The little boy in the middle of the auditorium was very, very serious. "Does moving your eyebrows help you play better?" he asked.
Chris Dudley, trombone player for the Constellation Brass Quintet, patiently explained that wiggling his eyebrows was a habit and didn't really affect his playing.
Backstage, members of the Baltimore-based ensemble said such questions from the Bakerfield Elementary students are fairly typical.
"Children will ask questions about whatever they notice and we encourage that. The questions are a big part of our enjoyment," said Tim White, a trumpeter in the group that gave two performances at the Aberdeen school Thursday morning.
While this was the first time the ensemble had performed for Harford students, the five musicians have performed for children before, Mr. White said.
The group has been playing together for about four years, he said.
In addition to asking questions, two student volunteers got to go up on stage: a girl got a chance to blow on a tuba during "Pop Goes the Weasel" and a boy got a chance to wave a baton and conduct" the ensemble through a John Philip Sousa march.
Performances for students are a combination of music and instruction, Mr. White said.
Rosa F. Crocker, the artists' liaison for the Schools Concerts Committee of Harford County, agreed.
"The best groups are those who tailor their performances for the age of their audience but never play down to them," said Mrs. Crocker, who was co-chairman of the Schools Concerts Committee since its inception in 1957 until about three years ago.
Every year the committee, which operates independently of the school system, arranges for cultural events, ranging from music to dance, theater, poetry and storytelling, to come to elementary and secondary schools.
Most of the performers, including the Constellation Brass Quintet, are professionals and have experience working with children, Mrs. Crocker said.
Last year, the committee arranged performances seen by about 20,000 of the school system's 31,000 students, according to Jane R. English, this year's committee chairman.
The School Concerts Committee has invited 18 groups to Harford this year, including the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival and Marc Spiegel, a storyteller from Washington.
Mrs. Crocker said each school decides which performers to invite. The PTA usually pays for the event. Some financial assistance is available from organizations such as the Maryland State Arts Council.
Booking the Constellation Brass through the School Concerts Committee costs $325 for a single performance and $450 for two performances at the same school, she said.
Mr. White said the group normally charges about $750 for a show.
Mark Lashof, an instrumental music teacher at Bakerfield, said live performances provide children with an experience unlike any other.
"Most of our students have never been to a symphony or heard a small ensemble," he said.
Mr. Lashof also said he hoped the performance would inspire some children to learn to play a musical instrument.
TC Linda J. Chamberlin, principal at Forest Hill Elementary, said her school has scheduled three performances through the School Concerts Committee including soprano Devonna B. Rowe, who will sing African-American songs during Black History Month in February.
"If we had to contract for performers individually I don't think we could afford them," she said.