The spring concert season is in full swing in Howard County high schools, and nowhere is it swinging more than at Wilde Lake and Glenelg high schools, home of two of the most respected, senior and successful band directors in the state.
At Wilde Lake, Lew Dutrow, his right heel tapping, his head nodding and bobbing to the beat, his left arm pumping time, is leading the Wilde Lake High School Jazz Ensemble in a rousing version of "Johnny's Theme," the theme song to the old Johnny Carson Show.
A visitor to the rehearsal, closing his eyes, might think he's listening to a re-run of the show on television. But Dutrow, hearing something troubling, stops his young musicians with a gesture.
"It's a little sloppy," Dutrow tells his young musicians. "All of us will play tighter and better together."
With another gesture, the music begins again. This time, Dutrow is pleased.
"Now we're starting to cook. It's starting to get lively!" he says as the band finishes up. "That's how it ends, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you!"
Three hours later and maybe a dozen miles away, Barry Enzman is leading the Glenelg High School Jazz Band on a similar musical journey. Like his Wilde Lake counterpart — and friend — Enzman is animated and exuberant, tapping his foot, snapping his fingers, pointing and waving his hands.
"Yeah, everybody came to play today, man," he says as the band finishes rehearsing one song and he launches them into another.
"One, two, and one, two, three, four," Enzman chants, and the bouncy strains of "One Mint Julep," a classic 1950s rhythm-and-blues song, fill the room. This version is a blend of saxophones, horns, drums and keyboard, including a series of short solos, and when it ends, Enzman smiles.
"Yeah!" he says approvingly. "Like riding a bike. Very good."
Lew Dutrow, 55, and Barry Enzman, 60, are more than just the two longest-tenured band leaders to serve at the same Howard County school: Dutrow for 33 years at Wilde Lake, Enzman for 39 at Glenelg. They are teachers whose dedication and talent have earned them statewide reputations and inspired numerous men and women to pursue music careers.
Both took over struggling programs and built them into musical powerhouses that consistently win local and regional competitions, and occasionally even perform overseas.
"Both men are extremely well respected for their ability to always provide students with high-quality musical experiences," said Rob White, instructional facilitator of music for the Howard County Public School System. "Both are looked to by their peers as leaders. Both are very knowledgeable and very willing to help out fellow directors."
"They're the elder statesmen," said Harlan Parker, coordinator of music education at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, who knows both men well. "They're great teachers — in the top one percent of teachers that I know.
"Howard County is very fortunate to have them."
Growing up in Frederick, Lew Dutrow played the trumpet in high school and in college. But he always knew he wanted to teach, and after he earned his degree in music education from the University of Maryland in College Park, he went to work in Howard County. He transferred to Wilde Lake his second year, and has been there ever since.
"Wilde Lake's been a really great place for me," Dutrow said. "Once I got going here and saw how the kids care, saw how much we could achieve together, I thought I'd stick around. … And now, 33 years later, here I still am."
At Wilde Lake, Dutrow leads a marching band, a concert band and a half dozen other ensembles and bands. "It's a lot of things we do here," he said.
Dutrow has seen many changes in his 33 years, but at least one constant has remained: "These kids still very much enjoy the whole musical experience," he said.
They both enjoy it and, over the years, have had great success at it, winning competitions up and down the East Coast. A long row of file cabinets in the Wilde Lake band room is lined with scores of trophies won by the school's bands over the years.
"The last five trips we've taken, we've been the grand champion," Dutrow said of his jazz ensemble's competitions. "But I've never been about that," he added. "The music is what comes first."
Peabody's Parker praised Dutrow for his ability to put together sweet-sounding ensembles year after year from constantly changing parts.
"What sets Lew apart is, no matter who he has in his group, he's such a great teacher that the group always sounds incredible," Parker said. "I think part of it is, both he and Barry are both great teachers and very good musicians."
Dutrow seldom picks up his trumpet anymore, confining his playing to sessions with his 11-year-old daughter, who plays the violin and clarinet. And that's fine by him.
"I've decided I wanted to use my time and my musical energies working with the kids, to making them the best they can be," he said. "Teaching kids to love music, teaching kids to play well, teaching them to have a great musical experience … that's what I love to do."
