photo by Matthew Thomas Pugh The divas from Broadneck High, Angelfire: Joleen Werntz, Brooke Balderson and Tory Johnson.
A motley crowd of 571 music lovers, some pierced and tattooed, others a bit more conservative, filled the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis last Saturday to absorb the third annual Anne Arundel County Battle of the High School Rock Bands.
Eleven bands from nine schools competed in a six-plus hour frenzy of punk and hard-core pandemonium. They were playing for the ultimate scholastic bragging rights, but the winner gets to perform again at this year's Philadelphia Music Conference, one of the largest music festivals on the East Coast.
Nancy Welch Almgren was an organizer with the Leadership Anne Arundel Project when she designed this rockin' event to bring recognition to promising young rock groups throughout the county and to promote positive teen fellowship. The Leadership Project has identified music as the binding force behind most youth activities.
"People ask me why I put this event together and I tell them it's out of respect for these kids and their music," said Almgren. "They deserve it."
Respect brought helping hands from several notable names in the Bay area music scene and beyond.
Emceeing this event for the second year were Michael Buckley of WRNR and Dave Benischek of the local band Ice Station Zero. Judges for the evening included Mike Sipple, the drummer from Jimmie's Chicken Shack; Derek Janes of the Chesapeake Beach Club; Jonathan Vendrick of Columbia Records; and PRS guitar reps Marc Quigley and Jim Cullen.
Their task was to judge the bands based on musicianship and stage presence. These two categories were subdivided to include skills ranging from technical ability and clarity to professionalism and showmanship.
The judges found that audience reaction was a category not lacking enthusiasm when emcee Benischek grabbed the mike and asked the buzzing hall, "Are you ready to rock?"
Atop a scream equal to 1,000 Banshees, the show took off with a proverbial ransacking from Arundel High rockers Ransack. Blasting behind them was South River High's three-guitar-attack Turtle Balloon, which took second in the battle, and whose vocalist, Justin Lloyd, took home best singer award.
Third on the bill was Seticide, a gentler thrash-and-trash trio from Broadneck High. Unauthorized District from Chesapeake High followed with a crowd pleasing cover of Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
St. Mary's High unleashed the pure punk of Item 16. This pink-haired, Catholic school quartet put a respectful shout out to the 'old people' in the crowd with a cover of the Monkee's "I'm A Believer." Orchard, of Archbishop Spalding, wrapped up the first set with a mixture of guitar distortion and gloomy lighting effects.
The bands thundered on into the second act, rarely slowing down despite the physically demanding tempo of today's popular hard-core/punk genre.
Proof 89 of Old Mill High came correct with member Tony Preville taking home the best bassist award. Next, Key School's Andy Humphery of Fade would take home the best drummer award for his skins performance, with his band finishing third overall. Melodic yet distorted, soft yet rough, Southern High's Voodoo Dream followed.
The unquestionable highlight of the evening came when three young women from Broadneck High - Joleen Werntz, Tory Johnson and Brooke Balderson - took center stage. Angelfire, as they were aptly named, won not only the hearts of the audience, and not only best singer/song-writers award - but the entire competition. Their sequined leather outfits, regal stage presence and advanced musical ability made it difficult, darn near impossible, for any band to follow.
Follow is all Archbishop Spalding's very talented Brothers In Arms could do. They finished fourth in the competition with member Chris Rausch stealing the best guitarist honor.
Through the six-plus hours of music, the overall style was far and away from what you might find on the vinyl racks of the parents in attendance. Yet their smiles of elation were a dead give-away to the sheer thrill and joy of watching their talented teens perform.
"I think it's great to see all these talented kids come together like this," said emcee Buckley. "This whole thing is about having a good time, and it's wonderful to see it grow significantly every year."
Grow significantly it did. This year's show had nearly 200 more music fans in attendance than last year.
"The crowd was amazing," said Jason Tipton of Proof 89. "The sponsors and everyone involved made us feel like we were actually rock stars."
Guitar Center of Towson, Evolve Board Shop of Annapolis, Crownsville's Sound Solutions and Glen Burnie's Music Go Round banded together, providing equipment, technical support, audio/visual support and prizes for the show.
Tickets sales and all proceeds benefited the music departments of the top four bands' schools.
As for the divas of Broadneck High, Angelfire, they will be headed in June to Philly to play the big time. You can hear all four winners in Annapolis at First Night, New Year's Eve 2001.
-Matthew Thomas Pugh
107 New Characters Join Annapolis Mardi Gras
photo by Mark Burns This green, tropical maiden mask won 14-year-old Margaret Boynton 1st prize in the 12 to 17 age bracket for Annapolis Harbour Centers Mardi Gras Mask-Off contest.
A cast of colorful characters mingled at a recent party in Annapolis. A papier-mâché monkey lounged next to a scarlet devil, and a coffee can dude mixed casually with feathery fish and an elegant red-beaded crab. The scene was the first annual Mardi Gras Mask-Off contest sponsored by the Annapolis Harbour Center.
