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Annual holiday concert raises needed funds for Access Carroll

The Big Band Merry Christmas Concert is returning to Westminster for the 11th year, and for the first time, Access Carroll is the sole beneficiary of the event.

The show will take place at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 1, in the Westminster High School auditorium.

The concert is held each year on the first Saturday in December since 2002, and is presented in a variety show format and features the Carroll County Jazz Ensemble, along with solo instrumental and vocal performances accompanied by a big band orchestra.

"The attempt is to try to format it like an old variety show, like the old Andy Williams Show on CBS or something like that," said Glenn Patterson, the event's founder and organizer. "So it keeps you entertained because you have a lot of different things that take place within in the structure of the concert."

All but one or two of the musicians and singers in the Big Band Merry Christmas Concert are either originally from Carroll County or currently reside in Carroll, and many of them are teachers within Carroll County Public Schools, Patterson said.

This year the local performers include singer Amy Appleby, saxophonist Brad Collins, magician Roger Lindsay and D&J's Dynamite Dance Company.

Patterson, director of the Carroll County Jazz Ensemble, said he came up with the idea for the Big Band Merry Christmas Concert while on a vacation after retiring from his position as supervisor of fine arts in the Carroll County Public School system.

"We went to Myrtle Beach and went to a couple of Christmas shows there and it was a very huge variety kind of thing, and I just thought I could do something like that at home," he said. "I've produced a number of shows or concerts for years with the Carroll County Jazz Ensemble, and so I put the idea together."

Patterson approached Carroll Hospital Center with his idea, because he wanted the show to benefit a local health-care organization.

Patterson worked with Carroll Hospital Center for the first seven years of the concert, until the hospital decided to move in a different direction with its fundraising, he said.

After that, the concert became a benefit for Access Carroll and the Carroll County Public Schools Education Foundation.

Access Carroll is a partnership between Carroll Hospital Center, the Carroll County Health Department and the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County that provides free health care to uninsured, under-insured, low-income residents of Carroll County, according to the organization's Executive Director Tammy Black.

For three years, from 2009-11, Access Carroll received 75 percent of the unrestricted or untagged proceeds from the Big Band Merry Christmas Concert, and the Carroll County Public Schools Education Foundation received 25 percent.

Black said last year the event raised a total of $28,007. Some of the proceeds come from ticket sales, but most of the money comes from sponsors.

Access Carroll received $23,708 from the concert fundraiser last year, which is a combination of 75 percent of the untagged proceeds along with money from sponsors that was tagged specifically to benefit Access Carroll, according to Black.

This year Access Carroll will be the sole beneficiary of the event, because the Carroll County Public Schools Education Foundation is disbanding, Patterson said.

Black said the Big Band Merry Christmas concert is an important fundraiser for Access Carroll, especially this year, because the organization is in the process of moving to a new location.

"This is our only event this entire year that is unrestricted donations coming in from a fundraiser and we depend on it," she said. "We depend on it for things that are not necessarily the most glamorous things to support, but it buys supplies, it pays for utilities, it buys things that we absolutely need to function."

Black said she is looking forward to the Big Band Merry Christmas Concert as a way to unwind after the big move. The concert is the perfect way to kick-off the holiday season, she said.

"It's a way that people can come together and hear beautiful music and hear about the excellence of our program," Black said. "It's a beautiful night and it really gets you in the mood for the holidays, for Christmas, for giving and for giving back to the community."

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