Friday, April 18, 2014

Pottsgrove is Kicking Butts

From left, Regan Bradley, Natalie LoBello, Tyler Apple, and Kimberly Kelly

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottsgrove School District:

On March 19 --- “Kick Butts Day” ---- youth across the country stood up to Big Tobacco and voiced their determination to live tobacco-free lives.

As part of the day, supporters teamed up with youth to applaud CVS/Caremark for their decision to stop selling tobacco products as of Oct. 1, 2014.

Locally, members of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Montgomery County visited 21 CVS stores to present them with a certificate of appreciation from the coalition at large and from the presenting coalition member’s organization.
Nine remaining stores received their certificate by mail.

Kimberly Kelly, Community Counselor from The Lincoln Center, works with youth in the Pottsgrove School District. She and three of her students visited the CVS on North Charlotte Street to present them with their certificate from the coalition. 

These young people made a powerful statement against the tobacco companies’ targeting of young, “replacement” customers --- new smokers to replace the ones who continue to die of lung disease. 

The sad truth is that every day, another 700 kids become smokers, and one-third of them will die prematurely as a result of smoking-related diseases.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Peek Into the Future

What will Montgomery County be like in 2040? Attend a meeting Monday and help decide.

So what are the chances you have a few views on traffic?

How about parks and trails?

We KNOW you have views about housing.

Economic development as well.

So why not share them with people who can actually do something about them?

Your chance comes on Monday, April 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Photo by Evan Brandt
One of the comprehensive plan workshops held at 

Steel River Playhouse in November.
That's when representatives from the Montgomery County Planning Planning Commission will return to the borough to get input from residents on the Montgomery County Comprehensive Plan, now under construction.

The listening session will be held at Kingdom Life Church, 380 Walnut St., between North Charlotte and North Franklin streets in Pottstown.

In addition to listening to your input to help guide the writing of the comprehensive plan, county personnel will also update those who attend on the plan's progress.

If you're wondering what a comprehensive plan is, this link will take you to an 18-minute video in which County Planning Section Chief Brian O'Leary gives an overview.

The short version is this: The main purpose of a comprehensive plan at the county level is pretty simple: “to plan for those issues that transcend local boundaries,” things like highways, bridges, housing policy, economic policy, "said O'Leary.

You can find links to other comprehensive plans for Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties by clicking here.

The county released an 11-page draft of the plan's goals and themes last month, which you can read by clicking here.

If you like  maps, you can look at all sorts of trends in Montgomery County through a series of maps put together in preparation for this comprehensive plan by clicking here.

This will be the county's first visit back to the borough since November, when a listening session for the comprehensive plan was conducted at the Steel River Playhouse.

The 70-or-so people who gathered in the smaller theater there in November were participating in the first of four work sessions undertaken across the county by the Montgomery County Planning Commission as a way to gather input before embarking on the writing of the new comprehensive plan: “Montco 2040, A Shared Vision.”

The county outreach effort to get public input included workshops, like the one held in Pottstown, attended by over 150 people, 2,400 completed surveys, a strong web presence, and comments received through social media.

Many issues were raised during this process. The most important appeared to be transportation, jobs and the economy, infrastructure, revitalization, and taxes.

This will be the first new comprehensive plan since 2005 and it is hoped it will be completed by this time next year.

“We’re here to anticipate the future, decide where we want to be, and then to plan for it,” Jody Holton, the planning commission’s executive director.

For more information on this effort, visit

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Capital Music

The Pottstown High School Clarinet Ensemble performed recently in the Capital rotunda in Harrisburg.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District and its omnipresent spokesperson, John J. Armato.

The Pottstown School District Music Department brought their award winning talents to the state
A portion of the Pottstown Middle School Brass Ensemble performs.
capital in Harrisburg.

Students from both middle and high school music departments were accompanied by Ben Hayes and  Nancy Mest as they performed in the Rotunda of the state capitol building as part of the Music In Our Schools Month program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.

The middle school ensembles performing included brass, clarinet, and flute. 

They were accompanied by the high school flute and clarinet ensembles.

The brass ensemble received a very warm round of applause in appreciation of performing their  version of “Steal Away” and “Amazing Grace.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to perform in such a prestigious venue as the state
Other members of the Pottstown Middle School  Brass Ensemble.
capitol Rotunda," Hayes said.

"Our students are experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity that they will remember for the rest of
their lives.”

