Band's director takes a final bow

October 25, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

ROHRERSVILLE - Richard L. Haynes' first attempt to step down as director of the Rohrersville Cornet Band of Washington County in 1980 was met with rejection: Members of the band's board threw the resignation letter on the ground.

On Sunday, nearly a quarter-century later, Haynes led the town's band for the last time in the spirited, humorous and teary-eyed fashion he has been known for in his more than four decades at the helm.

Members of the Rohrersville Cornet Band of Washington County honored Haynes, the band's director for 44 years, with a near two-hour performance before a packed house of more than 100 people at the Rohrersville Band Hall.


"Either they're appreciative of what we're doing or they're awful glad I'm gone," he joked during a brief intermission.

In those years, Haynes said he has led the band in a wide range of concerts that included everything from somber observances at Antietam National Battlefield to the festive atmosphere of parades to the almost silly events that included playing before a Ronald McDonald at a McDonald's opening.

But after more than four decades as director and 64 total years of service with the band, Haynes said it is finally time to step away from the director's riser.

"I'm going to be 80 in April. I'm old enough," Haynes said. "I think we can use newer ideas, a new direction."

Haynes said that he believed the band was ready for "new methods and fresh ideas" in a resignation letter he penned in April 1980. The band's president and secretary quickly rejected his attempt to step down at that time, he said.

"They looked at it and threw it down on the floor," Haynes recalled.

The band was founded in 1837 by G. Washington McCoy and is the oldest community band in Maryland in continuous service, according to information released by the band at Sunday's event.

Haynes, who was elected director in 1960 after a two-year stint as assistant director, was one of only six directors in the band's history, according to the band.

Haynes said he got involved in the band when both his father and uncle were a part of it. Haynes said both of his brothers and his children have played in the band during various years.

Sunday's concert featured several of Haynes' all-time favorites.

Haynes became teary-eyed while introducing "The Family Band," which he sang on, as he spoke about the generations of several area families that have kept the band's tradition alive.

"My wife wouldn't come because what's happening now, but I'm happy," Haynes said. "I'm an emotional person. I could cry over a jar of peanut butter."

Minutes later, following a rendition of "The Band Played On," Haynes sat down in the trumpet section, joked with nearby musicians and began his role as just another player in the band under the direction of Holly Roelkey. Roelkey has acted as co-director of the band for nearly a decade.

Roelkey did hand control back to Haynes, who plans to continue playing with the band and acting as unofficial historian, for the encore, "Stars and Stripes Forever." Haynes joked to the crowd that the band would play the song "whether you want it or not."

Roelkey said she was happy at the large turnout for the special concert.

"I think the community really honored Richard in a very big way today," she said.

Richard Gross, a band veteran of more than 50 years and a councilman in Boonsboro, said he remembered voting for Haynes for the director position in 1960. Gross said he did not predict his longtime friend would have a 44-year run.

"I never thought that would happen," Gross said. "But, I never though I'd see him retire either. We all have to move on."

"He's been one of the finest men I've been around," Gross added.

Donald Main, of Keedysville, said he came to see Haynes' last appearance as director because of the quality of past performances and the "fun-loving" demeanor that Haynes has carried throughout the years.

"They're one of the top bands in the area," he said. "(Haynes and Roelkey) are so humble and so good at getting across the best performance they can."

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