September 29, 2013

Lee steps down as SFU Pipe-Major; Bevan takes over

Terry Lee, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band’s only Pipe-Major in its existence in Grade 1, has retired from the position, giving way to Alan Bevan, a member of the band for more than 15 years and who is well known as a successful solo piper, his latest major prize being the Highland Society of London’ Gold Medal for piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering.

According to sources within the band, the decision was made without consulting members overall, and most learned of Bevan’s appointment by email on the morning of September 29. Terry Lee later refuted that claim, saying that the majority of the band were informed of the move at a party at his home on the night of September 28, and the news was received with “shock and awe.”

At 36 years, Terry Lee’s run as pipe-major is one of the longest in the history of Grade 1 pipe bands, and the longest by a wide margin of any band currently competing in the top grade.

Terry Lee’s brother, Jack, will remain as pipe-sergeant, and Terry Lee will stay with the organization, “involved with the band in various ways, including teaching the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band youngsters,” the band said in a statement.

Alan Bevan is 37 years old; Terry Lee is 57  59.

While Simon Fraser University has supported a pipe band since the 1960s, it wasn’t until the late-1970s that it got serious with a top-level competition band, securing a relationship with the Lee brothers, which brought almost instant success.

During Lee’s tenure as pipe-major, SFU gained six World Pipe Band Championship victories, and finished second nine times, several of them highly debatable results in which many pegged SFU to win, only to have one judge out-of-sync with the majority. In the more than 25 appearances at the Worlds, SFU has finished in the top-three more than half of the time, but in 2013 the band dropped to fourth after competing first in both events in both the qualifying round and the Final and playing through rain several times.

“The band has been and continues to be in great hands,” said Jack Lee. “The veteran players in the band, including Reid Maxwell . . . are very enthusiastic in their support for Alan.  It is not very often that a retiring pipe major has the good fortune to ‘pass the torch’ to a great piper and [twice] Gold Medalist, like Alan Bevan. Alan takes over running the band with a very solid corps of players, excellent group of young talented players, vibrant junior pipe band program and a solid organization.”

Under Lee’s direction SFU has also made a name for itself in concert performances and teaching. The band has performed in some of the world’s great concert halls, including Carnegie Hall and  Centre in New York, the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah, as well as two “Pre-World’s Concerts” in Glasgow. Through the organization’s Robert Malcolm Memorial initiative, more than 2,000 children in the Vancouver area have learned to play the pipes or drum.

SFU has also made 12 audio and two video recordings under Terry Lee.

Alan Bevan’s family is also closely involved with the SFU organization. His wife has been a piper in the Grade 1 band for many years, and their two sons, Alistair and Callum, are members of the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band.

It was confirmed that Bevan got the position by appointment, but is enthusiastically supported by the balance of the Grade 1 band, saying that Bevan and Lead-Drummer Reid Maxwell “get along very well.  Everyone in the band has nothing but respect for Alan. Should be a seamless transition.”

SFU’s “tuning team” remains unchanged, with Terry Lee, Andrew Lee, and Andrew Bonar handling drones Bevan and Jack Lee managing the chanters.

Rumours had circulated that former Shotts & Dykehead Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson was leaving SFU, but the band said that he has no plans along those lines.

Both Terry and Jack Lee’s sons also are pipers with the SFU Grade 1 band. The older Lee brothers received honourary doctorates from Simon Fraser University in June of this year, and in 1999 were awarded Canadian Meritorious Service Medals for their contributions to piping and drumming. Terry Lee was part of a pipes|drums mini-interview in 1994 and 2009.

Terry Lee is the third Grade 1 band Pipe-Major to step down in 2013. St. Laurence O’Toole’s Terry Tully announced his retirement after the Cowal Championships in order to spend more time with his family, while Kilts & More-Dysart & Dundonald’s Greig Canning resigned after the World Pipe Band Championships. Dysart was later demoted to Grade 2 status.

St. Laurence O’Toole has not officially announced its new pipe-major, but Pipe-Sergeant Alan Tully is expected to be officially voted in by the band at its annual general meeting on October 3rd.


  1. Outstanding person, leader, piper and track record. Nothing can be said that hasn’t been said by others. Well done. Alan is a sensible and obvious appointment. One of the best techniques I have ever heard with a free and flowing style. There was no need to conduct a poll in the band, I’m sure. It is no coincidence that the successful bands (‘organisations’) have a lot of potential replacements ready to go. The not-so-organised and stable bands always appear to struggle to find and retain PMs, much less replace them from within. Well done, Terry. Enjoy the next phase.

  2. As an unabashed 78th Fraser fan I must confess that this passing of the torch is a sterling moment in the proud history of Canadian piping. congratulations to Mr. Lee and best of luck to those that follow. For the record may I add that Mr. Reid came out of the 78th. I know that everyone knows that but I just had to add it.

  3. Thank you Terry, I think everyone in Canada should give you a standing ovation. Job well done! Allan congrats, I think the band will be great as always. All the best Drew Reid my friend corp sounds great ! don’t worry about results….;-) keep it up brother!

  4. It has been an honour to play under Terry’s leadership. Terry is easily one of the most successful Pipe Majors in history. I am glad to hear that Terry will remain with the band to continue to share his wealth of experience. The players in the band have nothing but respect for Alan. I am confident that SFU will continue to be as strong moving forward. Terry led SFU at the Worlds 30 times. 6 World Championships. 20 top 3 finishes. 27 top 6 finishes. SFU has gone unbeaten in North America for the past 18 years. It has been an honour. Thank you Terry.

  5. Damien – we always check sources, thanks very much, and two band members confirmed this, but each stressed that it was not a big deal, since Bevan is a very popular choice regardless of formalities, and that, too, is outlined in the story.

  6. You may wish to check your sources, as the majority of band members were notified of Terry’s decision in person, at his house last night. Any inference that Terry would simply email the band about this is ludicrous. Damien Burleigh

  7. It’s been a thrill to watch this band develop under Terry’s leadership over more than three decades; it’s been an amazing an impressive story. Of course, he had a team working with him — and a very impressive team at that — but leading a great team is the most daunting challenge there is, and lots of people have done it poorly. Band culture emanates from the top, and I’ve always seen the class and professionalism of this organization as a reflection of Terry Lee. He’s already a legend, but his legend will only grow in his absence from the top of the heap. Well done, Pipe Major!



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