This past school year, band students from Easton Middle School (EMS) enjoyed having the University of Maryland’s Mid-Atlantic Brass visit them as part of the Talbot County Art’s Council’s ongoing Artist-in-Residence Program. The brass quintet made four visits to EMS, providing master classes with EMS band students. This year students in four sixth-grade band classes experienced World History with World Music in an effort to show the importance of the arts in societies around the world. Each visit involved a 45-minute presentation by the quintet, as well as class time to help develop a meaningful relationship between quintet members and the students they mentored. In addition, seventh and eighth-grade band classes received master classes from the visiting artists.
According to Nancy Larson, representing the Talbot County Arts Council, “This latest project was initiated by members of the board of directors of the Talbot County Arts Council who were dismayed by the near total absence of young people attending Mid-Shore Area performances of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, and Chesapeake Music. A study group concluded that younger people might begin attending if they could be introduced to classical music in various appealing forms at the secondary school level.”
Don Buxton adds, “This opportunity enabled Chesapeake Music, who is a partner in the program, to enhance what our organization is already doing in the schools. Chesapeake Music’s YouthReach Program has introduced students to music through school assemblies and one-on-one residencies provided through the organization’s First Strings Program in Talbot County schools for many years. This year, through a generous donor we have been able to offer free tickets to come to concerts which was very well received.”
The objective of the program is to provide the student body a rare opportunity to learn from the skill and experience of graduate-level musicians, to both inspire a lifelong love of classical music among the general student body and allow music students to benefit from the skill and enthusiasm of young professional-level musicians, who are qualified as music teachers and who are participating as volunteers.
Donna Ewing, Band Instructor at EMS, comments, “The University of MD graduate students greatly enhanced our program, giving students a chance to hear and learn from accomplished musicians. Having four sessions allowed The Mid-Atlantic Brass to get to know the students and the students eagerly looked forward to their return. It was a joy to watch the interaction between our students and the Mid-Atlantic Brass and to hear the musical growth made over the four sessions!”
The Mid-Atlantic Brass asked students about which popular arrangements they would like to hear performed. Among the songs selected included “Star Wars March of the Resistance,” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Lauren Patin, the French horn player with Mid-Atlantic Brass comments, “We have definitely seen improvement being here all year. It’s been cool to be out of the University of Maryland bubble and be with students who don’t have access to something like this.”
Dylan Rye, trumpet player with Mid-Atlantic Brass, states, “The most rewarding thing was the one-on-one interactions with the kids.”
Trombonist Matthew Larson, adds, “It was fun when they didn’t know the trombone could do some of the things it did musically.”
Mid-Atlantic Brass, comprised of students from the University of Maryland (UMD) School of Music, has been performing around the DC metro area for the past two years. Last spring, they were recognized and invited to be a part of the UMD School of Music Honors Chamber Showcase. The University of Maryland portion of the initiative is being managed by Dr. Robert DiLutis, Professor of Clarinet and Director of the Community Engagement Office at the School of Music.
Talbot County Public Schools has been involved through the encouragement of former fine arts supervisor Dr. Marcia Sprankle and her successor, James Redman. The EMS component is managed by band director Donna Ewing with the assistance of chorus director CJ Freeman. Chesapeake Music has been represented by executive director Donald Buxton and Hanna Woicke, chair of the YouthReach Committee. Participating Talbot County Arts Council board members are Nancy Larson and Bill Peak. Housing during the quintet’s overnight stays in Talbot County has been organized by Chesapeake Music president Courtney Kane, with generous hospitality provided by Hanna and Peter Woicke and Liz Koprowski.
If the pilot program proves successful, it is hoped funding will be found to continue the initiative in future years at Easton Middle School and possibly expand the project to include other local schools. The program is made possible by a grant from the Artistic Insights Fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, with funds from an Arts-in-Education grant from the Talbot County Arts Council, using revenues provided by the Maryland State Arts Council. Carpe Diem Arts also supported the program.