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So the younger perfect daughter’s Tri-County Honor Band concert was the other night, and I must say I enjoyed it more than I usually do.

Now, before you classical music fans or outraged good parents get on my case, there are mitigating circumstances.

For one thing, the YPD plays one of those instruments with a qualifier before the name, like soprano bassoon (and yes, I know there is no such thing as the soprano bassoon), kind of like “directional” universities. Just as, say, Eastern Ohio University (again, no such thing) has less prestige in the sports world than Ohio University, so does the soprano bassoon (if there were such a thing) have less prestige than the plain old bassoon.

This is a double-edged sword in the music world. On the one hand, there are fewer kids playing the soprano bassoon, so there are fewer kids trying to make the various honor bands as soprano bassoon players, meaning the four or five soprano bassoon players in the region have a better shot at making the honor band than the 50 or so regular bassoon players.

On the other hand, they almost never hand out solos to the soprano bassoon players, and my peeve here, they stash them in the middle of the band somewhere, meaning the doting relatives of the soprano bassoon players never get to see their little Yehudi-Menuhins-of-the-soprano-bassoon actually play the (expensive!) instrument in concert. We are rewarded with partial glimpses, part of an ear here, part of a ponytail bobbing in rhythm there, a knee (likewise bobbing).

This time, I could clearly see the top half of her head, including both eyes(!) and her upper lip gripping the (expensive!) soprano bassoon reed. We soprano bassoon dads take what we can get and are gratified by astonishingly little.

The other gratifying thing about this concert was the level of competence on display. This is the YPD’s first year in the high school honor bands, and I must say I didn’t realize how much difference it makes.

Middle school honor band parents, I know your children are exceptional in every way and that their musical talents are the best musical talents since Mozart got his first kazoo, but come on, level with me here, how many concerts have you sat through where the most entertaining part was trying to figure out which trombonist was always flat or which clarinet squeaked the first note of every entrance?

I thought so. What’s that? Of course, it was never your child!

But by high school, the kids have been playing long enough that they’re pretty good, more than good enough to entertain an untutored ear like mine. I mean, I still think the height of musicianship is the early years of the art rock band Yes, before their steady diet of hallucinogens and other means of self-indulgence took their toll.

Of course, life is full of trade-offs (the motto of this column and the phrase I believe runs through my beautiful wife’s mind when she contemplates our years together). The better the musicians get, the more “difficult” the music gets.

This is mostly a good thing. I was supremely happy when they got good enough to tackle Sousa (now in tune and without squeaks!), but this last concert, they played a piece from the farther reaches of the “modern” canon, meaning it had no melody, a time signature that if divided as in a math problem would yield an irrational number, and which often sounded like two or more distinct ensembles angrily trying to drown each other out.

Sometimes I miss the simple days when they were just learning “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

County to celebrate Renewable Energy Center opening

A dedication ceremony for the Renewable Energy Center at Crain Memorial Welcome Center will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 26, rain or shine.

The center features an electric vehicle charging station and a 12-kilowatt wind turbine, which are part of Charles County government’s green initiatives. The wind turbine, the first public wind turbine in the county, will provide sustainable electric power to reduce the Welcome Center’s reliance on the public utility grid, and provides power to the Welcome Center’s electric vehicle charging station.

“This is a very exciting moment for the county. I see this as just another example of Charles County’s commitment to a cleaner, renewable future. In addition to this wind turbine, we can boast the SMECO solar farm in Hughesville as well as charging stations all over the county for electric vehicles,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said in a county news release. “Also, the center we will be dedicating is only in its embryonic stage. It is our hope it will develop into an interactive exhibition for all of our citizens but especially for our students to whom we hope to leave a brighter legacy.”

For information, contact Denise Ferguson at 301-645-0554 or

The Welcome Center is at 12480 Crain Highway in Newburg.

Links nonprofit to stage jazzy evening

The Southern Maryland Chain Chapter of The Links Inc. will present “A Jazzy Night of Elegance” 8 p.m. to midnight Feb. 15 at the Hilton Garden Inn at 10385 O’Donnell Place in Waldorf. The evening features the jazz stylings of Peloton with Greg Boyer.

Tickets are $60 each with heavy hors d’oeuvres provided, a cash bar and silent auction.

The Chain Chapter is involved in building links of service to those in need through numerous projects and annual scholarships for Southern Maryland students.

To purchase tickets, call Jehnell Linkins at 301-743-9476 or Pamela Jackson at 301-922-8432.

Jack and Jill celebrates Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month with the Southern Maryland Chapter of Jack and Jill of America as they salute the past, live in the present and look to the future.

This year’s event is “A Grand History — Tri-County History from a Generational Perspective” and will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 23 at General Smallwood Middle School at 4990 Indian Head Highway in Indian Head.

