"Talk not so much, then, young artist, of the great old masters, who but painted and chisell’d. Study not only their productions. There is a still higher school for him who would kindle his fire with coal from the altar of the loftiest and purest art. It is the school of all grand actions and grand virtues, of heroism, of the death of patriots and martyrs — of all the mighty deeds written in the pages of history — deeds of daring, and enthusiasm, devotion, and fortitude. "
- Walt Whitman
A district is a term for a type of administrative division. Entities known as districts vary greatly in size, spanning entire regions or counties, several municipalities, or subdivisions of municipalities.
The Wake & District Public Safety Pipes and Drums call Raleigh, North Carolina home. Raleigh sits in the Capitol District of the State of North Carolina; Wake County. We wanted to start a pipe band but did not have enough members to field our own “Raleigh” band – so reached out to regions or districts to support our mission. In forming the band we relied on these districts to draw members from and we support the men and women who serve as public safety offices in Durham County, Orange County Wake County, Johnston County and Nash County among others.
THE EARLY DAYS...
In 2005 – under the leadership of veteran Chicago police officer and long-time piper Joe Brady, the members of the Carolina Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society had worked in the Johnston County area under the leadership of Chief Gary Ragland to build a public safety pipe band. At the same time, an interest in piping was growing within the Wake County EMS Division as several interested potential piping students pressed Wake County EMS Chief and resident piper – Skip Kirkwood – to help them learn to play the pipes (one of those interested medics was Assistant Tony Crawford).
On May 6, 2006 – while attending the dedication of the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Raleigh, Brady (that day performing with the Charlotte Fire Department pipe band) met Crawford. Also in attendance that day were Raleigh Firefighters Jason Lane, Joe Harwell, Lloyd Johnson and Garner Firefighter Michael Bishop. A series of meetings were held, which concluded with an agreement to form a new band which would incorporate both the Johnston County contingent and the public safety community from Wake County and the surrounding areas. A date was picked for an organizational meeting. Chief Kirkwood sent a letter of invitation to 65 public safety agency heads in the east-central region of North Carolina, soliciting participation of pipers, drummers, and those interested in learning.
On June 8, 2006 – an organizational meeting was held at the EMS Training Center in the Wake Commons Business Park. Some 50 law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics, and public safety supporters attended. Experienced players began “tuning up” and students were provided information about obtaining practice chanters, drum sticks, and practice pads. A regular schedule of Wednesday – Thursday practice sessions was established, based at the Wake County EMS Training Center on Carya Drive in Raleigh… On July 9 – another letter went out to the public safety chief officers, inviting them to engage the band for ceremonial occasions within their agencies. It didn’t take long!
A date was set for the band’s first official fund-raising event, “the Tartan Ball” – which would be held on November 18, 2006. An event committee, headed by Garner Fire Captain/piper Mike Bishop, assisted by Raleigh Fire Lieutenant/Drum Major Jason Lane and Raleigh Fire Captain/piper Lloyd Johnson, geared up and got to work. The event was held at the Raleigh Fireman’s Club on Bay Leaf Church Road, and saw a capacity crowd of over 250 fans, friends, and family. A great time was had, with Irish and Scottish Dancers, a ceilidh band, and of course the Pipes and Drums. This event netted $3,200, which will go right toward outfitting more band members with Black Stewart band kilts, as well as adding a couple of more drums to the mix…
With a little money in the bank at the end of the first Tartan Ball, we began a serious effort to acquire Black Stewart kilts and accessories for all band members. In the meantime, the pipe corps and the drum corps continued to grow and improve.
We established some firm relationships in the public safety community. We were “center stage” for three North Carolina State Highway Patrol graduation ceremonies and one promotion ceremony. The Highway Patrol does their ceremonies in a big way, filling Dorton Arena at the state fairgrounds with troopers, friends, families, and a vehicular history of the Highway Patrol. The band “marches in” the recruits, and “marches out” the newly sworn-in troopers.
The Raleigh Fire Department conducted several promotion ceremonies this year. Those to be promoted were marched into the council chambers at City Hall, and a newly established RFD tradition now has the duty piper march the participants back to Fire Station #1 for a reception after the official ceremonies. RFD also held a huge “retiree reunion” at the Keeter Fire Training Center, where the band entertained hundreds of firefighters, active and retired, and their families. In appreciation for our support, the Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association (IAFF) donated funds to purchase a new bass drum, which is watermarked with the RFD logo behind the band name.
