year for 2002-2003 by Howard County Parents for School Music, she has generated a cascade of musical activities.

Matuskey, who is trained as a concert pianist and sings opera, organized a song-writing project with songwriter Sue Trainor for children in grades one through five. Her students sang their compositions in the school's winter concert Jan. 15 to help raise money for Spenser's Hope, a nonprofit founded by Gretchen Miller, a parent at Bryant Woods, to help families experiencing pre-term labor or premature birth.

"We did this to show that music can make a big difference ... even the smallest voice," she said. "That's why we [also] sang the song `I Am but a Small Voice.' "

Small squares decorated by fourth- and fifth-graders were shown at the concert; Miller made them into tiny quilts for Howard County General Hospital.

Matuskey also entered her fifth-graders in the Oscar Mayer Talent Search, and last week was rewarded by a visit from the company's Wienermobile - an early-bird prize. The school submitted a three-minute videotape based on Oscar Mayer jingles.

"The girls wrote cheers and were cheerleaders; the kids wrote their own rap songs and did break-dancing. Then we sang the [wiener] jingle in Spanish," Matuskey said.

Fifth-grader Maricela Johnson, who speaks Spanish, helped with pronunciation.

Bryant Woods is also eligible for a $10,000 prize to be awarded to one school in each state, and the grand prize - an additional $15,000.

"Yes! I'm hoping it might be ours," Matuskey said. "[That money] in our little school would go a very long way."

The judging will be held in March, which is designated as Music in Our Schools Month, she said.

The Bryant Woods children toured the Wienermobile, four at a time. "The seats are relish-colored plush, with [designs of] hot dogs woven into the fabric," Matuskey said. "The custom-made carpet looks like condiments were spilled all over it."

The drivers, called "hot-doggers," took Matuskey to lunch at Tomato Palace on the Columbia lakefront. She sat in the front seat to navigate.

"It was quite a day," Matuskey said. "We were standing on our heads with excitement."

Now in her fourth year at Bryant Woods, she said she had not intended to be an educator. "I was going to be a performer," she said. "My mother was a concert pianist. She died when I was 4. I inherited her Steinway grand and started winning competitions in high school."

A "Navy brat," Matuskey, who lives in Pointer's Run, grew up in Barcelona, Spain; Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway and other places.

She trained at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and studied with Leon Fleisher at the Peabody, she said. But when she became a mother, Matuskey said she realized "that performance is nights and weekends," and decided to change her workday to spend time with her son, Jacob. Now a freshman at Atholton High School, he is first-chair trombonist in the Maryland Junior All-State Band.

"Music is just something we can't take for granted. So that's my mission," Matuskey said.

Valentine's Day luncheon set at Hawthorn Center

The Hickory Ridge Community Association will sponsor a children's Valentine's Day luncheon at 12:15 p.m. Feb. 14 at Hawthorn Center, 6175 Sunny Spring. Preschoolers, school-age children and parents are invited.

A pizza lunch, heart-theme crafts and a performance by Turner, Dean of Magic are planned.

Admission is $2 for Columbia lien-payers; $3 for others. Tickets must be purchased in advance at the Hawthorn Center.

Information: 410-730-7327.


Sean Nicholas: To Michael and Shelley Cook of Odenton on Dec. 24. The baby was born in Howard County General Hospital.

Around town

Parents and tots: Town Center Community Association is holding a 10-week winter session of Parent and Tots Play Group from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Historic Oakland, 5430 Vantage Point Road. The cost is $25 for Columbia Association residents; $27 for nonresidents. 410-730- 4744.

Yoga: Wilde Lake Community Association is sponsoring two classes of yoga with Kat Kelly-Chung. A class for beginners is offered from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays; a class for senior citizens is offered from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays. Participants should consult a physician before starting an exercise program. The cost is $72 for six weeks; $15 a class. Columbia lien-payers receive a 10 percent discount. 410-730-3987.

Money: Wilde Lake Community Association will sponsor the second of two classes on money management led by Madeleine Greene of Maryland Cooperative Extension. "Do You Want to Work Forever?" - a retirement planning class - will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20. Registration is requested. The cost is $5. 410-730-3987.

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