The group has lined up some seasoned seniors to share their experiences of growing up, living and raising families in Southern Maryland.

They will tell their stories of how they succeeded in their careers and overcame the obstacles that they met along the way.

“Each year, our Black History Month event grows.” Rane Franklin, the event coordinator, said in a news release. “The focus this year is on our vital, living past — our grandparents. Our children have so much to learn from them.”

As in past years, there will be a mentoring area where presenters from various fields will answer questions about career development and financial planning for college. Healthy snacks will be provided. There also will be storytelling and Black History Month arts and crafts projects available for the younger children.

The event is in collaboration with Jack and Jill of America’s national incentive to “Find Your Roots,” that includes genealogy projects, Internet ancestry research and archive research.

Jack and Jill is an African-American mother’s organization for children. It provides physical, educational, cultural and leadership activities for youth. Jack and Jill is the oldest and largest African-American family organization in the United States.

Health fair planned for March 16

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is making plans for its annual health fair to be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 16 at the Health Partners clinic at 3070 Crain Highway in Waldorf.

This year’s health fair will target the health and wellness of children and youth, and will feature dental checkups, eye exams and blood pressure exams. First aid, proper hygiene and educational courses such as anti-bullying, fire and poison prevention, and child safety displays and handouts will be presented. The health fair will offer HIV screening, blood pressure checks and breast exams for adult participants.

Zumba and other physical activities will take place for participants of all ages. Sports attire is recommended.

There will be prizes and giveaways.

Horticulture specialist to give lecture

The St. Mary’s Arboretum Association and the Natural Science and Mathematics Colloquium Series at St. Mary’s College will sponsor the talk “Disasters by Design: How Global Change Threatens Landscape Sustainability” on Feb. 20.

Michael Raupp, University of Maryland professor and ornamental horticulture specialist, will present on how human activities contribute to pest outbreaks, and what these outbreaks mean to the citizens of Maryland.

The talk will be held in the college’s Schaefer Hall at 4:40 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

At the conclusion of the event, participants can take home free tree and shrub seedlings from the arboretum’s plant nursery. The seedlings are sponsored by the arboretum and the Chaney Foundation of Waldorf.

Open mic night at coffee house

The Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance HomeSpun Coffee House will sponsor an open mic at the Christ Church Parish Hall at 37497 Zach Fowler Road in Chaptico on Feb. 22.

The doors open at 7 p.m., and the music starts at 7:30 p.m.

The admission fee is $5, and performers are admitted free. Light refreshments will be provided; donations are suggested.

For information or to sign up to perform, contact John Garner at or 301-904-4987. Go to for directions.

Applications being accepted for STEM scholarships

The Marine Corps Aviation Association John Glenn Squadron is accepting applications for its 2013 merit-based college scholarships.

Applicants must be St. Mary’s, Calvert or Charles counties high school seniors or the dependents of MCAA members who are pursuing STEM-based degrees in college and show an intent to work in a career field that supports the Department of Defense.

Go to to apply.

Applications are due by March 15.

Since the inception of its scholarship program in 2007, the MCAA John Glenn Squadron has awarded $183,500 in scholarships to 45 tri-county students. Individual scholarship awards have recently ranged from $4,000 to $6,000, with an average of $4,800 last year.

Men’s golf lessons to be offered at White Plains

White Plains Golf Course is offering two men’s golf clinics in April.

Each four-day session will run 5 to 6:30 p.m. and costs $75. Sessions include golf course etiquette, safety, rules, grip, stance, posture, chipping, putting, irons, woods and on-the-course instruction.

The first session will be April 8-11, and the second session will be April 15-18.

Registration is required. Maximum class size is eight participants. Golf clinic participants will receive a complimentary round of golf.

For more information or to register, call the golf course at 301-645-1300. The course is at 1015 St. Charles Parkway, south of DeMarr Road, in White Plains.

PRAD accepting grant applications

Patuxent River Appreciation Days announced the opening of the 2013 grant round. Nonprofit organizations that provide educational programs or conduct research activities about the importance of the Patuxent River or Patuxent River Basin are eligible to apply.

The grant recipients for 2012 were the Calverton School, the Purple Martin Club on the grounds of the Calvert Marine Museum and the Patuxent Naval Air Museum.

Awards of up to $1,000 per organization in any one calendar year are made on a competitive basis by the PRAD board.

To request an application for a grant, contact Melissa McCormick at 410-326-2042, ext. 41, or

Provide the name of the nonprofit, a contact person’s name, a complete mailing address and a daytime telephone number or email address. Deadline is March 25. Go to or

Accokeek Foundation plans better river access

The Accokeek Foundation will significantly increase and improve public access to the Potomac River at Piscataway Park for views, boating and other recreational uses as one of the 21 partner recipients of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office’s fiscal 2012 investments.