We participated in two major parades. The first, the Raleigh St. Patrick’s Day parade, saw us teamed with a tri-service color guard (Raleigh Police, Raleigh Fire Department, and Wake County EMS), was followed by some on-the-street performances in Moore Square and at Tir No Nog. The second was a joint effort with the Charlotte Fire Department Pipe Band, where we led the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial parade.
On November 17, under the able leadership of Drum Major Jason Lane, Piper Lloyd Johnson, and Tenor Drummer Mike Bishop – the second annual Tartan Ball was a huge success. Our upgraded venue at the Raleigh Sheraton was filled to the brim, and our coffers were once again refilled to continue our band outfitting effort! Nice going, guys. A great time was had by all!
The Wake & District Public Safety Pipes & Drums has a simple – yet noble mission: to honor our fallen brothers in public safety when needed and to spread the love of bagpipe and drum music whenever possible. In 2008, the band traveled across the great state of North Carolina, as well as the nation, to accomplish that mission and it was done so admirably. Allow us to share our wonderful year with you.
The District began 2008 in fine fashion with our debut in Raleigh’s First Night festivities and a concert in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. A true show of force by our band members made for a memorable night, as two shows were given to capacity audiences. The band was invited once again to participate in the Capital City’s St. Patrick’s Day events, giving us the chance to reach young and old alike with a fun day of Irish celebration.
The most humbling and yet the most meaningful part of our mission is that of honoring our fallen public safety brothers and sisters. We performed that part all too often in the last year. We were met with the first line of duty death in the Raleigh Fire Department in over 50 years, and others followed. Raleigh Fire paid a heavy price this year, as retired chiefs and firefighters, active duty firefighters, all brothers, were laid to rest. By year end, there would be eight in all. We participated in the line of duty death funeral of NC Highway Patrol Trooper A.J. Stocks. From the very beginnings of our band, the Patrol was one of the first organizations to call on us, and we have had the pleasure of remaining close friends with our brothers and sisters in black and grey. We honored firefighters from Bailey, Archer Lodge, Pine Level, 50/210, and Goldsboro Fire Departments, as they ended their tours of duty, laid to rest with respect and admiration. It is this part of our band’s mission that weighs the heaviest on it’s members, as they leave a small piece of themselves behind each time one of their brothers or sisters is honored in this way. While it has truly been a trying year, it has also been an honor in every sense, to serve in such a small way as ours.
For those of you familiar with our group, you know that as autumn wanes, our annual fundraiser, the Tartan Ball arrives to kick off the holiday season. On Friday November 7th, over 400 of our closest friends gathered in the ballroom of the Sheraton Downtown for a party like no other in the area. Once again, our tartan ball committee, led by piper Jason Lane and Tenor drummer Mike Bishop did not disappoint. 2008 brought many special guests into the fold, one of which was our master of ceremonies, Bob the Blade from 96 Rock. Our very special guests were our extended family from the north, The Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society, Chicago Police Department, who put on a phenomenal show, out of love and respect for us, and we are most grateful for their help in making this Tartan Ball such a resounding success, raising over $13,000 for our group to purchase kilts, instruments and supplies. If you were there, thank you for your generosity. If you weren’t there, we’ll see you in 2009 on Friday, November 13th at 7pm at the Sheraton Downtown Raleigh. You won’t regret it.
Finally, just as we began the year, the end of the year found us at Tir na nOg, celebrating New Year’s Eve with pipes, drums and revelry, coming full circle for what has been one amazing year. It has been a year of remembrance and of vision, of sacrifice and celebration, of commitment and honor. As always, we are made humble by the reception that we continue to receive from all of you when we play, and we deeply thank our friends and supporters, as it is you that allow us to exist. It has been an incredible journey thus far, and we stand ready should we be needed…
This, the last year of the decade, has been quite a year for The District. We have oftentimes stopped to look around and spoken amongst ourselves about how far the band has come and how much the band has changed. The group has been busy, as always, so allow us to share our year with you.
This year has mostly been just plain fun. We began the year in true District style, with New Years at Tir na nOg, and a favorite pastime of ours, the pub crawl. Those of you that are familiar with the band know that Tir na nOg Irish Pub in Raleigh is synonymous with the Wake and District. For St. Patrick’s Day this year, the band actually had to split into mini-bands to cover all of the requests made of us. We made new friends down in North Myrtle Beach, SC by marching in their St. Patrick’s Day parade to rave reviews from the parade judges and hundreds of attendees. We also rode the Tir na nOg float in the Raleigh parade and at the end of the day, the band came together again to play a myriad of locations around the capital city.