"It looks like a masquerade mask parade!" said Phyllis Avedon, portrait artist and one of seven judges.
For centuries, masks have inspired mystery. Actors wore masks at ancient Greek festivals to convey emotion from a distance. In Italy in the middle ages, masked actors entertained audiences with antics that often reflected the current scandals and politics of the day. Many other cultures use masks to enrich their rituals, including ceremonies to honor ancestors and the natural change of the seasons. The masking tradition lives on in Mardi Gras in the city of New Orleans. Mardi Gras, meaning 'Fat Tuesday,' is celebrated as a last fling before fasting during the Catholic season of Lent.
During the Mardi Gras season, people from all over the world travel to New Orleans to enjoy this extravagant holiday. Parades, floats, balls, beads, doubloons, parties, kingcakes, revelry and masks embellish the festivities. The mask does double duty, helping the celebrant disguise identity and create a new, playful self. Skilled New Orleans and Cajun mask makers summon all their resourcefulness to shape everyday materials and dime store oddities into whimsical images that seem to freeze in their features all the wild energy of Mardi Gras.
So when Annapolis decided to celebrate Mardi Gras, "the idea of a mask contest just naturally evolved," said Celeste Hartman, marketing coordinator for Annapolis Harbour Center.
Margaret Boynton, of Annapolis, 14, agrees that masks iced Annapolis' Mardi Gras cake. Boynton won first place in the 12 to 17 age category with her charming green tropical maiden mask. She created it earlier this month at a mask-making event held at the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore. "They supplied all the crafts, and I just started gluing. The materials they had inspired me." She used natural grasses and leaves, a Hawaiian skirt as hair, an insect nose, and a red flower-petal mouth. "I thought it was very successful, and I received good feedback from everyone," Boynton said.
She entered the Mask-Off at the last minute when her grandmother, Elizabeth McWethy, also of Annapolis, told her about the event. Boynton seemed particularly excited about winning because she is about to audition for the Baltimore School for the Arts. "This award will bolster my confidence," she said
Hers was one of 107 entries submitted from three age groups: 5 to 11; 12 to 17; and adult. The adult category was the smallest, with only five masks.
Until last weekend, "there was just a trickle, then a whole group flooded in," Hartman said. Flood in they did, but unlike the creatures on Noah's ark no two were alike.
The variety of masks astounded the judges. "So many brilliant colors; the masks jump off the walls. It's amazing, the imagination," said Gillian Morton, a judge and director of marketing for Maryland Hall.
Sizes ranged from a huge blue butterfly with a black face to a tiny leopard half-mask suitable for a three-year-old. Colors mirrored the rainbow, yet several masks were painted all one shade, such as the gold crescent moon and the black hand. Avedon labeled a brown skull with a cowboy hat "very presidential, a Tex-Mex mask." Accessories such as feathers, sequins, miniature mirrors and sparkles adorned many creations.
If dazzling colors distinguished the 5- to 11-year-old entries, then inventiveness was the byword of the 12 to 17 age group. Who could forget the tin can man with colander ears or the silver rendering of a face with a shoehorn mouth and telescope eyes? Gazing at the mask fashioned from electrical cords and wires, with a plug hanging out, onlookers wondered aloud: "Is that artist's TV set still working?" One adult mask featured a lovely blue leather sun. Another displayed a lighthouse beach scene with handmade figures enjoying the sand. At least for the day of the Mask-Off judging, Annapolis had its very own visionary museum.
The judges scrutinized the masks with the intensity of surgeons. Each mask received a numerical score ranging from "satisfactory" to "exemplary." Masks were numbered so judges were not aware of the creator's identity. Judges compared and contrasted workmanship, ingenuity and overall impressions. "It's very tough," declared Dennis Younger, past president of Maryland Hall, "because the quality of work is so fine."
photo by Mark Burns Marketing director Celeste Hartman with one of the entries in the Mask-Off contest she devised.
"These masks speak well of the art programs in our schools," Moe Hanson, resident artist at Maryland Hall, concurred.
Twelve entries, four from each category, were selected as winners. Gift certificates and merchandise from Harbour Center merchants, including a Razor scooter and movie passes, were among the prizes awarded. All 107 masks will be displayed in store windows throughout the Mardi Gras promotion.
There's still time for everyone to
join in the facial fun. Who needs a beauty parlor masque when you can make your own from odds and ends buried in your sewing basket? Then a new you will be ready for a host of Fat Tuesday festivities in Annapolis area hotels and restaurants on February 27.
-Shirley J. Brewer
More to the Story: Telling Black History
At dusk, she escapes to the dock on the banks of the Potomac River where the Pearl is anchored. She is not alone. There are others ready to board the boat. Like Louisa, they want to be free. If only the wind will take them far away
But the wind died and the Pearl, carrying 76 slaves to freedom in 1848, was captured near Point Lookout. In history books, the story ends there. In Freedom Calls: Journey of a Slave Girl, author Kem Knapp Sawyer tells us there is more to the story: a trial, a friendship and a quest for freedom.
