- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Danny Mays said there isn’t anything in his life he can’t trace back to his work with Anne Arundel County High School Battle of the Bands.

“It’s truly an extension of me, not just something I did,” he said. “I’ve kind of done the full ride, the full perspective of the program. (I was a) patron the first two years, then performer, then became emcee and took on more responsibility over the years.”

But after a 17-year run, the annual event is coming to an end. Founder and director Nancy Almgren cited logistical challenges and a variety of personal and professional considerations.

“We feel like this is the time to wrap up what has been a tremendous run for our program,” she said in a statement Monday morning.

Almgren started the event in 1999 as a way to expose county residents to musicians from area high schools. Organizers said it was the largest event of its kind in the nation, as schools annually sent their best rock band to perform in front of sold-out crowds.

Almgren recalls selling 1,200 tickets to an 800-seat venue. She said she would sell more tickets as people left during the show.

Proceeds from the events were donated to the music departments at the top four schools. More than $110,000 was raised and donated over the course of the event. It also offered 851 high school musicians the chance to perform in front of more than 14,000 patrons, organizers said.

In the final event in January at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Broadneck High School’s No Capes was victorious.

Past participants have gone on to big things.

The 2011 winners, Sun Club, signed a record deal and have had several successful international tours. Have Mercy, which performed the same year, is now signed to Hopeless Records and is now performing on the Vans Warped Tour.

Many bands on the Baltimore music scene often cite the battle as a starting point , said Joliana Farrow, Annapolis High School senior and lead singer of Chasing Verity, which took fourth in what turned out to be the final battle.

Without the event, she said, people on the local music scene won’t be as well connected. “We’ve made such good friendships with the people that play Battle of the Bands,” Farrow said. “It’s such a tight-knit scene.”

Chasing Verity performed for the past two years and had plans to play again this winter.

Almgren said the decision was made both because Mays could no longer emcee and scheduling the event at Maryland Hall without it being an official Board of Education activity made it too expensive.

“It was just one, two, three, four nails,” she said.

Maryland Hall President Linnell Bowen credited the battle’s past success to Almgren and her volunteers.

Mays, 31, said he decided months ago this year would be the end of his involvement with the program because he has “too many balls in the court right now.” He has a 6-year-old daughter starting kindergarten next year, a full-time job, his 90s tribute band, Here’s to the Night, and baseball and wrestling announcer positions.

But the Arundel High grad wouldn’t be where he is without the battle — he competed in 2001 with the band Item16, and took on greater roles with the event over time.

“I still look back on that so fondly and remember how important it was for me,” he said. “I learned so much about how to be a multi-disciplined and multi-talented performer almost exclusively from doing that show every year.”

Mays has been in the entertainment industry too long to “never say never,” on the prospect of the battle returning.

Regardless, he hopes its conclusion is the catalyst for “people to realize that there’s so much talent out there that’s not getting an opportunity to be heard.”

Almgren said since the news first broke Monday, she has gotten calls about bringing the showcase back. But she wouldn’t settle for it to be anything less than professional and at the quality it has been, she said. “If something were to happen that would overcome the obstacles, obviously we’d have to re-look at it.”

Mays hopes more programs will allow for aspiring artists to play year-round and develop their talent.

Bowen agrees. “A one time event doesn’t always produce the teaching, the learning in the music field. It’s just one of those things… It is worth saving but in a different form.”

She said there are opportunities for young artists to perform at Maryland Hall summer concerts.

Farrow said the Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge in Annapolis and Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park have been stepping up to support local artists and musicians. “Things are ending but things are beginning at the same time,” she said.

The all-ages Be the Band, a battle of the bands hosted by the Chesapeake center, is in its second year and gives seven bands from Maryland or D.C. the chance to compete. This year’s event just opened for entries and will accept them until Aug. 11, marketing director Nicole Caracia said.

“Of course, it’s really sad (Almgren’ Battle of the Bands) had to come to an end, even I would go to when I was in high school,” she said. “It’s such a huge, good experience for high school kids to be in.”

Caracia said Be the Band was never in competition with the county battle, but in its absence there might be more high school artists that enter her event.

Chasing Verity won last year’s Be the Band.

Tim Pratt contributed to this story.

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