Columbia band in a `sweat'

85-member group to play its spring concert Sunday at River Hill High

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May 05, 2006|By LAUREN SCOTT | LAUREN SCOTT,SUN REPORTER

Band director Mike Blackman challenged his players to "sweat."

Not in the literal sense, despite the fact that nearly 85 musicians playing for the Columbia Concert Band are crowded in the band room at River Hill High School. He wanted his band members to focus on the music and give it their all.

A nonprofit community band since 1983, it practices yearlong for two hours each Monday night. At this week's practice, members let out a few laughs before quickly getting down to business and responding to Blackman's call for sweat.

The band's spring concert - at 3 p.m. Sunday at River Hill - was only days away.

The band will play Alfred Reed's The Hounds of Spring, Johan de Meij's "Hobbits" from his Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings and music from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by John Williams and Victor Lopez.

The band also will play Caribbean Hideaway by James Barnes, among other pieces.

"I really think that we've been able to include a variety of music that we haven't in the past," Blackman said. "I'm proud of that, and I want to be sure we can reach everybody."

The band plays three formal concerts a year - a children's concert in the fall and winter, and spring concerts. Members continue to play in the summer, but the schedule is less structured.

"I think we continue to improve as a band and the crowds continue to grow, and that has been exciting for me," said Riley McDonald, a band member of five years and the band's publicity chair.

The band played at the Maryland Music Educators Association convention in February.

"That was a really big deal for us because it was a convention for every music educator in the state," said Blackman, who is also the band director for fourth- and fifth-graders at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary in Ellicott City.

The volunteer band members range in age from teenagers to those in their 80s.

Robert Miller, a member since 1989 and the band's former director, plays in the band with his 14-year-old daughter, Arielle.

"It's a very special experience for me, both getting to watch her progress as a musician and getting to do it along with her," Miller said. "For me, it's another opportunity to play music."

Jodi Shochet, the band's president, used to drive 40 minutes from Baltimore County to get to practice. She did so because of all the bands she played for, she said the Columbia band was the best.

"I liked the fact that the members had a high quality of musicianship," said Shochet, who now lives in Ellicott City. "They practiced. They improved from week to week. They were serious during rehearsals, which means you could grow."

And sweat.

The Columbia Concert Band will perform its spring concert free at 3 p.m. Sunday at River Hill High School, 12101 Route 108 in Clarksville. Information: 301-596-9783.

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