February 28, 2013

Northern Ireland School master classes set organization on course

Even though the Northern Ireland Piping & Drumming School just celebrated 33 years, its teaching program was resurrected earlier in February with master class sessions in piobaireachd with the legendary Andrew Wright and drumming classes with Inveraray & District Leading-Drummer Steven McWhirter.

NIPDS Director Mark Armstrong said that the school is working to rebuild its “educational brand” after being in fierce competition with RSPBA’s Northern Ireland Branch school and its promotion of the association’s Structured Learning regimen.  

Armstrong added, “We’re keen to build with like-minded bodies to promote piping, drumming and Highland dancing.”

McWhirter, a native of Northern Ireland, and a three-time and current winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship, conducted a day-long course for more than 30 students. He has endorsed the educational materials of the NIPDS, some of which he performed with his former band, Simon Fraser University.  

The McWhirter session was the first in what the organization said will be a series of master  classes for drummers, and they plan to expand into hand percussion, drum kit and international drumming styles such as Swiss, Breton and US rudimental drumming.

At one point McWhirter used a score of “Highland Wedding” handwritten by Wright, to demonstrate his approach to snare, bass and tenor composition, highlighting the importance of the melodic line and following the expression of the tune. McWhirter stressed that, in Grade 1, leading-drummers have to avoid copying each other’s material, and tested rudimental ideas for each phrase to create a new score.


  1. Wow! Amazing! A class on drum score composition directly from the pipe score is something that needs a wider audience. Was a video made of Steven’s class? Will the instructional material be available for purchase to those unable to attend the classes in Northern Ireland? tomm



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