Take a few trumpets and flutes, a handful of clarinets, throw in some saxophones, add a dash of percussion and sprinkle of trumpets — mix it all together and you have an Instant Concert.

John Hanson Middle School seventh grader Benjamin Shoemaker, left, and Gabrielle Morris, a Hanson eighth grader, practice saxophone in the lead up to performing in the Instant Concert on Feb. 12. Credit: Charles County Public Schools / Charles County Public Schools

That’s what Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students cooked up on a recent Saturday during the 2022 Elementary and Middle School Jazz Band Instant Concert hosted at La Plata High School. The event was the second fine arts program of its kind held this month. Elementary Orchestra and chorus students showcased their skills at a Feb. 5 concert with the help of CCPS staff Katie Bohannon, Gabriel Gray, Joy Jones, Melissa Tevis, Megan Howell, Dennis Murphy, Susan Sweeney, Mark Pavlecic, and Jackson Cummings.

“This is really to give our beginning band students an opportunity to perform,” Andrew Blumhardt, instructional specialist in fine and performing arts, said. “And it challenges them to learn five or six songs in about five hours.” The program has another component for older students. “It gives our high school students, especially our students who are thinking of going into music education, a leadership opportunity,” Blumhardt said. The staff members who took part in the Feb. 12 event included Kaylyn Walter, Catrina Tober, Ashley Brumberg, Ali Hill, Tak Mato, Scott Burton, and Kate Sellers.

La Plata High School sophomores Chris Gehrman, left, and Dominic Taylor, lead younger students on clarinet while practicing for the Instant Concert. Credit: Charles County Public Schools / Charles County Public Schools

At the Instant Concert, students in the performing arts get together to learn new-to-them pieces of music in the morning that they will play at a concert in the afternoon. Under the direction of CCPS music teachers and high school musicians and chorus students, the younger students hit the ground running, their instruments in tow.

“I wish I had this chance when I was in elementary school,” Dominic Taylor, a La Plata High School sophomore and clarinet player in the school’s concert band. “I think you can benefit from working with other musicians and a teacher instead of just working with a teacher all the time.”

Jurrari Dickens, a fifth-grader at Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School, didn’t mind spending his Saturday prepping for a concert. “I like making music,” said the saxophone player. “I came here so I could get better.”

For the past eight years, Jack Compton has been playing the clarinet. The Piccowaxen Middle School eighth-grader said he appreciates the free-form nature of jazz. “I really like the improvisation of it,” he said. Signing up to play in the Instant Concert was an easy decision for Compton. “I like playing with other students. I can learn from them,” he said. “And maybe they can learn from me too.”

Catrina Tober, instrumental music teacher for Charles County Public Schools, goes over a percussion part with Cole Phillips, a fifth grader at Mary H. Matula Elementary School. Credit: Charles County Public Schools / Charles County Public Schools

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