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Wayne Band marks 100th birthday

December 05, 1998

Wayne bandBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - When the Wayne Band marches it carries a banner saying it was formed in 1899.

No one connected with the band today knows if that date is correct.

The band's earliest roots appear to go back to 1848 when a group of musicians got together to play a concert at a local school, according to research by local historian Bob Ringer.

Ringer, 77, played tuba and sousaphone in the Wayne Band from 1941 to 1956 except for World War II military service.

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There were several bands active in Waynesboro in the 19th century, including the Waynesboro Coronet Band. Some were sponsored by area industries, some by fire companies. The consensus among veteran Wayne Band members is that it was incorporated in 1899 from remnants of other local bands.

"We've got to speculate a little. No one really knows, but I think that was the beginning," said William Shull, 64, who has played trumpet in the band off and on since 1948.

Asher S. Edelman Jr., 74, is the glue that has held the band together for the last half of the 20th century. Edelman became director in 1953.

The band claims a membership of 38 players, Edelman said. About 25 show up in the Borough Hall every Monday night year round to rehearse the band's repertoire of Broadway show tunes, overtures, swing, Sousa marches and Dixieland.

"We don't play heavy music like they do in the Hagerstown Municipal Band," Edelman said. "They're paid union scale. We're strictly volunteer. Anyone who can play can join. I'm the only one who's paid. We have some really dedicated people in this band and it's a pleasure to lead them."

"What makes this band nice is that this is a small town. One of the joys of playing in it is that we do nursing and retirement homes. It's great to see old people in wheelchairs tapping their feet. Eighty percent of the time we play for tea and cupcakes," Shull said.

The band runs on a small budget. Its money comes from the few parades and concerts it does charge for, like the $500 it made this year marching in the Greencastle Old Home Week parade, Edelman said. Mostly the members earn gas money.

The borough of Waynesboro donates about $1,500 a year to the band, enough to pay Edelman's annual salary and buy a little music, said John R. Fitz, 50, a trumpet player in the band for 32 years.

Wayne Band members say theirs is one of few community bands that plays year round. On Dec. 14 it will play a free Christmas concert at 7:30 p.m. at Grace Brethren Church on Philadelphia Ave.

Edelman echoes a common complaint of traditional organizations - a lack of younger members. "Most of our new members are retired people," he said.

Some band members say they are encouraged that two or three high school students show up for the weekly rehearsals.

"It's getting harder to find marchers for the parades," Edelman said. "About half of our members rode the hay wagon with Santa Claus in the recent Christmas parade here," he said. "I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to march." Edelman carries the front half of the base drum in parades.

Women were not allowed in the band until sometime in the 1960s except during the war years when few men were around. Three of the band's members died in World War II.

The band has several husband and wife teams, including Edelman and his wife, Betty. She started in the band 26 years ago playing trumpet, but switched to flute and piccolo after her babies came. "Every time I practiced they woke up crying so I switched to flute," she said.

Edelman's day job was teaching string instruments in elementary and junior high school. He also led a high school orchestra. Many of the band's members past and present were Edelman's students in school.

Shull, Fitz and Wayne Bartholow, 51, a tuba player in the band for 35 years, played in his high school orchestra.

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