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Keystone Regiment passionate about role

By Rachel Raposas

For the Mirror

Behind the unmistakable sound of parades and summer festivals, the Keystone Regiment Senior Drum and Bugle Corps represents the passion for music in Central Pennsylvania.

Started by a small group of musicians, the Keystone Regiment was founded in 1985 when two other local drum corps, the Cambria Cadets of Ebensburg and the Gardener Guards of Tyrone, stopped performing publicly, according to Tim Longwill of Altoona.

Specifically, the group is a marching, musical organization for all ages. It gives members a chance to perform and continue their passion for music in what they describe as a fun atmosphere.

The Corp performs at an array of events around the Central Pennsylvania region, including parades, festivals, heritage days, car shows and at Hope Fire Company-sanctioned conventions.

In its first two seasons, the Keystone Regiment also took on the name “Official Marching Ambassadors of Boyertown,” as they were affiliated with the former Boyertown USA amusement park. For the last 10 years, the Corps has been affiliated with the Hope Fire Company of Northern Cambria — the Keystone Regiment marches with the firemen and performs at fire company events.

The Corps is different from a typical marching band, because it only showcases select instruments. The percussion section consists of snare drums, quint tenor drums, bass drums and cymbals. The brass section features soprano bugles — a trumpet-like instrument, alto bugles, french horns, melophones, baritone bugles and contra-bass bugles — a tuba-like instrument.

Typically, the Corps plays an array of popular or patriotic tunes. According to Elder, some frequent selections include “Crazy Train,” “Happy Together,” “Play that Funky Music,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” along with “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Land of Liberty.” One tune, “Sing,” even features the Corps singing for part of the song.

The Keystone Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps, based in Altoona has 29 members, although the organization seeks to grow.

Tim Longwill is the longest-serving member of the Corps, with his involvement dating back to the inception of the organization. When he was about 16 years old, Longwill went to a drum corps show and found his passion.

“I just loved, absolutely loved the sound a drum corps makes,” Longwill said.

Longwill previously played the bass drum and now acts as the manager for the group — he facilitates yearly recruitment, event bookings and logistical arrangements within the corps itself.

The corps does not have a specific audition process to grant entry into the organization. Instead, Longwill recruits members by reaching out to students participating in Pennsylvania Music Educators Association band festivals. Since PMEA festivals are generally challenging and require a lot of time and dedication, students who participate in them tend to have an extracurricular passion for music, he said. This quality makes them great candidates for the Corps.

John Elder of Duncansville is an experienced musician and Mellophone player in the Corps. He played with the Keystone Regiment during his high school years, quit for a time and then returned six years ago.

Elder said that participating in the Corps is neither stressful nor a great time commitment for its members. The organization, recognizing that most members have work or school, hosts just a handful of practices, only a few hours long, each month. “This definitely isn’t All-State Band,” he said.

In many members’ experience, the Keystone Regiment provides an outlet for their musical passions and creates a space for family bonding.

“For years, the drum and bugle corps has been a place where brothers and sisters, parents and children could rehearse and perform together. The corps has two sets of parents and children in its 2021 edition,” Longwill said.

Similarly, Elder made music a family affair by bringing his children to the Keystone Regiment.

“I love the friendly atmosphere of the Corp, and it’s a great way to continue playing in a group setting through my college years,” said John Elder’s son, Adam, of Duncansville.

Within the Keystone Regiment, camaraderie has created a tight-knit, music-loving group. Friends are made of strangers, and from there, what Elder describes as “a little family” is created, with the friendly, exciting dynamic of PMEA music festivals, but which Elder says is “like a music festival that doesn’t have to end.”

Since its beginning, the Keystone Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps has been an essential part of multiple communities in Central Pennsylvania. The Corps itself often has a unique, special effect on audience members — “There’s people who will wave, recognizing us as a corps — I don’t know them, they don’t know me, but they want to reach out to us,” Longwill said.

Many drum corps and marching organizations have gone quiet in the last few decades, which has allowed the Keystone Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps to both shine on its own and give the region something to be proud of. “It’s a nice showcase for the area,” Eldred said.

Above all, music is what makes the Corps such an inspiring organization. Between onlookers awaiting the parade and musicians dedicated to creating the perfect sound, the Keystone Regiment’s music brings people together.

Upcoming events

In the upcoming summer months, the Keystone Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps will be performing in various locations in Central Pennsylvania:

— July 3 — 11 a.m. parade, in Osceola Mills

— July 10 — concert during the Northern Regional Heritage Festival

— July 17 — 6:30 p.m. parade, in Curwensville

— July 31 — 5 p.m. parade and concert, in Patton

— Aug. 2 — 6 p.m. parade, in Clearfield

— Aug. 7 — 10 a.m. parade, in Lewisburg

— Aug. 21 — 6 p.m. concert, in Sunbury

— Aug. 28 — 5 p.m. parade, in Schellsburg

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