All-Shore Honor Bands

Melody Sharp, Contributor

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This past weekend five of Kent County High’s students participated in the annual All-Shore Honor’s Band concert. Glaeden Boyd (baritone- grade 11), Jason Douthit (trombone- grade 11), Nathan King (trombone- grade 9) and Monica Rosanova (clarinet- grade 10), Melody Sharp- das me- (clarinet- grade 11) were the participating members. But wait- what is “All-Shore”?

All-Shore, my favorite band event of the whole school year, is an annual event made up of two honor bands that students must audition for and then are selected. The two bands are the Junior All-Shore band and the Senior All-Shore band. Junior band is for students grades 6-8. Senior band is for the high school grades 9-12. But not just anyone from anywhere can audition. That’s where the “Shore” in “All-Shore” comes in. Students that are in grades 6 through 12 that go to any of the 7 different school districts on Maryland’s beautiful eastern shore (Maryland District 5), may audition for one of the two bands. Students also must be receiving a credit for a band class within the same school year that they’d wish to audition.

The Eastern Shore Band Director’s Association (ESBDA) sponsors All-Shore. They are a branch of Maryland music educators that follow state-level guidelines. Approximately 40 band directors- from the 7 eastern shore school districts that I mentioned earlier- are members of ESBDA. This group of band directors also sponsors other band events including Solo and Ensemble Festival, and District Band Festival.

All-Shore has been around for 54 years (and 39 years for the Junior band). ESBDA started All-Shore when they felt that their students weren’t being well represented and recognized for their talents at the All-State level (All-State is also an honors band similar to All-Shore however, students in all of Maryland may audition). So they started All-Shore to give the eastern shore a chance to experience an honors band and to give students important, memorable experiences.

Students audition in late January or early February every year. This past year, approximately 300 middle school students in total auditioned and 250 high school students. Due to balance of sounds and voices that an orchestra band needs, there are limited seats for each instrument. For example, there may only be 20 clarinets per band.

On an early saturday morning, students wake up to go to the school that volunteered to host auditions. This past year, the school that hosted auditions was Mardela High School and I’m told that they will also host again for the 2017 auditions. At auditions, there are 2 or 3 judges that are assigned to one of the two bands, and then to a particular instrument. Each group of judges are in a classroom, placed behind curtains to ensure that the judge will not know who the student is and therefore cannot judge with bias.

Students must play one solo piece if they are auditioning for junior band and those auditioning for senior band must play two solo pieces. All solo pieces that must be performed are released and suggested to be handed out to interested band students as early as October 1st for that school year in able to be prepared for their audition. Wind-instrument students must also memorize 7 (for Junior) or 9 scales (for Senior) that they will be asked to play two of at auditions- that are randomly selected- along with the chromatic scale. Percussion students, comparable to scales, are tested on a special set of skills that they must demonstrate along with one or two prepared solo pieces.

If a student is accepted, that student is handed a brand new, beautiful B&B Music Store folder. (Side note: B&B Music is located in Camden, Delaware and has always been a large supporter of ESBDA and when ESBDA had problems with coming up with folders for distribution, B&B stepped up to provide all of their folders.) On this folder in the top right-hand side will be a sticker that says their instrument’s part (usually 1, 2, or 3), seat placement, the band (Junior or Senior), and the year. For example, the sticker on my folder this year said “Clarinet 2 Seat 9 Senior All Shore Band 2016”. For the past 4 years that I’ve been in All-Shore, I’ve kept all my folders like they’re trophies and I hang them up on my bedroom wall.

In the folder is the 5 pieces of music to be prepared that will be performed at the All-Shore concert in early April. There is also a piece of paper that starts off with,

“Dear All-Shore Band Member,

On behalf of all Eastern Shore band directors, congratulations on qualifying for the All-Shore Honors Band.”

It is signed off by Mrs. Heather Fullerton, President of ESBDA and also Director of Bands at Centreville Middle School.

This past year, Mr. Robert Sheldon was selected and hired to conduct the Senior band and Mr. Matthew Heist for Junior band. Mr. Sheldon is what we call the “visiting/guest conductor”. This is because he is not from around here, he’s from Illinois, and he is also a composer; the Senior band conductor is always a composer. The Senior band even gets to play 2-3 pieces composed by their conductor. Last year the visiting conductor was Mr. William Owens and the year before (2014 in case you lost count) that was my personal most favorite, Mr. Samuel R. Hazo and what’s more is that he was the visiting conductor while the concert was hosted at Kent County High School. The Junior All-Shore band’s conductors are Directors of Bands from local schools. Mr. Heist is the Director of Bands at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland.

