The joys and challenges of organizing a piping and drumming summer school in North America

Published: July 31, 2010
(Page 1 of 1)

The Ontario School of Piping & Drumming was started by the renowned piper Jim McGillivray in 1998 and has since continued every year, attracting upwards of 70 students for each one-week session. The school’s instructors have been some of the modern-day legends of piping, including Willie McCallum, Alasdair Gillies and Stuart Liddell. This year’s school has seen the return of more famous instructors, like Angus MacColl, Bruce Gandy and Jack Lee and, perhaps remarkably, attracted record enrollment, including a record number of drummers seeking instruction from, among others, Doug Stronach, Lead-Drummer of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band.

Summer schools are nothing new in North America. Ever since Seumas MacNeill helped to establish the first one at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia, in the 1950s, the idea has increased in popularity, to the point that there are no fewer than a dozen courses of at least one-week held throughout the continent every year.

The competition to attract students can be fierce, and, although few if any organizers run piping and drumming schools for the money, balancing revenues and expenditures can be a distracting nuisance – considering that most do it for the passion of the pipes and drums.

We checked in with Ellen Mole, current director of the Ontario School and a former top-level solo piper and member of the Grade 1 Guelph Pipe Band, for her thoughts on what makes the school and the students tick in this video interview on the hot and muggy evening of July 8, 2010.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/5
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0
  1. DonMole

    andrew, good questions and demeanor on your part and excellent replies ,comments and observations on ellens part. the setting for the school, with lots of shade trees and plenty of room to practice pipes without being on top of another student is ideal.the atmosphere is relaxed and real progress is made by all students.

  2. gramps

    Great stuff Andrew, your constant expanding of the base of the mag is making the most of the medium. Cheers.

  3. JanetteMontague

    Lovely to hear that interview. I’m sure anyone hearing it who is within striking distance will want to sign up for next years schools!

NEW APP AVAILABLE
The new pipes|drums app offers the same publication with a streamlined experience. Get the latest news optimized for your smartphone.
Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play
MOST RECENT POST
  • Haves and have-nots
    Thu, 25 Jun 2015
    There are those pipe bands that have and those that have not. And increasingly there are competitions and Highland games that have and have not. The size and success of bands and competitions are linked. June 23rd was one of … Con …
Read more »
UPCOMING EVENTS July 10, 2015Jim Thomson School of PipingNorthern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona

July 10, 2015The Antigonish Highland GamesAntigonish, NS

July 11, 2015Fort Edmonton Highland GamesFort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, AB

July 11, 2015Presque Isle Solo Piping ContestEast Pier Pavilion, Presque Isle State Park 4.5 miles past 25 Peninsula Dr. Erie PA 16505

July 11, 2015Kamloops Highland GamesAlbert McGowan Park, Kamloops, BC

TIP OF THE DAY
Pipers: Avoid using a bag that is too big for you and stick to a standard size – sometimes called a regular or medium size, depending on make – and approximately 10.5 inches deep.
James Begg, Begg Bagpipes, Glasgow