On April 24, after months of practicing, preparing and fundraising, 283 music students and 32 chaperons from Marriotts Ridge High School finally boarded their buses and convoyed to Virginia Beach for this year's spring music trip. The following day, the students competed in the Fiesta-Val Music Festival, where they earned a remarkable list of accolades, including Grand Champion for highest overall combined scores.

In the orchestra division, both Orchestra and String Ensemble attained first place with a Superior rating, the highest level of achievement. String Ensemble also earned Outstanding Viola Section, and Grace Kim won an individual award for Outstanding Violin Solo. Marriotts Ridge took the championship award in the orchestra division.

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In the band and jazz band divisions, Symphonic Winds, Concert Band and Big Band all earned first place with a superior rating. Percussion Ensemble earned first place with an excellent rating, and Jazz Combo earned second place with an excellent rating. Big Band also won Outstanding Brass Section, Outstanding Woodwind Section and Outstanding Rhythm Section. Andre Chen and Talia Loeb earned individual awards for Outstanding Alto Saxophone Solos, and Elise Ahn won an award for Outstanding Oboe Solo. Additionally, band director Nick Ellis earned an Award of Distinction for a Notable Contribution to Music Excellence since Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band earned the highest combined scores. Needless to say, both of these groups took the championship awards in their divisions.

The school's choral groups also came out on top: Mustang Chorale, Madrigals and Women's Ensemble all placed first with a superior rating, while Men's Ensemble took second place with an excellent rating. Maralee Henderson won an individual award for Outstanding Accompanist, and Marriotts Ridge earned the championship awards in the Treble Choir, Chamber Choir and Mixed Choir divisions.

Although proud of their accomplishments, the students and directors did not have time to celebrate upon their return to school. Within days, they began a three-evening series of spring concerts that culminated on Thursday, May 1, with a finale that choral director Terry Eberhardt described as "epic": a collaborative performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, 4th Movement.

Orchestra director Rosemary Lather said, "It was my dream to do this piece because of its greatness. I know of no other high school that has attempted this … work."

The performance included an orchestra of 80 instrumentalists — strings, winds and percussion — plus a 150-voice choir consisting of the Mustang Chorale, Marriotts Ridge alumni, and Towson University students who study with Eberhardt. Additionally, four emerging professional opera singers joined the students onstage to perform the vocal solos: Colleen Daly-Eberhardt, soprano; Jessica Julin, mezzo-soprano; Allen Pinkney, tenor; and José Sacin, bass.

The students began working on the Beethoven piece in January, both in class and after school, and in addition to their regular curriculum. What an accomplishment!

Congratulations to the Marriotts Ridge Music Department on its many fine awards and its impressive conclusion to this year's concert season.

St. James United Methodist Church is sponsoring a Red Cross blood drive on Thursday, May 29, 2:30-8 p.m., at 12470 Old Frederick Road (Route 99) in Marriottsville. If you can help, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767) to schedule an appointment. The sponsor code is 05312858.

To inquire about eligibility or learn more, call donor services at 1-866-236-3276.

Need a last-minute idea for dinner? St. Andrew's Episcopal Church is hosting its monthly community feast on Thursday, May 22, 6-8 p.m., at 2892 Route 97 in Glenwood. The theme is Italian.

As always, the meal costs $9 per person or $30 maximum per family; children 5 and under dine for free. Proceeds will benefit the church's summer mission trip to Appalachia.

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