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DRCTL 04-05-2017 08:04 AM

Starting a Pipe Band from Scratch
I need some advice about starting a brand new pipe band from scratch.

The Music Director of the school where my 2 children attend (both drummers) contacted me about starting a pipe band. The marching band got invited to march in the Boston St. Patrick's Day parade, and they all came back fired up about all things Pipe Band. So now the director wants to start a pipe band. He said it will be grades 6-12. This is not entirely a whim it has been in the background for years but I think this was the final push.

Sounds great.

So he contacted me because he knows I play the pipes and he has both of my children in several of his bands. I started thinking about the logistics here. Obviously they are going to start with a PC and a primer like we all did.

Not having ever undertaken this project before not sure what types of pipes to look for down the road.

I am thinking poly for durability. Should we buy a combination of regular and 3/4 sets, (which I have not seen too many of in the U.S.)? Or should we just stick to full-size sets with easy reeds and shorter blow pipes? Has anybody used a specific brand/ type of pipes before for younger learners? Are there group discounts for multiple pipes?

As for the instruction I think I have that covered. My personal instructor is the PM of the local pipe band. The band practices at our school on a weekly basis and has for many years. They would be willing to help out, as it could turn into a feeder for the City band later. They have pipe and drum instructors so that should work out ok.

I guess we will need uniforms too any advice there?

Any pitfalls? Any cautionary tales? Any advice? I have lots of questions, I know.

As far as budget the school is lucky to have a generous arts endowment. So I think this thing can fly financially. (I think)

I am excited about the project, but want it to succeed long term.
Thanks so much

Imbusypiping 04-05-2017 02:40 PM

Re: Starting a Pipe Band from Scratch
Congrats on getting the school to support a youth pipe band. I am from Eastern Ontario where we have two bands that consistently turn out young players who are able to play at competition level. It might not hurt to reach out to them to ask your questions about the size of pipes for younger students, (I believe both bands insist on wood pipes) and uniforms.

Below are their websites. Both have contact pages. They should be able to answer any and all questions you may have about youth pipe bands.

Good luck with this exciting adventure!

PS- you may also want to price equipment and uniforms in Ontario. The US dollar is so strong, that there might be some significant savings. You may even save on shipping if you can wait until Fall for your product. We go right by Orlando on the way to our winter home

3D Piper 04-05-2017 07:48 PM

Re: Starting a Pipe Band from Scratch
I started a juvenile pipe band from absolute scratch. I can honestly say the most important ingredient is support. If you have support from the community and administration of the school it will be a success.

Having said that:

I teach pipes and drums in a classroom environment everyday after school.
The administration may want a lesson plan (or they may not care at all).

I start kids on PC using a tutor specifically for children. After a two semesters they are ready for pipes and transition over the summer.

We all play poly Dunbar, very durable, bold sound, with selbie drone reeds. Dunbar Elite 1 chanters (we still play right at 480). My youngest is a 11 year old girl, she plays a full set. Pipers buy their own pipes so I don't encourage 3/4 or half sets etc. I lopped her blowpipe down to a few inches.

You are very fortunate to have a pipe band lineage in the area, especially if they are able to help. I will say- teaching school age kids is different than adults who 'want' to learn. Many kids may join because their parents think it is cool etc., or who just want to 'try' it and then go back to sports etc. It is a very large time investment to get someone playing at a performance level in a pipe band, and sad if they child frivolously decides to not do it for whatever reason.

We wore school uniforms for the first year, then transitioned to khaki pants/white dress shirt/black tie the next year (the "marching architects"). We are not supported by the school at all, so we had to raise our own money for uniforms. We were finally able to purchase full uniforms in our third year. We purchased poly kilts from USA kilts and have been very pleased with them. Everyone will say don't buy poly, and for a personal kilt I would agree, but the poly wears well for kids (stain resistant), you can wash it and iron it at home, and when a kid grows 4" in a year it is easier on the budget to get a new one. If you have a budget, go with wool kilts.

Advice? Like I said at the beginning: if you have support from the school and community it will be a success! Having a band booster club made up of band parents is a huge help (we call them "band aids" (the school does not let us have a booster club)).

Have a structured yearly plan with defined goals that everyone can look at and work toward. Have classes geared toward the level of players: every year you will have new people joining, then need their own beginner class as well as coming to watch the full band practice etc. For a beginner: nothing beats one-on-one or at least small 3-4 member classes.

Have ceilidhs (these are kids!). We usually have 2 or 3 every semester.

Feel free to ask other questions, if they are looking to hire someone I'm available! :thumb:


Jim Fogelman 04-05-2017 09:32 PM

Re: Starting a Pipe Band from Scratch
I used to teach the local high school pipe band, though it was only grades 9-12.

Pipers will, obviously, start on a PC. Have a set of school ones to loan out if needed, but encourage all the students to buy their own. Make sure they know they'll be starting on PC, otherwise they may get discouraged. I did, however, always get them started on the pipes quickly - drones corked, just holding LA. Would do a day or two on PC, a day on pipes early in the year, moving to mostly pipes as the year progresses. As the years go on and you have more students who are already on the full pipes, they can go off and practice things while you work with the newbies on getting sound out. I also wouldn't let students try playing any tunes on the pipes until they passed their "minute test" where they had to play HA for a solid minute with no chokes whatsoever.

DRCTL 04-07-2017 06:20 AM

Re: Starting a Pipe Band from Scratch
Thanks, all, for the advice. It looks as though this band will be a go. We are in the process of putting together a budget proposal and it appears as if he funding will be available.
We will see what happens but I am optimistic.

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