On friday April 8th, the five Kent County High School students went to school to get on another bus almost immediately to leave for Queen Anne’s County High to begin the All-Shore Bands’ first rehearsal all together. Rehearsal was from 9am to 4pm with a lunch break at noon. On the 9th, students reported to Queen Anne’s County High again and also practiced again from 12:30pm to 5pm.

After practice, students got dressed in their school’s concert or marching band attire and were able to attend a delicious lasagna and chicken dinner banquet before the concert that is strictly just for the students and directors of bands. ESBDA pays for the whole dinner however, the school hosting the concert has to organize it. Which I can’t help but recognize Queen Anne’s High for what a wonderful job on the banquet they did. It is clear that Queen Anne’s was ensuring that the All-Shore members got what they deserved for their hard work.

Towards the end of the dinner, Mrs. Fullerton reads off the names of every single band member in each band for them to walk up, shake the hand of one of the two band conductors (depending on which band they’re in) while they give the student their medal for being in All-Shore band that year. The medals are pins that a student may pin onto their outfit for the concert and they may also put past All-Shore medals or really any medals that they have received related to band. The All-Shore medals are also held up and attached to the pin by a wide ribbon that are the same colors as the school’s colors that hosted the concert.

After the banquet, students went back to the band room to begin warming up for the 7:30pm concert. However, as the students were heading back, many parents and guests had already arrived and were in the lobby. This includes my own Mommom who caught me and gave me a beautiful ring right off her own hand to show me how proud of me she was. She also told me to keep her ring. So as we were warming up, I was trying to figure out which finger the purple heart-shaped ring fit best on.

The Junior band started off the concert with The Star Spangled Banner arranged by Mark Williams as the Junior band begins the concert with every year. They also played Blue Ridge Reel by Brian Balmages, La Banda Nascente by Berrardo Braccia, How to Train Your Dragon arranged by Sean O’Loughlin, and Three Ayres from Gloucester by Hugh M. Stuart.

The Senior band played- in this order- America, The Beautiful arranged by Dragon and Wagner, Bright Lights! by Robert Sheldon, Redemption by Rossano Galante, a song written in memory of Galante’s mother, Conquest I by Kenneth Lampl, a song from the movie “Ninja’s Creed” and The Stormchasers also by Robert Sheldon.

After the fast-paced, exhilarating Bright Lights!, someone yelled “great!” immediately after the song ended. After the slow, moving, emotional Redemption, the audience stood as they clapped.

When the concert ended with The Stormchasers, each row, starting from the back row of the band, was signaled to stand up by Mr. Sheldon. After a few moments, the next row up stood up, and the next, until finally the front row. This allowed the audience to be able to see everyone in the band.

When the concert was declared over and everyone was dismissed, the students came down off the stage and went to the school’s band room to put their instrument away, maybe also to ask Mr. Sheldon to sign their All-Shore T-Shirt that they had previously purchased (like me). Then, waiting in the full lobby were proud parents, family members, and great friends. Flowers, hugs, and ”wonderful job!”s were also waiting to be gifted to the students as they walked out of the band hallway.

One of the most important things, if not the only, that Mr. Sheldon disclosed to us during practice was that our music needed to be played with emotion, positive attitudes, and expression. He told us to “sell the music” and he taught us how to do such thing but he very highly stressed that emotion was the biggest factor.

Mrs. Fullerton’s term as president also ended last Saturday night. She was also in All-Shore in 1993 when she was a sophomore in high school, along with Queen Anne’s County High’s Director of Bands, Mr. Eric Wright, as a senior. Mrs. Fullerton played the flute and Mr. Wright played the bass clarinet. The visiting conductor for that year was Sally Wagner.

Through my past 4 years in All-Shore, which was also the same length as Mrs. Fullerton’s last term as President, I can vouch that she is indeed a very diligent, compassionate human about music-education. Music, whether you’re in a band or not, and any kind of music, is so important and she knows this. As she said in her “President’s Message” in 2014, “Music can be healing. It challenges our minds and restores our souls. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that makes sense on a given day.”

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All-Shore Honor Bands