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Longtime drummer marching on

April 01, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

For nearly 70 years, the Rohrersville Band has been marching to the beat of the same drummer - but that long parade will end in September when Reginald "Reg" Norris retires his drumsticks and moves to Florida.

The band's longest-serving member will be missed.

"It will not be the same without him, that's for sure," said Richard Haines, who started playing trumpet in the band in 1940 and took over as its director in 1960. "Reg is very dependable, and he's a good drummer and a good friend."

Norris, a lifelong resident of Rohrersville, became the youngest member of the state's oldest band when he joined at age 7 in 1935.

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Rohrersville marble cutter G. Washington McCoy founded McCoy's Band in his hometown in 1837. The band's name changed to the Rohrersville Cornet Band in 1882 and to the Rohrersville Band in 1916, according to Maryland Cracker Barrel magazine.

"I just had it in my head that I wanted to play an instrument and the piano wasn't loud enough for me," said Norris, 74. "Drummers were scarce back then, and I was a fast learner."

Every Saturday, his parents took him to Hagerstown for snare drum lessons with John Minnich. Norris walked from his home on Main Street once a week to practice at the nearby band hall, he said.

Before he got his first drum, Norris counted among his favorite pastimes pounding on the side of his grandmother's Victrola in tune to the march records spinning on its turntable, he said.

"I used to stand there and pound on that Victrola for hours and hours. Then I had my drum set in the living room and my parents didn't mind if I pounded away in there," Norris said.

Norris played drums at Boonsboro High School until graduating in 1947, and joined members of the Rohrersville Band at every concert, fair and parade from Mount Airy, Md., to Leesburg, Va., until he went to Germany with the U.S. Army in 1953, he said.

In those days, Norris said, large crowds turned out to hear the band.

"There's so much going on now that not as many people take an interest in bands," he said.

Some of Norris' family members have helped entertain the crowds over the years. His cousin, Paul Haynes, played the bass horn. And his sister, Starlene Davis, daughter, Marsha Haupt, and granddaughter, Angela Charla, all have played clarinet in the band, Norris said.

His wife, Dorothy, is the organist at the Rohrersville church in which Norris has forged a reputation as a formidable low-bass singer, Haines said.

In addition to serving as the band's president for years, Norris maintained the band hall and set up for concerts for more than four decades - until lung cancer and emphysema curbed his ability to do the work himself, he said.

Haines credits Norris with helping to hold the band together during some "tough times" in the 1970s. Norris says he was following his heart.

"I just love to play. It's in my system. And this is a wonderful group of musicians. We're a family," he said. "I was a faithful member. I think they can say that."

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