As an added treat, State Senator Robert Mensch visited with the groups and talked to them about the value of music in our schools and related to them his involvement in music as a high school student. 

He emphasized that many of the habits which he developed as a band member have proved to be valuable to him in his adult life.

All the Pottstown music students in the Capital rotunda.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scrubbing the Schuylkill

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Schuylkill Action Network:

An estimated 1,500 people will participate in the two-month Schuylkill Scrub by picking up litter near the Schuylkill River, Pennsylvania’s River of Year.

Anyone hosting a cleanup before May 31 can register their event at

Those who do will be eligible to win a money-saving rain barrel. Events registered with Keep
No one benefits from having this junk in the river.
Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup of PA will also have access to free gloves, trash bags, and safety vests at participating events. 

And they can benefit from free or reduced disposal fees at participating landfills during Pick It Up PA Days, from April 12 to May 5.

“Many people are aware of the Philly Spring Cleanup on April 5, but what happens if you’re busy during those five hours?” said Tom Davidock, an employee of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary who coordinates the Schuylkill Action Network. “That’s what’s so great about the Schuylkill Scrub; you’ve got a hundred events from which to choose.”

Eleven members of the Schuylkill Action Network have joined forces to improve on last year’s campaign, which attracted over 1,500 volunteers to almost 100 litter cleanups. 
These spanned almost 100 miles across Southeast Pennsylvania, from downtown Philadelphia to Pottsville in Schuylkill County.

Participating in the Schuylkill Scrub contributes to the success of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup of PA. 

Last year, this organization tracked over 50,000 people volunteering in each of the five counties bordering the Schuylkill River. Together they collected more than 900 tons of trash; enough to fill almost 400 extra-large commercial dumpsters.

The Green Valleys Association and the Hay Creek Watershed Association of greater Pottstown founded the Schuylkill Scrub in 2010. Since then, dozens of organizations have partnered to promote local cleanups as part of the Schuylkill Scrub. 

Perhaps the most active is the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy located in Schwenksville.

Approximately 2,000 square miles of land drain to the Schuylkill River. This makes it the largest influence on the tidal Delaware River and Bay, otherwise known as the Delaware Estuary. 

Cities along its 130-mile path include West Philadelphia, Norristown, Pottstown, Phoenixville, Royersford, Birdsboro, Reading, and Pottsville. 

 Over 2,400 Pennsylvanians selected the Schuylkill as their River of the Year in January.

Information and online registration is available at Volunteers can also call Tom Davidock of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary at (800) 445-4935, extension 109.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Subjective Tense

Obviously, there are a lot of differences between musical and athletic competition.

But the primary difference is one of scoring.

In athletics, there is no question who has scored the most goals, runs, baskets, touchdowns, you name it.

But scoring in musical competition is by its nature subjective. Judges, experts all, decide who "sounded better," a subjective decision if ever there was one.
Photos by Evan Brandt
The Pottstown High School Jazz Band prepares to perform Friday.

Certainly, they have done what they can to create a structure within which the scoring occurs.

So, as the announcer explained Friday night at the 26th Annual Cavalcade of Bands Jazz Band Championships at Souderton Area High School, the judges are required to score each band on such variables as tone and timing, phrasing and syncopation.

But in the end, it's still inherently subjective. I like blueberries more than raspberries and if I'm judging a pie contest, I don't care how good the crust is on the raspberry pie, I'm going to lean blueberry.

Whatever subjectivity the judges bring to any particular competition, a parent and a member of a school community is going to be more than subjective. They (I) will be positively biased. That's why they aren't the judges.

That said, there are those in the Pottstown Jazz Band community who nevertheless found themselves bewildered by the "Outstanding" rating given to the Pottstown players Friday night.

Understand, only a "Superior" rating is above "Outstanding," so it is nothing to sneeze at. But it was nevertheless difficult to understand given the context of the performances observed.
The Cavalcade of Bands has been invited to send
a marching band to the next Rose Bowl Parade.
This is the uniform, which was on display Friday night.

Not having seen any of the other bands that played before Cheltenham, I have no comment or complaint about their ratings.

Nor do I dispute that both Cheltenham and Perkiomen Valley deserved the "Superior" rating they received. They were both top notch.

But so was Pottstown.

I know I cannot claim complete objectivity, nor do I make any claim to it. But as a journalist I do have some experience with practicing objectivity.