The federal funding will be leveraged with funding from the State of Maryland to complete the project.

The National Colonial Farm boat dock, which was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, is currently being rebuilt to allow visitors to arrive by water. The current Saylor Grove Fishing Pier will be retrofitted to accommodate larger tour boats that serve passengers on the Potomac River, according to a foundation news release.

The fishing pier is a popular recreational feature of Piscataway Park and offers spectacular views of Mount Vernon across the Potomac. Additional improvements to the fishing pier include installation of a floating pier and gangplank, and a fixed ramp designed to accommodate visitors with mobility issues. The project includes the addition of a canoe and kayak dock adjacent to the pier.

The first stage of the project, demolition of the current boat dock and the new steps and landing, is completed; the entire project is on track for completion by this summer, the release states.

A public opening celebration is planned as part of the Foundation’s annual fundraising Leadership Salute event June 22.

For more information about the boat dock project, contact the site manager, Brandon Burton, at or 301-283-2113, ext. 33.

For details about Leadership Salute, contact the development office at

Fairy houses and gnome homes wanted

Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is accepting applications for the fourth annual outdoor exhibit of fairy houses and gnome homes at the center at 13480 Dowell Road in Solomons.

The exhibit will run from May 4 to Oct. 13. Houses will be placed in and around the trees and woods of the sculpture garden. Interested fairy and gnome home builders should go to for complete guidelines and instructions on how to register. Deadline is March 1.

Grape growers schedule pruning workshops

The Maryland Grape Growers Association is now registering attendees for its annual grapevine training and pruning workshops.

The Southern Maryland workshop is 9 a.m. to noon March 9 at Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery at 8650 Mackall Road St. Leonard. Eight acres are planted with vines of various ages including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Montepulciano and Zinfandel grapes.

Taught by experienced growers, the clinics will educate both new and seasoned growers on the best practices for trellising, training and pruning grapevines of varying ages and varieties, and will be tailored to the growing environments found across the state. Other viticultural practices, including disease and weed control, fertilization, vineyard equipment and safety, will also be addressed.

The cost of each clinic is $15 for MGGA members and $26 for nonmembers. The clinics will be held rain or shine.

Other clinics include one 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 23 at Boordy’s South Mountain Vineyard in Burkittsville and one 9 a.m. to noon March 2 at Harvest Ridge Winery on the Delaware border in Marydel.

Advance registration is encouraged. Walk-up registration is permitted when paying by check or with exact cash.

Bring pruning shears, and dress for the weather. Go to to register and for more information.

Register for writers conference in St. Mary’s County

Registration is now open for the second annual Chesapeake Writers’ Conference at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, which will be held June 23-29. Writers at all levels will gather on Maryland’s beautiful Western shore for a week of workshops, lectures, panel discussions and readings, as well as daily workshops in fiction, poetry or creative nonfiction led by college faculty.

Also being held in conjunction with the conference will be a special workshop for high school-aged writers. The inaugural Chesapeake Youth Writers’ Workshop will offer a unique experience for those interested in the graphic novel. Youth writers will study the art and craft of graphic storytelling, focusing on creating stories with words and pictures.

Participants also will be able to experience the bounty of summertime in Southern Maryland as they enjoy concerts, kayaking, day-tripping to nearby parks and much more. Lodging will be provided on the St. Mary’s College campus.

Applications for the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference, as well as the Chesapeake Youth Writers’ Workshop, are accepted on a rolling basis; however, space is limited. More information can be found online or by contacting conference organizers at

Ballet academy schedules auditions for summer

The Ballet Arts Academy at the Old Waldorf School already is gearing up for summer.

Auditions will be held at 4 p.m. Feb. 16 and March 2.

International instructors and choreographers will be joining Oscar Hawkins, artistic director, in conducting classes for students of all experience levels in technique, pointe, pas de deux, character and court dance, and contemporary ballet.

Christine Booker, pre-ballet instructor, will hold classes to teach age-appropriate ballet technique and ballet-themed arts and crafts for children 5 to 8.

Classes will be held at the Old Waldorf School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Extended programming will be 6:30 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

The Ballet Arts Academy is a nonprofit organization devoted to the teaching of classical Russian ballet techniques through the Vaganova methodology.

Scholarships are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for students who wish to dance but are unable to meet the financial requirements for the program.

Two-week sessions will be held July 15 to 26 with no performance scheduled and from July 29 to Aug. 9 with a performance. Tuition is $600.

The four-week session with a performance is $1,200.

The extended program from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 5:30 p.m. is $75 per week.

The academy is at 3074 Crain Highway in the Old Waldorf School.

For more information, go to or email