September 21, 2019

Rowe docks with Toronto Police on bass

Johnny Rowe

An excellent bass drummer will never be between gigs for long, and such is true with Johnny Rowe, who has joined the Grade 2 Toronto Police on the big drum.

Rowe had taken a hiatus from pipe bands in 2019 after his tenure with Grade 1 Triumph Street after the Vancouver-based band folded in the fall of 2018.

Rowe takes over from Jamie Alfred, who, according to Pipe-Major Scott Harrison, had decided to take some time away from competing to expand her teaching of other bands and her solo studio. He said that the rest of the Toronto Police bass-section is expected to remain the band.

“Jamie Alfred was a huge reason for the success of the band in the two years she was with us,” Harrison said. “She’s a true professional and one of the hardest working people I know. I wish her nothing but the best on her future pipe band endeavours.”

Rowe is one of the most decorated bass drummers there is, with numerous North American Championships to his name when he played with the Grade 1 78th Fraser Highlanders, a band he left suddenly after the 2017 season.

“I’m pretty stoked for it,” Rowe said about returning to competition. “Last year was tough not playing, and I got a couple of tentative offers from two Grade 1 bands outside of North America, but with a young family, it wasn’t really a realistic option given the large commitment travel-wise and financially.”

He said Lead-Drummer John Gaudet contacted him recently, explained the situation and Rowe “jumped at it” after conferring with his family.

“I’m very excited to be part of a band hungry to improve in a tough grade,” he continued. “Watching all of my former Triumph Street band mates playing with various other bands this past summer made me very jealous, so I’m glad I’m getting back on the horse.”

The Grade 2 Toronto Police are the top competing band in the Toronto Police organization, which also includes Grade 3 and Grade 5 units. After a strong Grade 3 year in 2018, the band moved to the penultimate grade and won the 2019 Alma United States Open Championships, a third at the North American Championships, and other strong showings.

While the Grade 2 band is doing well, the Grade 1 Toronto Police continue their hiatus. Pipe-Major Sean McKeown said that the band is still searching for a lead-drummer.

“We haven’t signed up a lead-drummer who I believe is a good fit, or has the potential to teach and build a drum corps to the high standard of the grade,” McKeown said. “We are still looking, and open to speaking to potential candidates for this season or the next. In the meantime, we are continuing our focus on developing young pipers and drummers through our Ryan Russell Memorial youth band programs, with Ian K. MacDonald and Doug Stronach steering the ship there.”

McKeown and MacDonald both played with Grade 1 Field Marshal Montgomery over the 2019 season.

The once thriving top grade Ontario scene continues to have only one active Grade 1 band in the 78th Frasers, and only three competing Grade 2 bands, Ottawa Police, Peel Regional Police and Toronto Police.


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