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Pipe band members defy stereotypes

What Maureen O'Connor wants people to know about her dedicated group of bagpipe players is that they are not what you might think. The Scotia-Glenville-based group is made up of young musicians who are scholars, athletes and, most importantly to O'Connor, accomplished bagpipe players. The days of old men in kilts being the only ones who can produce the beloved sound are over, and O'Connor said the proof is in the sound.

People may not always know just how incredible it is that these young kids are keeping up this tradition and doing it well, said O'Connor.

O'Connor said it's a major commitment that has landed the group among the best in the world in places like Glasgow, Scotland, where they placed third two years ago. The group of 25 teens will travel there once again this summer to compete in an elite meeting of dedicated players.

O'Connor said while the band is based out of Scotia-Glenville, it consists of kids from all over the Capital District, including Niskayuna, Scotia-Glenville, Bethlehem and Saratoga County. The band also has players from as far away as Syracuse, Cape Cod, Vermont and even a player from Texas who travels to the Capital District once a month for practice.

"All of our efforts and focus this year are preparing mentally, physically, musically and financially for this all-important trip," O'Connor said.

Colin Wilson, a member of the band, said his biggest challenges have centered on balancing the amount of commitment it takes to play, but he said in the end it has all been worth the effort.

"An hour a day on the pipes can be hard to do sometimes," said Wilson. "Because of the pipes, I get to travel to other states and countries to compete, and meet new people. As for the Worlds this summer, everyone is excited and confident, but we're not being stupid about it. Everyone's working as hard as they can, and when we go over to Scotland, we're going to do our best, and whatever happens, happens."

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