Aaron Robertson, a Wilde Lake senior who has been in the jazz band for three years and this year is band president, said practices "are always a very fun part of the day. Everybody's so excited about the music.
"And Mr. D. is just amazing. He really helps you achieve your best, even if you're having a bad day. He's very encouraging — always has a very enthusiastic demeanor to him."
Three years ago, Dutrow hosted a concert celebrating his 30 years at Wilde Lake. Some 40 of his former students showed up to surprise and honor their former mentor.
It was a touching moment for Dutrow. "It was really, really something," he recalled, smiling at the memory. "That's why we do this."
After he graduated from Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania some four decades ago, Barry Enzman spent a year on the road as a professional musician. It was a gig in Hagerstown that launched him on the road he was perhaps destined to take.
The then-supervisor of music education for Howard County happened to be at the Hagerstown show, and during the break he and Enzman talked. When he learned Enzman had a degree in music education, the supervisor told Enzman about a job opening in Howard. Enzman applied, was hired, and with that, one of the state's most consistently accomplished band programs was born.
"When I got here, the program was not in good shape at all," Enzman said.
He spent five years rebuilding it, he said, then realized he was not the type of teacher to look for other struggling programs to rebuild. Instead, he wanted to stick around Glenelg and maintain what he had.
Maintain it he has.
Every year, high school bands in Howard are assessed by a panel of experts, and every year for the past 37 Enzman's symphony band has earned the highest ratings possible, according to county music chief White.
"It's a state record," White said. "No other band has done that."
"It's been a great ride," Enzman said. "I've gotten to experience a lot."
Among those experiences, he said, are taking bands to competitions from Florida to Canada, as well as to such prestigious overseas jazz festivals as the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland
"You need a certain caliber group do that," Enzman said, noting that "big guns" like Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock perform at such events. "It's not typically for high school bands."
This summer, Enzman will take his jazz ensemble to Europe for the eighth time and one student who's looking forward to the trip is lead trumpet player Rebecca Pfeiffer, 17.
"I went two years ago and it was an incredible experience," Pfeiffer said.
A senior, Pfeiffer is attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the fall, where she plans to double major in music and business.
"I don't think I'd be majoring in music if it weren't for (Enzman)," she said. "He makes it seem like fun — not a chore at all."
Like Dutrow, Enzman has the hardware to prove his success — rows of trophies and plaques line the band room shelves and tables.
But also like Dutrow, Enzman said he's not in it for the trophies. "Awards and trophies are great, but that's more for the kids," he said. "I've already gotten my piece out of this by taking them on the journey."
His greatest reward, he explained, comes from instilling in his students a love of and an aptitude for music — for example, teaching them to master a new piece.
"To do this as long as I've done it, you have to really enjoy and get into the process, taking them from Point A to Point B," he said.
It's a skill at which Enzman excels, according to the Peabody Institute's Parker.
"One of the great things about Barry is his bands always have this beautiful blended, homogenous sound," Parkers said. "They play so well together — it's almost like a great pipe organ."
Enzman said he did not know how much longer he'd be teaching, though he conceded he was "on the short end" of his career.
But he added: "I still love getting up in the morning, rolling up my sleeves, seeing what's in store for the day. "
'We're the old guard'
Both Dutrow and Enzman had nothing but praise for the students, the community and the school administration for helping them succeed as music teachers.
"The administration's been really supportive of what we do," Dutrow said. "Howard County recognizes that the arts (in the school system) are one of our true strengths, they draw people to Howard County."
The county "really is supportive of the arts, and realizes how important they are," echoed Enzman. "And this community, Glenelg — a big piece of its identity is the band program."
Both of the veteran band leaders, with 74 years of teaching music to Howard County students between them, also had praise for each other.
"We're the old guard," Dutrow said. "What he's done at Glenelg over the years, building that program up, keeping it going, it's amazing."
"We're sort of touchstones for each other," Enzman said, noting that the two chat regularly. "I'll lend him my ear, he'll lend me his. It's helpful."
The Wilde Lake High School Jazz Ensemble will perform at its annual year-end jazz cabaret Saturday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the school.
The Glenelg High School Jazz Ensemble will perform at its annual Jazz Under the Stars dinner and concert Saturday, May 18, in Woodbine, with guest star Deanna Bogart. For information, go to http://www.glenelgbands.com.