July 31, 2011

James Coldren, 1924-2011

James Raymond ‘Jim’ Coldren, the founder and proprietor of Bagpipe Music Museum and the first Bagpipe Music Index, died on June 11, 2011, aged 86.

Born on August 4, 1924, in Evanston, Illinois, to Raymond Beecher Coldren and Marie Harris Coldren, Jim Joldren grew up and attended public schools in Evanston, Illinois. Jim attended Evanston Township High School, where he wrestled and played trombone in the marching band. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force upon graduation from High School, serving most of his time with the chemical air corps as a toxic gas handler in the Philippines.

Upon returning from the war, Jim enrolled in the engineering program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. There he met his first wife, Patricia Ann Hoopes, a journalism major at Northwestern University. They married in 1950. After graduating from Northwestern University, Jim began his professional career as an engineer.

In his adult life, Jim developed an interest in bagpiping. He was a member of the Thistle Gildry Pipe Band in New York City, playing alongside the eventual United States Attorney-General William Barr, serving mostly as a bass and tenor drummer. His interest grew and he became more involved in the business aspects of piping.

Coldren established the Pipers Supply Company; published the first complete index of bagpipe tunes, called the Bagpipe Music Index; sponsored a recital by Donald MacLeod; published The New York Sessions, a recording of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod’s tunes; and published the fourth book of in the Donald MacLeod Collection of tunes.

Years later, while living in southern New Jersey with his second wife, Virginia W. Kelly, he joined the First Highland Watch Pipe Band of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. In his retirement there, he amassed one of the world’s largest collections of sets of bagpipes, printed pipe music, and recorded pipe music, which eventually became the Bagpipe Music Museum. The museum was home to more than 100 sets of pipes from many different countries and cultures.

He established a formal setting for the Museum in Oella, Maryland. The museum displayed the bagpipes and encouraged hands-on access to them, so pipers and museum visitors could play the different sets, explore their differences, and expand their knowledge about the instrument. The museum was also open to local bands and dance troupes, and  there Jim hosted occasional piping and drumming jam-sessions. He enjoyed an international reputation as a leading scholar of the bagpipe, and piping and drumming music.

In 2008 Jim Coldren moved to West Branch, Michigan, where he lived near his daughter P.J.  until his death. For as long has he could, he enjoyed his music, his children, his cigars and his cocktails.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to ARC Advocacy & Resource Center of Ottawa County, 665 136th Ave. Ste. 90, Holland, MI 49424 USA.

— submitted by James R. “Chip” Coldren, Jr.


  1. Jim was a good friend of mine and I will miss him.I donated some instruments to his museum and spent many hours listening and playing music there.His collection of old bagpipes was rather impressive.Although the mid 1800’s were hard to reed you could find a stability about them and also quite a roar.The early 1900’s were so much better to play.His complete devotion to non modern technology was infamous.He had hand written cards for every item in his museum.Tens of thousands and then some.This was a pipers playground!He was one of a kind.

  2. Jim Coldren’s generosity and love of bagpipes made it possible for me to develop and build Ceol Sean CD’s. Early in 2000, we developed a working relationship that allowed me access to his collection, that had now resulted in over 35 digital tunes collections with 6,800 plus settings. We could never have been able to develop our offerings to this extent had it not been for Jim Coldren. And to show you what fine and trusting gentleman he was, he never asked to have our working relationship put in writing, but was satisfied to confirm things with a handshake. God bless the family and friends of Jim Coldren. Steve Scaife Ceol Sean CD’s



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