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Area group brings all ages together through music

In an effort to share the excitement of the stage with budding musicians and music lovers, the JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra is holding an Open Rehearsal Showcase at the Freedom Optimist Hall, in Eldersburg, April 24.

The JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra consists of youth and adult musicians and singers who play concerts for charity, said Joey Dundore, founder, music director and executive director of the group. They practice weekly, with public performances given monthly on average, culminating in their major annual performance, "Rockin' the Cause," in May.

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The orchestra is open to youths in seventh through 12th grades and adults. It generally has between 35 and 40 student musicians and a handful of adults, some parents and some community members. Members hail mostly from the South Carroll area, but inclusion in the group is not dependent upon a specific ZIP code. Each student musician earns his or her seat through an audition, and students who have not passed or are not ready to audition may still practice with the orchestra as junior musicians, he said.

This is the second year the orchestra has had an open rehearsal and, Dundore said, it has been a great way to bring the public in to see what the group is like.

"I teach elementary school, and a lot of the kids are interested in playing music, but they're not old enough to play in the band, so I was wondering how we could incorporate them," Dundore said.

He had heard about open rehearsals for orchestras in Pittsburgh and New York, where the music group leaves seats open among the professional musicians and allows the public to mix in and get a feel of what it's like to experience a performance from the musicians' side.

For the JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra's Open Rehearsal Showcase, the group will have all of the musicians in a circle on the stage, with seats open for people who want to try out an instrument or just sit next to a performer playing an instrument that they've always wanted to try so they can hear it up close.

"If you want to play an instrument, you can, but you don't have to play an instrument," Dundore said. "And you can be any age; you can fit in with the group and hear what it really sounds like from the stage instead of from the audience."

The format of the practice will be casual, Dundore said, with the orchestra probably playing two or three songs at a time, then taking a break for discussion and questions.

Dundore, 35, of York, Pa., started his career as a music teacher in 2005 at Oklahoma Road Middle School, in Eldersburg. He worked part time at that school and other elementary schools for the next several years, but was relocated to Piney Ridge Elementary School in 2010. When he left Oklahoma Road Middle, Dundore said, he wanted to keep the strong relationships he had formed with his students there, even though he would no longer be their teacher. He thought creating a nonprofit community band independent of the school system would be a way to do so.

At the same time, after having appeared on the national television show "America's Got Talent" in 2008, on which he played his saxophone while dancing, Dundore had been playing solo performances at coffee shops and house concerts, collecting money and canned goods for charities.

"I took my idea of trying to help charity through music and took it to the kids, and we've been at it for five years almost," Dundore said. "The seniors who are getting ready to leave, some of them have been in there since the beginning."

The group plays live benefit shows at various charity fundraisers, such as 5K runs and awareness events, at no cost to the charitable organization. The performances are free for the charity, and help raise funds for its cause. Upcoming fundraisers the orchestra will be performing at include the C2 Celtic Cancer 5K, in Eldersburg, May 16 to benefit a teacher at Eldersburg Elementary School who is battling brain cancer, and Relay for Life of Freedom Area June 13.

Edie Lee, vice president of the JoeyD Cares Rock Orchestra, said her daughter Maya, now in the eighth grade, started with the group two years ago as an opportunity to have more time to play her French horn outside of the few hours of music class in school. Lee said she loves seeing her daughter not only grow in her musical talent, but also gain an appreciation for helping others.

"As a parent, it's nice that [children are] exposed to a lot of charities and events over the course of the year that they just wouldn't have exposure to," she said. "This past month, we played at a dance that Special Olympics held and I just thought it was a really cool experience for her to be involved in … and she's learning about another audience group and people who have [special] needs."

When Dundore found out that Edie Lee's husband, Glen, plays piano, Dundore talked him into joining the orchestra on the keyboard just months after Maya had joined the group. Edie Lee had also played French horn through high school and college, and seeing her husband and daughter have such a good inspired her to start playing again and join the group.

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While the orchestra normally practices Monday nights at Oklahoma Road Middle School, the group increases its practice schedule to include Friday nights when a big performance is coming up, such as its annual "Rockin' the Cause" benefit concert. This year's concert will be held at Century High School May 30.

Each year, the orchestra picks a different charity to raise money for through the "Rockin' the Cause" concert, and this year's beneficiary will be Carroll County Special Olympics. Last year's "Rockin' the Cause" raised $8,000 for the Sykesville-based Nathan Chris Baker Foundation, which aims to provide financial, physical and emotional support to individuals, families and communities in need, according to the organization's website.

Tickets for "Rockin' the Cause" are $10 for adults and $8 for students 18 and younger. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.jdcrockorchestra.org or email JoeyD@JDCRockOrchestra.org. All proceeds, after paying venue costs, are donated to the charity, Dundore said.

The open rehearsal showcase is free, and will take place between 7 and 8:30 p.m. April 24 at the Freedom Optimist Hall at 6315 Sykesville Road.

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