As instrumental music director for Liberty High School, Brandi Jason's goal has always been to enhance the skill of every student she teaches so they have the opportunity to become great musicians. She knew that to accomplish this goal, she would need to create new events that would give the music program the unwavering support of the community. Jason decided to add local professional artists to these new performances as a way to increase the public's awareness of the program.

"I recognized that the kids needed the mentorship from professionals because I'm not a virtuoso on every instrument," Jason said.

One of these events is the upcoming seventh annual Salute to the Armed Forces Pop Concert in the school's auditorium from 7-9:30 p.m. May 2. Tickets for the concert are $12 and raffle tickets can be purchased for $1 each to enter to win an assortment of gift baskets prepared by the four musical groups participating in the event: the wind ensemble, full orchestra, symphonic band and jazz ensemble. Signed Baltimore Orioles memorabilia will also be for sale. Jason said that the concert was designed to get the students involved in the community and instill a sense of patriotism and citizenship for participants and spectators.

For the finale of the concert, the wind ensemble performs each branch's song. Also, every veteran is honored with flowers at the end of the performance. Jason said that each year, the number of veterans that attend has increased.

From an artistic viewpoint, the music is far different than what is normally performed at school concerts.

"It's a break from regular academic music that features community and crowd favorites," Jason said. "You really don't hear this quality of music in high school."

When she first created the concert seven years ago, Jason featured local artists and patriotic songs that fit the concert's environment. She knew that to keep the community interested in the concert and invested in the school's music program, she had to change things. These changes include more local musicians and the addition of non-patriotic songs, such as pieces from the musical "Les Miserables." Her goal was to build the reputation that each year would be bigger and better than the last.

"When you do a themed concert, you are taking a risk because when you do it once, you need to change things eventually because the audience needs to be entertained," Jason said. "I need to be conscious of what I'm programming so it's not too much of the same thing."

The guest artists this year include Maxim Kozlov, a concert cellist; David Kreider, a concert pianist; and Laura Zuiderveen, a professional opera soprano.

Another of the local musicians is Todd Butler, a professional trumpet player. He said that he is looking forward to accompanying the school's jazz ensemble for two songs.

"I play a lot of different styles, but my true love is jazz for sure," Butler said.

When he was approached by Jason and asked to participate in the event this year, Butler said that he was impressed with the job she had done to improve the concert by infusing a high level of creativity with the more traditional musical scope.

"I've worked with Brandi before and I think she has developed a great program; she goes above and beyond," Butler said.

Dana Coury, the president of the Liberty High School's Instrumental Music Boosters, has helped plan the concert and said that featuring professional musicians has helped ensure the success of the event.

It's been growing from year to year; we are pretty much packing the auditorium with people from all over the area," Coury said.

The money raised at the concert from memorabilia, ticket sales and raffle sales will be used to purchase new equipment for band members, instrument repairs and offsetting transportation costs for students. Coury said this concert usually brings in $4,000 for the music program but hopes that as the community becomes more invested, they will be able to raise even more.

"The Boosters' goal is to make sure Liberty students have the best experience with music to become great artists," Coury said.

For Butler, the opportunity to honor the country's armed forces is something in which he is happy to be involved.

"Any time you can celebrate those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces, it's something I'd like to be a part of," he said. "It's because of these folks that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have."

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