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National Symphony's brass ensemble engages students

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By Jenny Hartley

Angela Hilton had a guest spot in the National Symphony Orchestra's brass ensemble on Tuesday.

Hilton, an eighth-grader at Andrew Jackson Middle School, is normally a flute player. But she got a chance to try the tuba, playing the pivotal moment in "Pop Goes the Weasel" with the rest of the ensemble.

The National Symphony Orchestra, based in Washington, D.C., travels to one state each year for performances. This year, it's the Palmetto State. Band students at Lancaster County's middle and high schools listened to the brass ensemble at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster's Bradley Arts and Sciences Building. Other Lancaster residents heard a string quartet from the symphony at the Springs House earlier Tuesday morning.

The performances were coordinated by the Lancaster County School District and Lancaster County Council of the Arts.

The brass players were Marty Hackleman on French horn, Craig Mulcahy on trombone, Steve Dumaine on tuba, and trumpeters Steven Hendrickson and Tom Cupples.

They played "Little Fugue in G Minor" by J.S. Bach, the Irish classic "Danny Boy" and other songs. They demonstrated how a trumpet mouthpiece, a plastic tube and a funnel, along with a conch shell, can be used to make music.

Hilton laughed with other students after her tuba went, "Bwah!" with each "Pop" in the song. She said she was a little nervous when she was pulled from the audience, but had fun on stage.

"It was really fun," she said. "They were really nice and did a really good job playing."

Her band teacher, Scot McGuire, said the exposure to classical music was great for the local band students. The ensemble could have spent the performance playing complex arrangements, but instead tailored it to pique the interests of middle and high school band students, he said.

McGuire admired how the ensemble members talked with students about music after the performance.

"They could have packed up their instruments and left," McGuire said. "They're not here for the job. They're here to educate students. They're developing future musicians."

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com