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Rohrersville Band shares its sounds of the season

December 10, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

ROHRERSVILLE - The Rohrersville Cornet Band of Washington County had more than a few toes tapping in Mt. Zion Lutheran Friendship Hall Sunday as it capped off its 170th year with a Christmas concert that mixed marches and classical selections with creative arrangements of seasonal favorites.

About 120 people turned out for the free concert, which was sponsored in part by the Washington County Arts Council and included refreshments provided by Mt. Zion Lutheran Church.

Former director Richard Haynes, 82, of Rohrersville, said it was one of the best turnouts the band had seen in recent years.

Haynes, a trumpet player who joined at the age of 15, is in his 67th year with the band, which he directed from 1960 to 2004. Holly Roelkey, the current director, said it is largely due to his dedication that the band has survived as one of the oldest community bands in the country.

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Without him, the band might have fallen apart during World War II or lost its audience to the draw of television in the '50s, Roelkey said.

"He kept this band going through the toughest years, when membership was down to 10 or 12," she said.

But Haynes said those weren't the only times the band's future was in question. In researching the band's history, he learned that the invention of the phonograph also caused a drop in interest, but the band's leaders brought it through by continuing rehearsals and holding band fairs, he said.

Today, the band has a healthy membership of about 40 people, many of whom live as far away as Hagerstown and Charles Town, W.Va., Haynes said. Only about 10 live in Rohrersville or nearby Boonsboro, he said.

The band has attracted musicians from throughout the area since other community bands died out, he said.

"It's one of the few places they can go," he said.

Roelkey, who lives in Keedysville, said she discovered the band about 15 years ago when she was searching for a place to play violin.

"They handed me a horn, and here I am," she said.

She said the band is seeking new, younger members and encouraged anyone interested to stop by the band hall on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. for practice or call the band secretary at 301-432-2548.

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