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College of Piping Pipe and Drum Band are North American champions

by Michelle René Sexton

Piper Jessica vanOuwerkerk While associated principally with Scotland, bagpipes date back to biblical times. “It’s an instrument capable of expressing great sorrow and great celebration,” says Scott MacAulay, director of the College of Piping. In Scotland the pipes were used to terrify their enemies in battle because no one could see a person coming, all they heard was the music. Also, the pipes were once outlawed by the English because they motivated the Scots’ passion to fight and win.

The drums can either make great music or great noise. It is when you combine the bagpipes and the drums that the power of the pipe band is achieved.

The College of Piping’s Grade IV pipe band is well aware of the power the two instruments have, and they used both to their full advantage by taking home a great honor this past summer at the North American Championship in Maxville, Ontario. Twenty bands from all over the world (Belgium placed second) competed, with most other bands made up of older, more experienced players. The College of Piping, who took eighth place last year, and is made of teenagers; both boys and girls swept every category winning first place in Grade III. “We were surprised. We thought we had maybe sixth place. Then we cried, and people we didn’t know were like hugging us,” smiled Jessica vanOuwerkerk (piper). Jessica, Alli Walker (piper), and Ashley Brockway (drummer) are a few of the girls in the once dominated male band.

“When you play the pipes everything else in the world goes away,” said Jessica, age fifteen. Talking to the girls about winning made them smile. “No one else understood why it was such a big deal to us, but we were like this is a big thing,” laughed the girls. The entire band became a giant family. They ate together, practiced together, and even went to school together. There were no favorites just hard work and practice…lots of practice. When asked what made them win the three girls answered together “hard work and discipline.”

Speaking to their new drum leader Jeremy White and pipe leader Matthew MacLaine agreed. “Before it was too relaxed and now it’s hard work. I wanted them to have the best. I told them they could win but they would have to work for it. It’s a job you don’t show up just to show up,” said Jeremy. In the end what makes this piping band so incredible is the heart and soul hard work from all the kids; ages eleven to seventeen and the coaches who came out on top to win a tremendous victory. The next stop for this group is Scotland. “We’re going to freaken Scotland,” smiled Alli Walker. “That is like so cool.”

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