Women in Piping and Pipe Bands: a pipes|drums panel discussion – Part 1
March is Women’s History Month around the world and, just as pipes|drums marked International Women’s Day on March 8th and has tried to raise awareness of gender inequity in piping and drumming for decades, we are fortunate to gather together five of the world’s leading exponents of the art, who happen to be female, to talk about their experiences and ideas in an exclusive video panel discussion.
Margaret Dunn began piping at eight years old in her native Ireland. She was initially taught in the local pipe band, Cullen, by her father, Con Houlihan. She moved to Scotland in 1998 to attend the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama where she studied for four years and graduated with an Honours Degree in Scottish Traditional Music. While she was at the Academy, she joined the Grade 1 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia where she won the Scottish, British, European and World Championships in 2000. Dunn returned as pipe-major of her home band, Cullen, in 2006, and in 2007 the band won the World Pipe Band Championships in Grade 3B, and the Grade 2 All-Ireland Pipe Band Championship in 2013. In solo piping, she’s competed at the highest level, winning, among many other awards, the MacGregor Memorial Piobaireachd (1997), the B-Grade March (1999), the A Grade Strathspey & Reel (2003), and the A-Grade March (2007) at the Argyllshire Gathering; the Strachan Memorial A-Grade MSR at London (2000); the Duncan Johnstone Memorial Piobaireachd (2001); and the Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting in 2007. She is a full-time piping instructor with the National Piping Centre in Glasgow.
Originally from Toronto, Jenny Hazzard has lived in Edinburgh for the last 22 years. She has played with some of the best Grade 1 bands in the world, including the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Triumph Street, the Lothian & Borders Police and, currently, Field Marshal Montgomery, which she joined in 2017. She was also a member the Grade 1 Spirit of Scotland, the band assembled from all-star pipers and drummers from around the world for a single appearance at the World’s in 2008, and then for all five RSPBA championships in 2016. As a solo piper she has competed at the top level for many years, and among her many awards are the Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1999. Jenny Hazzard has served on the organizing committee of the Competing Pipers Association, and is a sought-after judge and teacher in the UK and worldwide. She has advanced degrees in geological engineering, and works in Edinburgh as a partner in a very successful environmental engineering company.
A native of Vancouver, Shaunna Hilder is currently a member of the Grade 1 ScottishPower, which she has been a piper with since 2018. She was pipe-sergeant of the Grade 1 Triumph Street for some 12 years, helping to guide the band to routine spots in the World’s Grade 1 final, numerous concerts and several commercial recordings. She was a member of the Grade 1 Simon Fraser University Pipe Band for many years, winning several World titles along the way. Her career spans to the famed Vancouver Ladies Pipe Band, with which she was pipe-major in the 1990s. Shaunna Hilder is highly involved in the Pacific Northwest piping and drumming scene and has served as a senior judge and is the current chair of the British Columbia Pipers Association’s organization’s Solo Grading Committee. Her two children are accomplished in both piping and drumming.
Another British Columbia native, Kylie MacHattie now is a piping instructor with the College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts of Canada in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. She started piping on the west coast of Canada under the instruction of Ian MacDougall and, like Shanna Hilder, her first band was the Vancouver Ladies. She moved to Ontario for university, where she was a member of both the Grade 1 Toronto Police and the 78th Fraser Highlanders, winning the North American Championship at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, five times. She competes in the Professional solo grade is the pipe-sergeant of the College of Piping’s Grade 3 band. She was pipe-major of the College’s Grade 4 band when they won Grade 4B at the World Championships in 2017. She holds a BA (honours) in English from York University and has a (so far) Highland dancing-mad five-year-old daughter, Briar.
Glenna Mackay-Johnstone is of an accomplished piping family, past and present. A native of Toronto, and currently a resident of Aurora, Ontario, she grew up in a piping household as a daughter of the late, great Ontario piper, Reay Mackay. As a piper, Glenna Mackay-Johnstone played at the highest levels in both solo and band competition. She was a member of the 78th Fraser Highlanders for many years, participating in many World Championships and a host of North American Championship victories under Pipe-Major Bill Livingstone. She is entrenched in piping as a judge with the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario and a member of the organization’s Music Committee. Both of her children are accomplished pipers, rising fast in both solos and bands. In her working career, Glenna Mackay-Johnstone has been a public school teacher for many years.
As one might expect, the conversation, moderated by Jenny Hazzard, was insightful, wide-ranging, candid, and enlightening. While discussions were serious, there was not a little humour, perhaps an indication that, even today, women need to have a strong ability to see the lighter side of things as they participate in the male-dominated world of piping and drumming.
We will run “Women in Piping and Pipe Bands: a pipes|drums panel discussion” in three parts, looking at past, present and future.
Our undying thanks to these terrific exponents of the art for their contribution to the ongoing conversation.
Women in piping and drumming: further reading
March 8, 2021