Band director gets national honor for making a difference

The Baltimore Sun

M. Joseph Fischer, the director of bands at River Hill High School, has been recognized by School Band and Orchestra, a national publication, for its 10th annual, "50 Directors Who Make a Difference."

Fischer, who has been at the school since 2003, was a natural choice for the distinction, Principal William Ryan said.

"He's an incredible teacher who goes above and beyond what he's supposed to do," Ryan said. "I put him at the top of the 50 band instructors who make a difference."

Fischer, 34, was surprised by the honor. "It was totally out of the blue," he said. "I was pretty amazed. It was something that I didn't expect, but it was really nice to be recognized for the hard work that goes into this."

Keeping the focus on students has allowed him to be a successful band director, Fischer said.

"We try to not make it about scores, titles and placements," he said. "It's about students achieving their full potential."

Before arriving at River Hill, Fischer was the instrumental music director at Liberty High School in Eldersburg and the director of bands at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson.

The support of the River Hill administration, parents, and community makes Fischer's daily drive to work from his home in Perry Hall worth it.

"I've taught at a number of different places, and [River Hill] has the largest appreciation for the arts," he said.

Fischer has made quite an impact at River Hill since arriving at the school five years ago.

Most recently, Fischer was voted "Best Band Director" in October during the Maryland State Marching Band Championships. During that competition, his marching band finished first in its division. The band also won awards for best percussion, best music and best effect.

Fischer's 70-member band won the U.S. Scholastic Band Association National Championships, a first for a Howard County school. The band was named best visual performance and best music performance at the same competition, which was held at M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore. In addition, the band placed second in best overall effect, third for best color guard and fifth in best percussion.

The band finished the 2007 season undefeated.

Under Fischer, the band also has received invitations to perform at prestigious events, including the 2008 pre-Olympic Festival in Beijing, and at the Joseph M. Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

Fischer has helped oversee the school's first music technology lab, which started in the fall, Ryan said.

"He's somebody that is there for the kids when they need it," Ryan said. "He goes above and beyond."

Fashion fundraiser

Glenelg High students are working feverishly to put the finishing touches on their annual fashion show fundraiser.

The International Buffet Dinner, Fashion Show and Dance Gallery will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday in Mulitz Theater. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults.

The event will begin with an international buffet, followed by a fashion show, where models will showcase original clothing designed by students. International dances will be sprinkled throughout the fashion show.

In addition, Casandra Tressler, Miss Maryland USA 2008, and Miss Maryland Teen USA 2008, Ana Maria Lawson, will speak to the guests about the importance of community service.

A silent auction and raffle will feature items from Sephora, Victoria's Secret, Aveda, Le Gourmet Chef and iHome.

"I'm so proud of the students and what they've done to follow their dreams and follow their passions to be able to support such worthy international causes," said David Weeks, the civic leadership director for the school who came up with the idea of the fundraiser three years ago.

In past years, funds have been raised to help build a hospital in Ecuador, a community health facility in Ban Nam Khem, Thailand - a village where 1,000 people were killed in the 2004 tsunami - and to help rebuild a private school in New Orleans where all five buildings on the campus were damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

Last year, the event raised $6,500. This year, funds raised will be donated to Biamba Marie Mutombo Memorial Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where donations will be used to combat juvenile diabetes; Prayas Institute of Juvenile Justice in India, an organization that focuses on the rehabilitation of child trafficking and abuse victims; and the Red Cross program in Lebanon, which will use funds to purchase an ambulance.

"We want to maintain a sustaining relationship [with these charities]," Weeks said.

This year, a group of juniors has stepped up and shouldered a majority of the workload for the event.

Chelsea Harris, 17, is in charge of decorations and food.

"It's definitely taken up a lot of time; you have to throw yourself into it," she said. "It's definitely worth it. It's going to a great cause, and I am working with amazing kids from school."

More than 100 students are involved with the event.

Sara Gross, 16, is in charge of overall organization.

"It's amazing to see things coming together," she said.

Adel Aliyev, 16, is in charge of the fashion show, which features 20 models, and more that 40 student-made designs.

"We have some outfits that are extraordinary - they take your breath away," she said. "I'm impressed with what we've come up with."

Aliyev has been a part of the fashion show since it started two years ago.

"It helps us express our creativity while helping a good cause," she said.

Ex-teacher's trial

A former River Hill High teacher accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with students will go to trial March 26.

All three cases against Alan Meade Beier will be tried in Howard County Circuit Court. Originally, one case was scheduled for Feb. 12, but a motion Dec. 20 postponed that case, which resulted in all three cases going to trial simultaneously.

Beier, 52, a former chemistry and physics teacher at the school in Clarksville, was arrested Jan. 12 last year. He is accused of undressing and photographing a 16-year-old boy in his classroom and fondling a 17-year-old female student. A third student also reported inappropriate contact with Beier, police said.

An article in Sunday's Howard County edition of The Sun misidentified the location of a fashion show fundraiser tomorrow. The event - the International Buffet Dinner, Fashion Show and Dance Gallery - will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mulitz Theater at Glenelg Country School. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults. The Sun regrets the error.
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