Currently viewing the tag: "Morris Blake"

The new Thurmont band Morris Blake has been working on for a few short months, made its public debut on December 21, 2017.
A sneak preview of the band was held at the Thurmont Senior Center, and the band presented a Christmas Concert to a full house. The band started with the first member, Devon Shorb, a trumpeter, and shortly after that, five new brass members followed. At the beginning of the performance, Mayor John Kinnaird presented the band and delivered its official name, Gateway Brass Ensemble. The performance was filled with traditional Christmas music, such as “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and many others, leading up to the grand finale of “White Christmas.”

During a small intermission, Director Blake introduced each member and presented each of them with a Christmas gift. Each member received a sweatshirt, replicating the former Thurmont Train Station that the Thurmont Historical Society is selling as a fundraiser.

The Gateway Brass Band is under the direction of Morris Blake, and members include trumpeters, Rachel Murdorf, Devin Shorb, and David Fisher. On trombone is Alex Contraras, with Ed Price on Baritone and Gene Blum on the tuba.

Gateway Brass Ensemble will appear at various Thurmont events, and will be working on a July 4 concert at Memorial Park.

A contest was held for individuals to submit a name for the band, and the names received were put out to a vote, with Gateway Brass Ensemble receiving the most votes. The name was submitted by Susan Free, who will receive two tickets to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and a dinner for two at a Thurmont Restaurant. The Thurmont Commissioners had the final approval for the name and it was approved on December 20, two nights before a delightful Christmas performance. Gateway Brass Ensemble will continue to grow. If you are interested in joining, contact Morris Blake at 301-271-4831.

James Rada, Jr.

Morris Blake may not like to toot his own horn, but he is hoping that plenty of people in Thurmont like to toot theirs, whether it’s a trumpet, trombone, tuba, or another brass instrument. Blake is in the midst of starting both a brass band and choir for Thurmont.

“I think the town needed one, because the closest brass band to us is Frederick,” Blake said.

Not only is that a bit of a way to travel for band practice, but it makes the practices twice as long. As long as there is local interest, Blake sees no reason Thurmont can’t have a brass band. The town certainly has plenty of opportunities where a band could perform.

“Growing up here, I always had to travel to be part of a brass band,” Blake said.

While there is a community choir in Emmitsburg, Blake feels there is enough interest and talent in Thurmont to form another choir.

Blake plans on directing both groups. He has decades of experience playing instruments, singing, and directing musical groups. He first began playing an instrument as a young boy in 1982, when he started taking piano lessons. He has played trumpet, violin, saxophone, and drums. He is the current music director at the Fort Detrick Chapel.

“I’ve done nothing but music my entire life,” Blake said. It is the true love of his life.

Practices will be held on Sunday evenings in the Fort Detrick Chapel. The brass band will practice at 5:00 p.m., and the community choir will practice at 6:00 p.m.

His goal is to have eight to ten members in the brass band, and eighteen to twenty people in the community choir. Participants should be at least fifteen years old.

He expects both groups to be ready to perform for various Christmas activities.

If you are interested in participating, call Blake at 301-271-483

James Rada, Jr.

Morris Blake spent decades working in security with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service, Francis Scott Key Mall, Frederick County, and Mount St. Mary’s; but, last year, he turned in his badge to become a hair stylist and has never been happier.

Blake, who turns fifty-seven this year, has lived in Thurmont all of his life.

“I live in the same house they brought me home from the hospital to,” Blake said.

He started working for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a ranger at Cunningham Falls when he was twenty-two years old.

One incident he remembers from this time is when he and his training officers approached a man near the dam, who was sitting on the pipe hole. They saw that he had weapons in his vehicle, and they convinced the man to come up from where he was sitting to talk to them.

The man was depressed, but cooperative. When the training officer asked if it would be all right to check the man’s weapons, the man reached into the vehicle, pulled out his shotgun, and racked it.

“They didn’t give up bulletproof vests, but I tell you, every day after that, I wore one,” recalled Blake.

Although this man proved to be harmless, Blake realized that he could easily have been shot, so he went and bought his own bulletproof vest to wear from then on.

After seven years with the State of Maryland, he moved across the road to become a ranger with the Mounted Horse Patrol at Catoctin Mountain Park. He enjoyed working with the horses, in particular, giving rides to handicapped children who came to the park. However, tightening budgets cost the park its two horses, Jimmy and Commander, who were sent to work at the St. Louis Arch National Park.

So Blake moved on to mall security at Francis Scott Key Mall. He found himself moving up quickly in rank (although his duties and pay remained the same). When he asked Director of Security Gary Wood about it, he was told that it was because he was reliable and could be trusted.

When Wood retired, Blake became the director and realized why his work ethic had been rewarded. The younger officers couldn’t be trusted to keep working without supervision. They would goof off or flirt with girls. This meant that Blake wound up working long hours to supervise them. “I became director of security, but the work was sun up to sun down, and I couldn’t take it any longer.”

Blake then served one year in security at the Mount before landing a job with Frederick County at Winchester Hall. Not too surprisingly, the politics of the place seeped down, even to his department, until he could no longer tolerate it. He left after ten years. “I gave up the badge and came to the clippers.”

He decided to become a hair stylist because he wanted a job that would allow him to work with the public and give back to them. He attended school to earn his license and became a barber and stylist at Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont in March 2016.

He explained that three of the women at Here’s Clyde’s he grew up with, and he looks at all of them as if they were his sisters. He also enjoys seeing people walk into the salon that he hasn’t seen for years.

Besides working in security, he was an organist at the Grotto in Emmitsburg for ten years before becoming the music director at the Fort Detrick Post Chapel, which he has done for the past four years. While the security jobs have been work, the music work has been a labor of love.

Blake doesn’t regret any of the jobs he has done because he learned from all of them. Even when the jobs were wearing him down, he stayed happy for the most part. He continues to be happy with a short walk to and from his job and being able to spend time with friends, new and old.

Morris Blake is shown at Here’s Clyde’s in Thurmont, where he works as a  barber and hair stylist.