Pipe band nurturing its next generation through school program


By Barb McKay


Inside the walls of Elgin Market Public School echoes the not-so-sweet sound of the Scottish chanter.



Grades 4 and 5 students at EMPS learn to play the chanter from local piper Joan MacIntosh. From left, Brianna Clifford, Carter Wylds, Kaiden Ford, Adam Nasimi and Audrey Friessen. (Barb McKay photo)



Not just one, but 15. They sound out in unison - not always in harmony, but it doesn’t matter. The young students who force the shrill notes out of the long, black pipes are thrilled with the result.


The music lessons are a rare privilege for the students because they are not part of the Ontario elementary school curriculum. They are, however, part of the Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band’s mandate. The program to bring pipe band music into local schools began a year ago at Huron Heights Public School. In November, members were invited to provide lessons to the grades 4 and 5 music class at Elgin Market Public School. The eight-week program is sponsored jointly by the Elgin Market home and school association and the pipe band.


“This is an awesome music class, beyond what I am able to teach,” said EMPS music teacher Christine Cooper. “The kids have been loving it.”


It turns out, the initiative to teach local elementary students to play the Scottish chanter and drums is mutually beneficial.


“We know over the years our average age has gone up quickly and we’re trying to get some young blood,” said KSMP drummer Mike Smith, who has been instructing the students.


Smith said the lessons help the students learn music. They are taught drumming patterns and techniques and basic chanter skills.


“It’s a good discipline to start them in.”


When the program ends, the funds donated will be used to purchase instruments for the school. The students will continue on with what they have learned and will perform a piece in the school’s spring concert.


Cooper said the program has been inspiring for the students. Those who are interested have the opportunity to take private lessons with pipe band members.


“I have a feeling that there are a few that will sign up,” she said. “It is a unique sound and it is an important part of Kincardine’s culture.”


Smith said a few students who participated in the program at Huron Heights have continued on with private lessons. The program is expected to continue at both Huron Heights and EMPS next year.