A November rite of passage for the District was observed once again, as the Fourth Annual Tartan Ball was held at the Downtown Sheraton in Raleigh and just like every year so far, this year eclipsed all previous years. Each year key members of the group continue to step up and make this event a success. A great time was had by all, and much needed funds were raised to help keep this animal we call the District alive and kicking. We helped to spread holiday cheer this year, marching in Christmas parades in Wake Forest and Selma, and finished out the year playing New Year’s Eve at First Light Wake Forest and finally, as we have ended every year so far, back at home in Tir na nOg. It seems that every year, new doors continue to open for the band, and we look forward to what the future brings.
As was the case last year, several of our members also competed as individuals, bringing home top awards in both piping and drumming. Our own Dr. Alan Armstrong even became somewhat of a celebrity after a very successful year competing in the demanding Piob category and finishing 2nd overall out of 131 players. Thanks so much to the competing members of the District for helping us all walk a little taller. We are proud of you all.
The state of North Carolina paid a heavy toll this year in the public safety community. Law enforcement officers from Lenoir County, Vance County, Winston Salem and too many other areas paid the ultimate sacrifice this year. Firefighters from across this great state gave all they had to give for their communities. We thank them and their families for their service.
This year was also a year of both joy and sadness for the District. As is the case most years, far too many lives that were close to us were cut short this year. Some were close friends, like Joe Burke, Gary Ragland and Flip Kissinger. Some were even family.
We had one of our beloved members, Pipe Sergeant Bud Barber, move across the country to continue his career. As with any group, some members have gone, but new ones have arrived, bringing with them hope for the future of this band. We also helped one of our own pipers get married in true District fashion, beginning a new journey in his life, as well as adding another spouse to the band (if she only knew).
As 2009 draws to a close, we find ourselves both exhausted and fulfilled. We have once again epitomized our mission statement, whether promoting the heritage of our music, or honoring those who have given their lives in service to us all. As always, we thank all of you that continue to keep up with us, all of you that continue to give your time and money, so we can do what we love so much to do. Thank you so very much. See you in 2010!
2010 has been a tumultuous year in many ways. Some of us have experienced the joy of new life, the exhilaration and relief of beginning a new job, or gaining advancement in a present career. Our country has definitely been on a roller coaster ride this year in terms of economics, politics and religion. Others of us have dealt with the self-inspection and growth that comes with personal loss. Well, the District has been on a roller coaster ride of its own and as always it has been a great one. We began the year at our traditional resting place, Tir na nOg Irish Pub in downtown Raleigh. Fun and revelry were had by all as the now familiar ring of the pipes echoed throughout the pub, reminding everyone that old acquaintances should never be forgotten. Little did we know of the events of the year to come.
The band did our part to help out with several community events this past year, including the St. Paddy’s Day 8K Run in Raleigh and the Night Out Against Crime in Wilson, NC. An opportunity to educate and spread the joy of the pipes came to us through an invitation to play at the International Food Festival hosted by St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Smithfield. The reception was warm and the spectators had as much fun as the band. Later in the year, the band was able to celebrate the first snow of the season while participating in the Christmas tree lighting ceremony for the Flowers Plantation community in Clayton, NC this past December.
A perennial right of passage for any self-respecting pipe and drum band is the participation in events surrounding that day of all days, St. Patrick’s Day. The District is no exception and what a time it was. Once again, we traveled to see our friends to the south, as the town of North Myrtle Beach is blessed with a large Irish community and a great pub in Flynn’s Irish Tavern. As was the case last year, we were blown away by the thousands that turned out on a great sunny parade day to greet us with smiles and cheers as we did our very best not to disappoint. We have made good friends in the owner and staff at Flynn’s and look forward to seeing them again soon. Back in our home town, the band made the rounds in downtown Raleigh on their St. Paddy’s pub crawl. If you have not been with us on this occasion, we highly recommend you check it out this year. It is great fun and a chance to see and talk with us in a more ‘relaxed’ state of mind.
One of the things that unfortunately seems to be inherent in the public safety community is the untimely loss of members who report for duty every day to simply “do their jobs”. This year we saw friends and neighbors honor the memories of law enforcement officers from the NC Department of Motor Vehicles and the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. One very unusual and welcome occurrence took place in 2010. We played as Durham Fire Department honored the sudden loss of Brad Roberts and most recently, we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to our brothers in the Chicago Fire Department on the recent loss of two of their brothers. While North Carolina was spared this year, many of our nation’s fire departments were not as fortunate. We remember and honor them. The band was privileged to participate in events paying tribute to our public safety family during National Police Week, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and closer to home, in the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend and Parade, our home event. We appreciate our friends in the NCFFF and thank them for their continued support. These are the events that our group was founded around and for.
