The joy of making music

August 06, 1997

The joy of making music

It's Tuesday night, and Mercersburg Area Community Band members are playing a few of their favorite things.

A medley from "The Sound of Music" fills the band room at James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pa., as the band swings into rehearsal.

The band's season runs from mid-May to August, and it gives six to eight concerts each year. The last performance this summer is Sunday, Aug. 10, at Lions Club Fairground in Mercersburg.

This year the band has about 45 members ranging in age from their teens to their 70s, and all are volunteers, director Fred Wagner says.


"They play together because they enjoy it," says Wagner, a Mercersburg resident.

Thirty to 40 percent of the members don't participate in every performance, he says. The band has about 70 names on its roster, but all don't play each year.

The casual, relaxed atmosphere is what keeps the band fun, members say.

"This is a very friendly group," says French horn player Dave McCandless, 55, who lives in Welsh Run, Pa.

Members come from all over

Members travel from Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to play.

Ira Gross, 57, comes from Boonsboro to play clarinet with the band.

"It's my second year, and I love it," Gross says.

He was in bands in high school and college, but this is his first time playing in a community group.

Paul Mummert of Bedington, W.Va., originally joined the band in 1949 and was a member until 1955, when his playing was interrupted by service in the Army.

"I laid down my trombone, and I picked it up again in 1993," says Mummert, 65.

Playing in the band has become a family tradition, and over the years husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and parents and children have participated together.

Fred Wagner's father, 72-year-old Harold Wagner of Mercersburg, plays saxophone in the band, and his 15-year-old son, Andy Wagner, plays trumpet.

Harold Wagner's brother, 63-year-old Dean Wagner of Mercersburg, plays cornet in the band. Harold Wagner's father, the late Lloyd Wagner, was a band member, as was his late brother, Donald Z. Wagner.

Beginning in 1875

When the band started in 1875, it was known as the Eagle Cornet Band. The brass band had 12 to 15 members, Fred Wagner says.

Membership was pretty stable until World War I and World War II, when the men left to serve their country and the band disbanded, he says.

The band reassembled at various times during the war years and went by different names depending on its sponsorship. It disbanded in 1972 and was reorganized in 1986.

The players have a wide range of experience, and many have degrees in music, Wag-ner says.

Wagner, a trumpet player who joined the community band when he was in seventh grade, also directs the band at James Buchanan High School.

Other school band directors who play in Mercersburg Area Community Band are Linda Shade of Fannett-Metal High School in Willow Hill, Pa.; Sam Forney of Greencastle Antrim High School in Greencastle, Pa.; and Gary Lauder of James Buchanan Middle School in Mercersburg.

The band's concerts feature overtures, marches and show tunes. Wagner says he tries to mix the music to satisfy the players' different capabilities.

"To get good musicians and keep them, you have to challenge them," he says.

The quality of the music and the camaraderie among members makes the band special to clarinet player Pat Beard of Greencastle. Beard, 45, has been in the band for three years, and her 18-year-old daughter, Vicki Beard, also has played clarinet with the group.

"There's such a joy in making music," Pat Beard says.

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