I am not shy about acknowledging when Pottstown performs poorly or gets it wrong and from my vantage point, Pottstown's performance was crisp and tight and as good as I've ever heard them play, and I have heard every one of their performances this year.

But I can argue until I'm blue in the face. So I say don't take my word for it. Make up your own mind.

By chance both Souderton, which also received an "Outstanding" rating, and Pottstown played the same piece of music -- "Two Seconds to Midnight" -- Friday night, so an apples-to-apples comparison is possible.

Here is Souderton's performance:

And here is Pottstown's:

Did those two performances seem to be worthy of an equal rating to you?

If so, then you've probably stopped reading by now and have already chalked this post up to sour grapes. That is your prerogative.

This is the hat for Cavalcade's Rose Bowl Band
If they did not seem equal, even if you thought Souderton's to be the better performance, it does leave one wondering how they could both receive the same rating does it not?

Perhaps the answer is subjective.

Anyway, enough about that.

The highlight of last night's competition was the All-Star Jazz Band Souderton Jazz Band Director Adam Tucker put together to play three songs while the judges compiled their scores.

I'm posting their three performances here as something that has not already been posted on this blog multiple times.

As usual, I have posted video recordings of all three Pottstown performances, as well as all three performances by Perkiomen Valley, which was the only other local band competing and played very well.

Additionally, I have added the three All-Star performances and Souderton's as well to a playlist on my YouTube channel, which I have posted below.

Pottstown trombonist Sherif Mohamed as well as saxophonists Tamer Mohamed and Marley Bryan were among those chosen for the All-Star Band.

Since all the names of all the performers were not listed in the program, I can't list them here. But I was savvy enough to record Tucker's recitation of all the names prior to the first number, "Vine Street Rumble."

The second number the played will be familiar to Pottstown Jazz Band veterans, "The Running of the Bulls," which was part of Pottstown's repertoire last year.

Sadly, although my battery lasted until the end of the performance, my recording capacity did not and the last 40 seconds or so of the final number, "Birdland" was cut off. My apologies to the band members and lovers of jazz for poor camera storage management.

Friday night's competition at Souderton, which looks more like a wing of the Smithsonian than a public high school built, was in the Maynard Ferguson Division

The same night, at New Hope-Solebury High School, the Glenn Miller Division held their championships. It did not include any local bands.

Saturday night, the Woody Herman Division will be held at New Hope-Solebury High School, with Methacton being the only local band to compete.

At Souderton, the Duke Ellington Division will compete, which is where you will find the Boyertown Area High School's Big Band, led by Brian Langdon. Good luck to them.

Here are the scores for Friday's Maynard Ferguson competition:

Receiving "Superior" ratings were jazz bands from the following high schools: Bensalem, Radnor, Cheltenham, North Penn Columbia Jazz Band and Perkiomen Valley.

Receiving a "Outstanding" were Penn Wood, Archbishop Ryan, Souderton Lab, Pottstown and Souderton.
  • The Best Rhythm Section Award went to Cheltenham. 
  • The Best Saxophone Section Award went to Cheltenham; 
  • The Best Trumpet Section Award went to Radnor; 
  • The Best Trombone Section Award went to North Penn Columbia;
  • Best Sight Reading Award went to Radnor.
Here are the soloist awards:
  • Best Soloist - Ethan Lee Radnor
  • Best Soloist - Noah Becker Cheltenham
  • Best Soloist - Tajh Williams Penn Wood
  • Best Soloist - Neil Williamson Bensalem
  • Best Soloist - Marley Bryan Pottstown
  • Hon. Mention - Alex Dubuck Arch. Ryan
  • Hon. Mention - Dave Perlman Bensalem
The Overall Champion was Cheltenham who, in my subjective opinion, deserved it. I would say they were "excellent," but that is a lower rating

The judges for the evening were Jim Capolupo, Matt Gallagher and Frank Kosmaceski.

Zumba-thon to Fight Cancer

Blogger's Note: The following was provided at the last minute by the Pottstown School District:

Trojans For A Cure will be holding its first Zumba-thon to benefit Relay For Life.

It will be held this afternoon at Pottstown High School Gymnasium, 750 N. Washington St., from 12 to 2 p.m. 

They will be selling drinks and snacks at the event to keep you hydrated and your energy levels up.

The cost of the event is $10 for adults, $5 for students.

All proceeds go directly to the Pottstown Relay for Life.