As if we weren’t busy enough with two families, we here in the District are blessed to have yet another family, formed through the fulfillment of our mission. We have had quite a year ourselves. Along with his promotion, and I’m sure he would say more importantly, Mike Bishop, our band manager, became a daddy with the birth of twin boys, Ryne and Landon. Through a fortuitous connection, we were able to build a relationship with Ravenscroft School that resulted in new (to us) drums for the band. They have been a welcome addition to our group, often receiving compliments. We also were allowed to participate in a joyous occasion, the marriage of Tir na nOg owner and longtime District supporter Pete Pagano to his love, Katy Shea. Through the gift of song, our pipe major helped us wish our band mother, Annie Nice, safe home by writing and performing a tune written for her as she returned home to her native Ireland in search of peace and contentment after a difficult year of loss in her life. Annie, you are always in our hearts and never far away.
Once again, we concluded the year with the skirl of the pipes ringing within the walls of our home pub, as well as a “New Beers Eve” gathering amongst band members. What a truly tremendous year it has been for our little band. One thing has been very different, however. If you are one of our more devoted fans, you may have noticed that in 2010 there was no “Tartan Ball”, our perennial November fundraising bash. Why did we break from tradition, you ask? Well, because we have something very special planned. In celebration of our fifth year together as a pipe and drum band, we will be hosting a fifth anniversary concert at the Progress Energy Center on January 8th, 2011, which happens to be sold out by the way. Hope you have your ticket! If not, we certainly hope to see you very soon in the coming year and wish you a very prosperous and blessed 2011. Band ready!
For most of our existence, we have saved our own special time of celebration for the fall of the year. In 2011, the band marked a special milestone, so we departed from this tradition in order to hold a Fifth Anniversary Concert at the Progress Energy Center in January. Helping us celebrate five years of service to our public safety community were the NCSU Pipe Band and World Champion Piper John Cairns. Both Irish and Scottish dance were well represented as well, as the pipes filled a sold out Fletcher Hall. From all of us in the band, we very humbly thank you all for your show of support. It is our happiness and our reason for being here.
Once again this year, we fulfilled our primary mission too many times, in honoring our fallen officers. Wake and District paid tribute to fallen brothers from all across North Carolina; deputies made the supreme sacrifice in Nash, Moore and Greene Counties. To our West, the word reached us from the Winston Salem Police Department of a fallen brother, and we responded to the best of our ability. As you can see here, our keepers gathered much too often this past year. From all of us here at the District, to the fallen and their families, we thank you, we honor you and we will not forget you.
One of the greatest things about being a part of this organization is that every year, we can count on making new friendships. We have been so honored to have met and been accepted by our friends at the USO. We participated in the very special celebrations surrounding the return of our state’s World War II veterans from their day trips to Washington D.C. aboard the Triangle Flight of Honor. Five times this year, we were awed to stand among these men and women as they returned home to a crowd of thousands, holding signs, screaming, cheering and crying upon seeing the return of their special soldier from such a memorable day of reflection at the Nation’s World War II Memorial. Some of these men and women made the trip still able to carry themselves, while others, no less proud, made the journey by wheelchair. No matter their physical condition, they all returned standing a little straighter, both proud and humbled at the same time. We are so very thankful to have been allowed to be a part of this and we look forward to our continued relationship with the good people of the USO. We also thank them for the invitation to play at the 7th Annual Salute to Freedom Gala, which allowed us to show off our brand new Class A band uniforms. We were sharp if I do say so myself. We also made new friends among the faculty and staff at Campbell University, one of our state’s oldest private universities. Once again, there is a strong Scottish heritage involved with this institution, and the pipes were right at home there. We look forward to playing more music for the folks down in Buies Creek.
One of the highlights of our year was when we were given the honor of playing with the world renowned Irish artists known as the Chieftains. This group has almost single-handedly been the ambassador of Irish music to the world for the last 30 years. When their latest tour came to Raleigh looking for a pipe band to accompany them on stage, we were happy to oblige them. We hope to see them again soon. We also made a new friend this year in the form of Raleigh’s newest mayor, Nancy McFarlane. Being of Scottish lineage herself, the pipes were a nice touch to her swearing in ceremony. We hope to see you again soon, Madam Mayor.
