Through war, depression, centuries, band plays on

May 03, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

ROHRERSVILLE - The Rohrersville Band, a community band that dates prior to the Civil War, turns 170 this year.

Started as a coronet band in 1837, the Rohrersville Band kicks off its 2007 season at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bast Furniture, a Boonsboro business that also is 170 years old.

"I'm not really sure how the band was able to stay together for so long," said former director Richard Haynes, the band's sixth leader.

Historical documents and minutes from rehearsals held more than a century ago tell the story of a band that has survived several major wars, dwindling membership and the competiion of new technology - such as the phonograph, the radio and, now, the MP3 player.


Currently, the band has about 40 members and performs an average of 30 times a year under the direction of Holly Roelkey, the band's seventh leader, the first one. Roelkey took over after Haynes retired in 2004. Haynes, 82, served as the band's leader for 44 years and joined as a coronet player in the 1940s.

Haynes and Roelkey served as co-directors for nearly a decade.

Haynes still acts as the band's unofficial historian, collecting old letters and using thousands of documents to piece together the band's storied history.

According to Haynes, Washington McCoy formed the band in 1837 and served as its leader until 1890. McCoy died in 1897 at the age of 79, according to an old newspaper clipping provided by Haynes.

The Rohrersville Band Hall on the rural town's Main Street was built in the early 1900s, shortly after McCoy's death, Haynes said. The hall houses family traditions for many.

"At one point, all five of us were coming here on Tuesday nights," said Pat Ropp, a tenor sax player who used to play in the band alongside her father and three sisters.

"It was a family thing," said Ropp, 52, a computer programmer who lives near Smithsburg.

Haynes said he joined the band because his father and brothers were all members. He also said that his uncle was married to a relative of the band's founder.

Others, such as Roelkey, joined the band out of sheer curiosity. Roelkey was a violinist and played with the Frederick Symphony. But Roelky, who lives near Rohrersville, was tired of driving to Frederick, Md., and explored her options closer to home.

"When I got there, I wasn't really sure what I would be doing," said Roelkey, who joined the band 18 years ago. "They gave me a baritone and said, 'Sit down and play.'"

Some band members are concerned about whether the band will continue to survive, as younger musicians have been slower to join.

But 19-year-old bassoonist Rachel Lighter of Hagerstown said she thinks community bands such as the Rohrersville Band always will be relevant.

"There is always a place for music," she said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Rohrersville Band kicks off its 170th season

WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, May 5

WHERE: Bast Furniture, 109 N. Main St., Boonsboro

COST: Free

MORE: Go to the band's Web site - - for more information.

May performances:

· Sunday, May 20 -Spring Concert. 3 p.m. Mount Zion Lutheran Church, Locust Grove Road, Rohrersville.

· Saturday, May 26 - Sharpsburg Memorial Day concert at 11:45 a.m., parade at 1:30 p.m.

· Sunday, May 27 - Boonsboro Memorial Day parade, 2 p.m.

For the full schedule, go to

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