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News Maryland Baltimore County Arbutus Lansdowne

Lansdowne High students to perform at the Hippodrome

Performing at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore is an opportunity that many artists dream of.

For nine Lansdowne High School students, that dream will come true this week.

The Guitar II/III class at the high school has been working with renowned guitarist Kevin Jackson as part of the Hippodrome Foundation's educational outreach program and will perform at 7 p.m. in the lobby at the theater before the 8 p.m. showing of "Green Day's American Idiot" May 10.

"We're the non-profit arm of the Hippodrome," said Oliver Waxter, director of the foundation.

She said the group is dedicated to increasing access to both the theater and the artists who work and perform there.

The foundation began an educational outreach program with Lansdowne in 2011 after music teacher Rebecca Welker contacted the foundation about a possible partnership.

"Right away, we recognized she was someone we were going to be able to count on," Waxter said.

After spending the 2011-2012 school year partnering the school's vocal group with the theater's group Soulful Symphony, in January 2013 the program expanded to include the guitar program.

"Having these professional artists integrate into the class is extremely effective and that's something we want to invest in," Waxter said.

She said the extra attention from a music professional such as Jackson benefits students and teachers.

Lansdowne guitar teacher Rob Tracy has to try to equally distribute his attention to all nine students in the class, which can be difficult, Waxter said.

"He (Jackson) can give the individual attention that is needed," she said.

Junior guitar player and Arbutus resident Josh Stine said he enjoyed having the opportunity to work with Jackson throughout the spring.

"If Mr. Tracy is my man, Mr. Jackson is my main man," he said. "He's a pleasure to be around. He gives us a hands-on experience.

He said he is excited to show off the skills he's learned at the group's performance at the Hippodrome.

"It's kind of a new experience, especially (playing) for a large group of people that I don't know," he said.

"I have a feeling it will be a lot of fun," Stine said.

Tracy, in his first year teaching at Lansdowne, said the program has been great for motivating students who might not be as thrilled about school as others.

"That seems like a gold mine for kids who might otherwise have difficulty coming to school," Tracy said.

"The guitar kids are a different breed," Tracy said.

He said Jackson has served as a role model for the class as well as providing encouragement to the students.

"I think he gave them the opportunity to make mistakes and be OK with it and work through it," Tracy said.

"He's a real laid-back guy and a very go with the flow kind of character, but he's a virtuoso on his instrument," Tracy said.

"A lot of what he imparted to the kids was some of his style," he said.

"I think he inspired some confidence in them," he said.

Tracy said that, prior to this year, the Hippodrome partnership did not extend past the vocal program and he was glad to get the guitar program involved.

"One of the reasons that I came to Lansdowne is because I thought this partnership with the Hippodrome was really great," he said.

Per Jackson and Tracy's combined ideas, the students will perform a variety of pieces ranging from George Washington Carver Jr.'s "Mr. Magic" to The Eagles' "Hotel California."

"I try to give them a good diet of different types of music," Tracy said. "They would probably have never turned on or listened to a jazz piece."

He is also looking forward to performing at the Hippodrome and sees a bright future for the program.

"I feel like this is the beginning of something really good," Tracy said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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