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Middle school teacher fulfills long-held dream to make Clarksville rock

The eight-member pop/rock group Clarksville Coughdrops.
The eight-member pop/rock group Clarksville Coughdrops. (HANDOUT)

Local artists have been remarkably resilient during the pandemic, channeling their creativity to devise new ways to create and share their work in our socially distanced world. One local musician fulfilled a longtime dream of forming a band during the coronavirus school shutdown.

Pete Ilenda teaches geography/world cultures and general music at Clarksville Middle School. For the past decade, the writer and composer has been trying to start a rock band with interested students. In early 2020, Ilenda had a guitarist and vocalist on board. With the help of the school band teacher, he found an interested drummer. For a bass player, he had to search no further than his own geography class. A few more vocalists signed on and rehearsals started after school on Wednesdays.

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“We had an amazing rehearsal on March 11. Two days later began the shutdown,” said Ilenda, who is one of the group’s guitarists. “Through it all, everyone wanted to continue somehow. We decided that we could practice in the backyard with our masks on.”

At an early rehearsal, the band discussed ideas for a name. Ilenda said, “I gave them my band name speech, which basically is that it doesn’t matter what we call the band, as long as the music is good.” One of the members had cough drops with them that day and the idea to be the Clarksville Coughdrops emerged.

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“We have been practicing all summer and then had our first gig on Sept. 27, at the Sunflowers of Lisbon,” Ilenda said. “We all had a great time and are looking forward to our next one.”

While the band’s performance was the first time some members had performed in public, one musician has performed on a much bigger stage. Vocalist Ashwin Hazarika sang the national anthem virtually at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The eighth grader, who has been singing for many years, also writes and composes songs.

Other members of the group include River Hill High School freshmen Andrea on guitar, Jasmine on vocals and keyboards, and Nicky and Trisha on vocals. Percussionist Rishab, an eighth grader, and bass player Siyuan, a seventh grader, are students at Clarksville Middle School.

The Clarksville Coughdrops continue to learn new songs and practice weekly. The eight-member pop/rock group says their influences include Green Day, The Beatles, Adele and Ed Sheeran. They are available for performances. Learn more at facebook.com/Coughdrops.Band.

The Clarksville Commons will host a Thanksgiving Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 21. More than 30 vendors will showcase a variety of offerings including farmers market favorites, baked goods, local beer, wine and spirits; handmade home decor, pottery, crocheted, knitted and sewn personal accessories, handmade soaps and body care products, and items for kids. Vendors will also have hot food for purchase and local Scouts will be selling Girl Scouts cookies. Rain date for the event is Nov. 22. Learn more at clarksvillecommons.com.

As we enter the season of giving, two local schools could use a helping hand. The Clarksville Middle School PTA typically funds the school’s participation in the national Science Olympiad event. This year, the PTA is low on funds so the students are attempting to raise over $3,200 to cover registration fees. The funds will allow 120 students to compete in 23 events that represent various science disciplines. Preparing for the online competition helps students to stay connected beyond the virtual classroom. Learn more how support from the community can lessen the financial responsibilities on team member families at clarksvillemiddlepta.ch2v.com.

Another way to help local students is by shopping for The Homewood Center’s Treasure Sale. The school traditionally asks for donations of new or gently used items this time of year so that students can choose holiday gifts for their loved ones. Like so many other events, this year’s holiday shop has a new format.

Homewood is a Howard County Public School System location for middle and high school students with specific needs. More than 60% of the students at the school qualify for free and reduced meals and the school does not have a PTA to provide support.

To make December special for the students, the school has a goal to collect over 1,000 new items to stock a socially distanced Treasure Sale. Those wishing to contribute can shop via an Amazon wish list and the online retailer will ship the donation directly to the school. Learn more at hc.hcpss.org.

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