April 15, 2021

Houston’s St. Thomas School gets $1M donation to build piping and drumming facilities

Local benefactors Judith and Roy Shaw are donating US$1-million to the St. Thomas Episcopal School to help rebuild the campus following the devastating floods of 2017 in the wake of hurricane Harvey. The money will be put toward the construction of a “world-class Scottish Arts Center featuring practice rooms for piping and drumming, as well as a recording studio.”

The Shaws have donated to the school before and are also calling to others to contribute via a “Fulfilling the Promise” campaign.

“Judith and Roy Shaw are deeply committed to the mission of St. Thomas Episcopal School and believe in the church’s pledge to bring high-quality classical Christian education to students in the Houston area,” a statement from the school read. “Because of their . . . longstanding involvement in piping and drumming, Judith and Roy want to ensure the Fulfilling the Promise capital campaign reaches its $10,000,000 goal by encouraging new gifts to the campaign.”

St. Thomas Episcopal School of Houston competing at the 2019 World Championships. [Photo Alister Sinclair, copyright pipes|drums]
The school has one of the more successful piping and drumming programs in the world, with its Juvenile band past winners of the grade at the World Championships, and it’s Alumni band now competing in Grade 1.

It helps that Mike Cusack, the most successful American competitive piper in history, is the private school’s headmaster. In this competition career, Cusack’s awards included both Highland Society of London Gold Medals, the Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering (four times), the MSR and the Piobaireachd at the Glenfiddich Championships, the Bratach Gorm, and the Clasp at the Northern Meeting.

“When Hurricane Harvey devastated our campus four years ago, the school administration and master planning committee revisited the planning document created six months earlier,” Cusack said. “Instead of simply replacing the 50-year-old classroom buildings, we suddenly had to replace much more, including the band and dance facilities. Next November, the band and dancers will move into a 6,400-square-foot space.”

This new facility, which is part of the new three-story, 85,000 square feet academic building, is something we could never have imagined. – Mike Cusack

The donation will foster the building of a 1,452-square-foot teaching area for pipers, including four dedicated practice rooms, and, for drummers, the same size space with their own practice facilities.

“This new facility, which is part of the new three-story, 85,000 square feet academic building, is something we could never have imagined,” Cusack added. “It gives the pipe band and Highland dancing programs facilities unparalleled in our school’s history.”

Several other private schools around the world have successful piping and drumming programs, including Dollar Academy, George Heriots and George Watson’s College in Scotland. Dunedin High School in Dunedin, Florida, is one of few large programs at a public school.



Flood leaves St. Thomas School bands in deep water




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