We rounded out our year with a wee Irish party at the nOg, known as a Ceili (kay-lee). Fun was certainly had as we celebrated the release of our first CD, and sold all kinds of band swag trying to raise a little funding so all these new members can have kilts (if they survive). We also have a yuletide charity that has been founded by one of our drummers, Patrick O’Leary, called Kids Need Christmas. This undertaking was also represented at our end of the year events in order to raise money so that the charity’s mission can be accomplished. New years Eve found us well represented back at Tir na nOg, the band’s home if you couldn’t tell by now.
If you just found us on the web and you are reading this, welcome! We hope that you will check our SCHEDULE and make one of our upcoming events. Who knows…you might even be a piper or drummer in the making.
Since we are first and foremost a group of like-minded players that have formed this band in order to serve, let us tell you about some of the ways we accomplished the mission in 2011.
This year was quite a busy year of service towards our brothers and sisters in law enforcement. We circled up and played for events such as the Run For Our Heroes, and the Wake County Police Memorial ceremony. It was our honor and pleasure to be invited and participate in the National Law Enforcement Memorial in our nation’s capital in May of 2011. The band was well represented as hundreds of pipers and drummers upheld the brotherhood of the thin blue line. We also played for promotions, graduations and retirements for our brothers and sisters in several law enforcement agencies including the North Carolina Highway Patrol represented by one of our own.
Our band family is also made up of brothers representing the front lines of the fire service. We honored them as well this past year, in helping to pipe home Chief Ricky Barbour of the Wilson’s Mills Volunteer Fire Department. Our nation’s fire service was founded on the backs of volunteers and they continue to make up the majority of the fire service in our proud nation. Members of the band also travelled to the scenic mountains of Asheville, to pay tribute to the loss of Captain Jeff Bowen of the Asheville Fire Department as he was reverently laid to rest. Most recently, the brothers and sisters of the Raleigh Fire Department bid farewell to one of its own, as Captain Scott Nipper was tragically taken in December in an off duty car accident. We marched with distinction as the lead band in the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial Parade and ceremonies in the spring. Then, once again in the fall of the year, a group of our firefighting members made the trip to Emmetsburg, Maryland to the campus of the National Fire Academy to Honor Our Fallen at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend.
When we as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, tele-communicators and military veterans swear the oath of our respective agencies, we knowingly accept the heaviest of burdens; a burden that will stay with us throughout our lifetimes. It will visit us in the stillness of sleep, jarring us awake in the darkness. It will find us on those quiet, slow days at our station, when there is too much time to think. We, more than most, understand the frailty of life and the delicate nature of our own mortality. We are thankful for every day that we are able to do our jobs, to accomplish our calling, and while we do not welcome the demons that visit us from time to time, we live with them, not in fear of them. We do this so that others do not have to. It is by choice that we serve, and so it shall remain.
While our mission of honoring our fallen always comes first, there are always a few chances for us to “let our hair down” and have some fun – often while serving others in our own communities. 2011 was no exception, as we helped out our family at Tir na nOg Irish Pub in Raleigh with their annual Green Run. We travelled to Aberdeen, among the most prevalent Scottish areas of our already heavily Scottish Old North State to play in cultural events for some of the keepers of our state’s proud Scottish heritage. We rang in Independence Day with the good people of Pinehurst. We celebrated the high holy day of St. Patrick with our old friends in the village of North Myrtle Beach, a group of great folks that we look forward to seeing each year. If you want to be a part of a great Irish community, follow us down to the beach this year for St. Paddy’s Day. Not to leave out our own Triangle area, we quickly travelled back to Raleigh to pay homage to Saint Patrick at several local establishments well into the night.
As with all families, we had some events occur among our own members this year. Two members of our drum line earned the distinction of becoming Eagle Scouts, an accomplishment that only 4 percent of scouts ever achieve. We applaud Jacob and Brian Egen for there hard work and dedication to the time honored tradition of scouting. We also witnessed our drum Sergeant, Jamie McMillan, fulfilling one of his most important goals of becoming a “Brew-Major” for Aviator Brewing Company right here in the Triangle. Congratulations to you, Jamie! Like most families, we have grown a little over the past year. Some new students have arrived in both the drum and piping sections. Some more experienced members have traveled to us from other areas of the state because they wanted to become a part of what we do, and we welcome all of them. It is this growth that has helped us form a stronger friendship with the North Carolina Highway Patrol as they help us accommodate our growing family into the coming year. A special thank you to the Colonel and all the men in grey for your support of our efforts.
