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Rohrersville Band Is 175 Years Old

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By KAREN GARDNER
The News-Post of Frederick

ROHRERSVILLE, Md. (AP) — The Rohrersville Band is 175 years old, but still has a lot of life left.

The band that bills itself as the oldest community band in Maryland will give a concert celebrating its anniversary at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Rohrersville Band Hall, 4315 Main St. in Rohrersville.

“Capt. McCoy’s Legacy,” an original composition written by band member Anita Thomas, will celebrate the band’s history in song.

The band is a throwback to the numerous community bands in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many communities had their own bands, which played at picnics, parades and patriotic events.

The Rohrersville Band has a full schedule from April through December each year. Each Tuesday night, the band practices in its band hall, a little brick building across from the post office in the tiny Washington County community of Rohrersville.

The band has 50 musicians, according to director Toby Gibbon, of Mount Airy. Many played in high school and college bands, but some took up the hobby as adults, he said.

“It’s quite a commitment,” he said. Not every band member makes every weekly practice, but many are there most weeks.

One of the musicians who fits the band into his schedule is Brian Poffenberger, associate director. Poffenberger, 19, joined while still a student at Boonsboro High School. Now studying music education at West Virginia University, he arranges to be home on Tuesday nights to practice. Poffenberger often takes a turn with the baton directing the band.

The band makes 30 to 35 public appearances each year. Those include a few parades, and Gibbon said 20 to 25 band members will march. The band will march at the Brunswick Veterans Day Parade at 2 p.m. on Nov. 4.

Sherry Kemp, of Mount Pleasant, is a piccolo and flute player in the band. She’s been a member for 25 years. She brought several fellow Frederick Community College Wind Ensemble members into the band.

“Every year we get calls to play at openings or celebrations,” Gibbon said. One of those celebrations this year was The Great Frederick Fair’s 150th anniversary celebration in May.

The band has played for the Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Independence Day celebration for the past 34 years.

Thomas, of Hagerstown, wrote “Captain McCoy’s Legacy” as a musical history of the band. The 10-minute number begins with the sound of a hammer and anvil. The band’s founder, Washington McCoy, worked on the C&O Canal during the band’s early years, and later was a stone and marble cutter.

The piece then goes on to showcase the various styles of music the band has played over the years, including marches, waltzes, overtures, military songs, show tunes, big band and jazz. There are solo passages for trumpet, alto saxophone, baritone, trombone and violin.

The band will also play “Hymn of Brotherhood.” Richard Haynes, 87, who served as band director for 44 years before retiring in 2004, will direct that portion. Holly Feather became band director after Haynes retired.

Bob Sclater, a past associate director and the lead alto sax player, will direct the march “Chimes of Liberty.” Poffenberger will direct three movements from “Second Suite in F Major.” The Rohrersville Band is in his DNA. His grandfather played tuba in the band.

“I just love this band,” he said. “It’s like a family to me.”

Thomas wrote “McCoy’s Legacy” after reading Haynes’ history of the band, “And the Band Plays On.” Haynes wrote the book from the minutes of the band, which detail much of the band’s 20th century history, and from old letters, treasury records and newspaper clippings.

McCoy’s two sons helped him carry on the tradition of the band throughout the 19th century, except for the Civil War, when the band took a break.

The band hall was dedicated in 1916. It was built next to McCoy’s home, and was to be used as a community gathering place as well as band hall. “One of the reasons we’ve lasted so long is we have our own band hall,” Kemp said.

“We can store all of our music and all of our history here,” Gibbon said. A showcase contains some 19th century instruments and band hats, along with old programs and news clippings. Bulletin boards contain more recent news about the band. Upstairs, the band stores extra instruments in case one of the members wants to try their hand at another instrument.

Despite the band’s history, Gibbon said the band tries to stay current. “We buy new music every couple of years,” he said. The members are diligent about practicing and work hard to keep up the band’s musical prowess.

Members also keep the band hall maintained and cooperate on hauling instruments and music stands to each appearance.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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