One of the reasons Maureen Connor moved to the Capital District was that the area was rich with pipe bands.
Connor, who has a self-described broad background in pipe bands, was excited to teach bagpiping to others. Today, Connor is director of the Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band, which is unique among local pipe bands. When it started in 1989, the band was open to young and old alike in the Scotia-Glenville area. But as older pipe and drum players retired, the band started bringing in more kids, from all over the region and even as far away as Vermont and Massachussetts. In 2000, the band officially became a junior band.
`The next nearest junior pipe band is down in Maryland,` Connor said.
While much about the band has changed over the years, it’s tied to its Schenectady County roots in more than name alone. The band practices on Wednesday nights at Scotia-Glenville Middle School, and its annual concert, Celtic Jam ’10, will be held at the middle school on Friday, March 5, at 7 p.m.
Admission to the show is free, but donations are appreciated. Proceeds benefit the band’s teaching programs as well as uniform and equipment purchases.
One of the highlights of the concert is a performance of `Highland Cathedral,` in which many of the students will trade their bagpipes for more traditional instruments they play, such as flute, trombone and clarinet.
`I wanted a chance to showcase their versatility,` Connor said.
Whatever their musical backgrounds, Connor said she’s found students are usually drawn to the band for a couple of reasons.
`Drummers will drum to anything,` she said. `The demand of pipe band drumming is as demanding as competitive drum corps.`
Bagpipers, meanwhile, are often hooked after seeing someone perform on the instrument.
`You hear pipes and you just say to yourself, ‘That’s so cool,’` she said, noting some kids also take up bagpipes as a nod to their Scottish or Irish heritage.
Ryker Bodo, 14, of Guilderland, was in elementary school when the bagpipes caught his interest. When a flyer about the pipe band went around, he thought, `Why not give it a try?` he said.
He’s been in the band ever since and calls the bagpipes `a really great hobby.`
`It’s something that makes me different from everyone else,` he said.
Like Bodo, Misha Murdoch was exposed to the bagpipes at a young age.
`When I was a baby, my parents used to take me to the Scottish Games all the time,` he said.
He was intrigued by the drums, but eventually decided to try the bagpipes because of their complexity.
`I like it. It’s a challenge,` said Murdoch, 9, who travels from Amsterdam to practice with the band.
Considering the band’s geographic reach, Connor said it’s not possible for all of the musicians to attend the weekly practices. So the band also holds a weekend practice once a month. Despite the recent snow, students gathered Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Celtic Hall on New Karner Road in Colonie to get ready for the concert. Parents lined the tables inside the hall, watching and laughing as Connor directed the group with an easy rapport. When a student was talking while she was, Connor warned with a smile, `I’m watching you, buddy.`
Just as Connor was drawn to this area because of its pipe bands, Andrew Douglas brought his love of bagpipes here after college. A member of the Oran Mor Pipe Band, Douglas inherited his love of the instrument from his father and shares it as a bagpipe instructor with the Scotia-Glenville band.
`It’s just good to see youth get involved,` he said.
Connor is excited by not just the quantity of students involved, but the quality. In 2007, the band took part in the World Pipeband Championships, placing third in the novice juvenile division. The band traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, for the 2009 competition, again earning third, but this time in the more advanced juvenile category.
For information, visit www.sgpipeband.com.“