Encore Community Music Association strikes a common chord across generations

As a member of Encore Community Music Association since its beginnings in 1995, Andrew Spang has played various instruments — and has even conducted the community band.

This year, he's playing the French horn for the first time, and has the pleasure of sitting next to his son.

"This is our first year doing it (together)," said Spang, of his 11-year-old, French horn playing son, Benjamin. "My daughter is in the string orchestra. This is her first year, too. It's really neat."

Created in 1995, Encore Community Music Association's big focus is "intergenerational" participation, according to Mindy Niles, executive director of the organization since 1997.

The program, which can be taken as college credit or for student service learning hours, offers performance opportunities with a symphonic band or a string orchestra. Anyone with two years of experience playing a instrument is welcome to participate, with no auditions necessary, Niles said.

The group of about 60 musicians is a mix of ages, from 7 to 70, and a mix of experience.

"The challenge is to get all the different levels together," Niles said as the band started its warmups during its weekly rehearsal on Nov. 28 at Carroll Community College.

"Right now, I wish they would tune." Niles said, grimacing, as the first notes filled the room.

After a week off for Thanksgiving, the symphonic band and orchestra were buckling down to prepare for a Dec. 11 concert at North Carroll High School. While the groups strive for musical perfection, the goal is fun, stress-free rehearsals, Niles said.

"We just have fun," agreed Sue Beck, a violin player who joined in 1995. "I hadn't touched my violin in 30 years. It has just been a very wonderful thing. They've let me come in whenever I could. It's just a good group."

"It's a different atmosphere," said Jamie Brown, director of the band.

The band director at North Carroll High School, Brown jumped at the chance to direct Encore when it became open last year.

"I always wanted to direct a community group," said Brown, who has assisted with Encore's summer band camps for the past eight years.

"I like working with different ages. It's fun," said Brown. "I get help from the adults and college students. I pick a wide variety of music. If the younger students have a hard time, we'll modify the parts and work with them to feel successful."

In 2003, Niles created the Encore Academy for home school students. Similar to music programs in local schools, the academy offers classes for beginners and a chance to perform with a group. Private lessons are also available.

The home school group meets once a week, and performs two concerts a year. This year's holiday concert is scheduled for Dec. 16, 7 p.m., in the Scott Theater at Carroll Community College.

"I love working with students," Niles said. "It is a lot of fun for me to take a beginner … and watch them grow, knowing I had a small little part of it. It is very rewarding."

For twin sisters, Amanda and Eilzabeth Dumm, 14, being members of both Encore's symphonic band and the home school band has been a great experience.

"Music is my passion," said Elizabeth, clutching her saxophone. "Any opportunity, especially for home schoolers, to be involved, is amazing."

"I love these bands," Amanda said, holding her clarinet. "I love music. This is the best thing for me."

Niles hopes the group continues to offer something for both adults and children.

"It is a community music at its finest," Niles said of the group. "It pulls the community together. One of the special things is for younger players to see older players. Music making is a lifelong passion."

If you go

The Encore Community Music Association Band and Orchestra Concert will be held Dec. 11, 7 p.m. at North Carroll High School, Panther Drive, Hampstead Admission is free.

The Encore Community Music Association's Academy concert will be held Dec. 16, 7 p.m., at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster. Admission is free.

For more information about Encore Community Music Association, call 410-374-2182 or go to http://www.encoremusic.us.

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