"I was doing research for another book, The Underground Railroad in American History, and reading about Horace Mann," Sawyer recalled. Mann, a Massachusetts congressman, served as defense attorney to Pearl captain Daniel Drayton.
"Then I read more. When I heard about the Pearl I couldn't believe I hadn't heard about it before, living in Washington. Seventy-six slaves, that's astonishing. More people have to know about this."
Thus a story was born.
It all seemed so natural, according to Sawyer. In writing, her focus is on children. The idea for a friendship between Louisa, a runaway slave girl, and Abby, the daughter of Gamaliel Bailey, an abolitionist and founder of the National Era wove history into a story.
It might be possible for someone to make it to shore without taking a breath, but, once on shore, then what? Louisa wondered. What future for a man running from the law? What future for a black man chased by a white man with a gun at his back?
"Washington had a very significant free black population. There were free blacks and slaves living in the same city, side by side, even within the same family. It gives you a lot to think about," Sawyer said.
So much to think about that Sawyer never planned in advance.
"Some days I would write and I wasn't sure what would happen to the characters," Sawyer said. "I knew I wanted to write a certain number of pages a day. I thought, just type and see where it takes you."
Fleshing out this chapter of history took Sawyer in, around and out of Washington. She located the unmarked graves of Gamaliel and Margaret Bailey's family at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown, walked along the banks of the Potomac River and on the very streets where the Baileys, the 76 slaves and their captors once lived.
Days spent in the Martin Luther King Library turned up newspapers full of accounts following Daniel Drayton's trial, Drayton's published memoirs and precise details about parties the Bailey family held.
But a girl named Louisa never climbed aboard the Pearl and escaped. Abby never existed, and no specific information about the Bailey children can be found. Such a friendship only exists in Freedom Calls.
Do they think I am doing the right thing? Louisa wondered. Surely they must. After all they're not trying to stop me.
And neither is Sawyer's family. Her three daughters, Kate, Eve and Ida, and husband Jon, a Washington correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, support her love of writing.
"I've always liked to read. Even when I was little I wanted to be a writer. I would make up stories to put myself to sleep at night," Sawyer laughs.
After graduating from Yale University, Sawyer pursued her dreams, making a home in St. Louis and teaching junior high English and drama. But 20 years ago, her family headed east. Sawyer eventually made her way to the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington to become a writing instructor.
"I love what I'm doing now, but I did enjoy working with junior high kids. My books focus on the ages of 8 to 12. So I guess they're still a part of my life."
Working without a publisher, Sawyer couldn't be sure her book would find young readers.
"But I wanted to tell this story. I knew somebody was going to publish the book. I needed to write this book."
She found White Mane Kids - which publishes historical fiction for children and young adults - by reading books like her own. Freedom Calls came out this month, adding a first novel to Sawyer's four historical accounts for young readers.
Sawyer signs Freedom Calls Sat. March 17 at 2pm at Borders Books at Maza Gallery 5333 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (Friendship Heights Metro): 202/686-8270.
-Mary Catherine Ball
Way Downstream ...
In Virginia, popular agriculture official DennisBishop was fired after defending the safety of organic farming in a letter to the editor. Bishop, who was the Stafford County agent of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, wrote: "Traditional, chemical agriculture is doomed because it has plowed through the Earth without giving thought to where it is going" ...
In New Mexico, guys headed home on Valentine'sDay evening for a little filet mignon and whatever followed were jarred by a new billboard reading: "Eating meat can cause impotence." It was traced to the Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A spokeswoman there remarked: "Choose a veggie burger in the kitchen for a whopper in the bedroom" ...
In New York, FedEx last week invited manufacturers to submit proposals to develop delivery trucks that will increase fuel efficiency by 50 percent and reduce air pollution by 90 percent. FedEx is working on the project with the Alliance for Environmental Innovation ...
In China, only 1,000 or so giant Pandas exist because bamboo forests are being rapidly cut down for development, the World Wildlife Fund said in a report last week. The range of the black-and-white creatures has declined by 30 percent in a decade because of disappearing bamboo, the pandas' diet staple...
Our CreatureFeature comes from Moscow, where scientists and caviar barons met last week to ponder the challenge of preserving one of the world's prized fish: the sturgeon of the Caspian Sea, which can live to be 100 years old and grow to 2,000 pounds. (If you want some $2,700 Beluga caviar, check out www.petrossianparis.com.)
There was talk about new anti-poaching laws to prevent people from harvesting the fish to feed their families (and for black-market caviar.). But Mats Engstrom of Tsar Nicolai Caviar in San Francisco observed, "They're poor and no laws will stop them from wanting to put food on the table."