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Herbst Farm Opens Barn To Rock Music Ministry

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ALICIA NOTARIANNI
The Herald-Mail

SMITHSBURG, Md. (AP) — From an old cement block potato processing building on a farm on Old Forge Road, post hard-core screamo music blared.

“It’s awfully `yell-y’ in there,” Ross Semler said as he stepped outside on a Saturday night into the cold dark.

Nearby, teenagers and college-age students — most with hoodies and a few with feral facial hair and ear gauges — pulled a stack of pizzas from a car and stood laughing and eating. They had gathered to hear a concert of six bands featuring various brands of alternative music at Right Choice Ministries.

Semler, 22, of Sharpsburg, sings and plays with the ska band May Weather, one of the six acts. Ska is “basically rock music with some horn players,” he said.

Semler chatted with Susan Herbst, 62, president of Right Choice, who started the ministry seven or eight years ago, she said, along with her husband, Winston Herbst, who passed away last December. The couple had been involved in youth ministries for more than 40 years, she said, when they decided to “do something on our own.”

They opened their home at Breezy Acres Herbst Farm to young people, offering pool, board games, a video room and a music room. Before they knew it, they had 60 youths coming every Saturday night, she said. Some of the youths told her they played in bands, but they didn’t have anywhere to play.

“They said, `People say it’s loud and don’t want the racket.’ I said, `We live on a farm!’ and we started having concerts,” Herbst said.

That was about three years ago. Now, Herbst said, on average, Right Choice hosts concerts about once a week, “sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the month.” Anywhere from 30 to 100 youths typically attend.

On a recent Saturday about 7 p.m., there were 60 people in the audience, with many still ambling in. Most formed an arc around the musical acts, intent upon the music. Some browsed a “merch” table with band T-shirts, CDs and bumper stickers.

The bands are not all Christian, Herbst said. But she does not allow “foul language or vulgarity.”

Semler, who studies saxophone at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., said the concert venue at Right Choice “changed our lives.”

“I’m not saying that to be cliche. It changed the whole dynamic of musical progression in the area,” he said.

Young people see others playing and are inspired to play themselves, knowing there is a safe, friendly venue with an encouraging audience, he said.

Victor Orlando, 20, of Martinsburg, W.Va., attended the concert with his brother, Jacob Orlando, 17. Victor has played at the venue in the past with his band Young Poet.

On Nov. 9, he looked forward to seeing May Weather and Audiostrobelight. He was impressed that the Herbsts chose to provide their farm as a venue.

“It’s awesome that someone would open up their doors like that,” he said. “It’s something you don’t see every day.”

Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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