The All-County Music Festival: Changing lives and inspiring future musicians


Adam Byrd

The All-County Band is practicing their piece, Fanfare.

by Matthew Strahlman and Adam Byrd

The All-County Music Festival was held the last weekend in January.

Matthew Strahlman, Cello:

All-County has been a fascinating experience for me because, to be completely honest, I never really remember how much I enjoy playing in All-County until I go into that first rehearsal. 

I am a cellist, and I have been playing classical music since I was five, almost six years old. I went to a small Montessori school in Frederick, Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School, and that was where I started playing the cello.

When I was in sixth grade, I auditioned for All-County; I got in, and was one of only a few people from my school to get into the orchestra. There, I met a whole new group of people who I would remain friends with all throughout middle and high school. 

The audition process for All-County is comprised of a selection of scales, a chromatic scale, a prepared excerpt, and a short sight reading piece.

Every year I look forward to All-County. Although the music is technically difficult, I always have fun, which is likely because I enjoy music and have friends in the ensemble, which is why I am sad that this is my last year doing it.

First, I looked up to the high school musicians, making friends with some of them. Now, I mentor the younger people who are enthusiastic about music too.

If anyone reading this plays an instrument or sings, and is looking to try something difficult but fun (and you’re in middle or high school), I recommend auditioning for All-County. Even if you do not get in, you learn so many important life skills, from preparing an audition to learning to receive a rejection with grace, and to come back the next year, fighting twice as hard.

Adam Byrd, Trombone:

I have been playing trombone since the fourth grade, when I joined New Market Elementary School’s band. It was an enlightening experience, and I knew I wanted more band. In middle school, I got a chance.

I first auditioned for All-County Band in seventh grade, along with a few other band friends. When we all made it in, and sat down for the very first rehearsal that year, it was a bit intimidating. I mean, there were so many great players for that age and experience level, but we quickly established friendships in our sections.

Every single year afterwards, I’ve auditioned, and I’ve managed to get in every year except for one. Every year some friends and I get in, we get fun and challenging music, and have a great time playing with each other, and the concerts are always really amazing.

Now for the fifth time, I get to join a fantastic ensemble of people and work on performing to the best of our ability. It’s a great community, very supportive of its members, and the musicians keep improving every year.

Every year in my musical career, I have looked forward to the next season of All-County Band. It’s been a truly amazing experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their musicianship, whether in the choir, orchestra or band. I have grown immensely through these events, and I know many who would say the same.

These programs in the band community also help with skills beyond music, like auditions for a prospective job, public performances or speaking to a crowd. Even just being able to sit down for a few hours and crank out a vastly improved version of what you attempted to create a week earlier, or being able to exercise your creativity and stretch your imagination to think of methods to enhance the product or production.

Every time I have come back, I have brought with me knowledge from previous experiences to help my section improve, and have been ready to take in suggestions from my fellow musicians to strengthen my abilities as well. Each year after the season is over, I take what I learn back to my band and teach others what I have learned.