At one end of Scotia-Glenville High School, basketballs thumped and crowds cheered in the gym, but at the other end of the school on March 7 was the much-less-familiar sound of bagpipes.
Young people playing them in unison, to be more precise.
The Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band, a youth bagpipe and drum assembly that last year won a world championship in Scotland, performed its sixth annual spring “Celtic Jam” to a half-full auditorium.
A week before St. Patrick’s Day, bagpipers and drummers from ages 6 to 18 took the stage wearing white shirts, black ties and plaid kilts. On stage, they played the ungainly looking ancient instruments that emit a “drone” through pipes sticking out the top of the air bag, while the player blows into the bag and fingers the flute-like “chanter” at the bottom to make a melody.
Interspersed with the bagpipers was traditional Irish dancing performed by young girls in colorful costumes, and a harp solo played by band member Troy Quinn of Nassau.
This is the 24th year for the Scotia-Glenville bagpipe band, said Maureen Connor, its director. The band has about 75 members, who travel from as far away as Glens Falls and Newburgh to practice in Glenville. There are three different bands, depending on skill level. All of them compete against other pipe bands on a regular basis, honing their skills. Connor said they competed against 200 bands last year in Glasgow when they won the championship.
It’s not a coincidence that Scotia-Glenville athletes are known as the “Tartans” and the pipe band got its beginnings there.
“It started here at Scotia-Glenville,” said Connor, who has directed the band since 1994. “The Scotia-Glenville administrators said we’re the Tartans, we need to have a bagpipe band.”
The public image of bagpipers in America may be of old men with a hobby and youth bands uncommon, but young bagpipers are common in the rest of the world, said Dan Cole, a former member of the pipe band who acted as master of ceremonies.
Cole, a financial adviser, said he owes much of his personal and professional development to what he learned about teamwork playing bagpipes, and to the opportunities he got to travel around the world and meet people when he was a member in 1999. He still plays, he said, and has remained a friend of the band.
Fred Fish, who attended the concert, brings his 12-year-old daughter Corrin all the way from Argyle in Washington County every week to rehearse with the band. She’s wanted to play the bagpipe ever since she was 5 years old, he said, after seeing a bagpiper play at Argyle school graduations.
“She’s gotten a lot out of it,” Fish said of the program. “It’s been a good, positive influence, and it gives her a drive academically, too.”
Dave Durrant of Duanesburg has a 12-year-old son, Dennis, who plays the bagpipe, and an 8-year-old, Preston, who just joined the band to play drums.
Durrant said the boys were exposed through a neighbor who played bagpipe, and decided to join with the encouragement of their mother.
“I never played music, and I think this is one of the best things we ever did,” he said during the concert’s intermission.