Last year, we gave a proper send off to a very important member of our band family as she returned to her homeland of Ireland to pause and reflect on a life well lived and visited much too often with grief that no mother should ever have to bear. We missed her terribly and asked about her often, but respected her privacy and time away from us, while she was close to those whom she had grown to love while growing up and becoming a strong Irish woman. Well, thankfully, this year she decided to return to us and make her home here. Annie, we love you more than words can say and we are so happy to have you back among us once again. As we say in Carolina, “Take off your coat and stay a while.” Whenever you are in Raleigh, drop in over at Tir na nOg Irish Pub and ask for Annie. If she is there, give her a hug and let her know the pipe band sent you.
A huge thank you goes out to all of the folks that have supported us for the past five years. Hopefully you will continue to spread the word about our little band of merry makers. We certainly could not accomplish all the good that we have done without the help of all our friends in the Triangle area. To all of the private companies that booked us to play for many special occasions over the past year, we thank you very much for your contact and we look forward to helping you in the future, should you need us.
If you know us, keep coming out and seeing us. We love seeing familiar faces. If you just found us on the web and you are reading this, welcome! We hope that you will check the schedule and make one of our upcoming events. Who knows…you might even be a piper or drummer in the making.
Thanks to everyone so much for all that you have done for us. We will continue to do all that we can for you. See you soon.
As 2012 rang in many of us in the band wondered what the New Year would bring. There was a different feeling among the group this year…a feeling like something great was about to happen. We all felt the feeling of satisfaction which comes with maturity and the development of experience. No longer the new guys on the block but still the hungry pipe band, still driving forward, still with something to prove. Needless to say, the year 2012 did not disappoint. While some traditional events were revisited, the year brought with it a lot of newness as well. It was truly a year like no other.
The year began with a re-boot of our website which became a fast favorite of the community. We have enjoyed watching the response to the new site and we are hopeful that it will continue forward in its popularity.
As a band made up of public servants and those who are service-minded, we enjoy nothing more than giving back to our communities and 2012 was no exception. We met some new faces this year, such as the NC Chapter of the Wives Behind the Badges Inc., a women’s auxiliary group which serves the law enforcement community as a support group of law enforcement spouses. We were able to strengthen the bonds recently created with groups like the USO, by playing at events such as the Triangle Flight of Honor, which pays tribute to our WWII veterans by allowing the surviving veterans to pay a visit to their departed brothers on the wall in Washington, D.C., only to return to Raleigh to a true hero’s welcome. The USO also asked us to pipe in the start of a charity golf tournament and they gave us a chance to dress classy as we played for their annual Black Tie Gala, where we were surprised and honored to meet the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
We renewed our friendship with the Jimmy V. Foundation, performing at their Black Tie Gala, which was dedicated this year to our first responders. Once again, we spent St. Patrick’s Day with our good friends in the City ofNorth Myrtle Beach as we were privileged to lead their parade this year. We played Christmas events, like the tree lighting of the Flowers Plantation community in Johnston County. We played commencement ceremonies for graduating students of Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC. We helped light up the streets of Pinehurst, during their 4th of July festivities. We played for those that celebrate the culture and heritage our instruments were born from; organizations like NC SCOT, Inis Cairde School of Irish Dance, and the tenth birthday of the Piper’s Tavern in Raleigh. We even had time to participate in some true grass roots community service, as we helped to raise much needed funding for a wee injured lass named Caroline…
Another group of folks that help bring alive the heritage and foster the culture of the Celts is a group that deserves their own paragraph in our year-end installment. They are the outstanding folks that make up the Tir Na nOg Irish Pub in Raleigh headed by owner Pete Pagano and General Manager, Cruise Director and Band Mom Annie Nice. From the very beginning the band began to take shape in this pub, and the people involved there threw their hearts into the band just the same as we did and have never looked back. The 1st day we met Annie, her son Andrew was sitting outside enjoying a pint, and he said to one of the Not YET formed band members “YOU” need to find my Mom and talk to her. Andrew told his mom to find us (he had a great sense of direction).
We were asked to play for many of their events this year, like the Green Run, Burns’ Night, Raleigh Irish Fest, Celtic Christmas, Raleigh Gaelic Athletic Association events, and most recently, the 15th Birthday Celebration of the Pub itself. Every year we try to find the words to describe what this place and its people mean to us, and every year it is the same; no matter how hard we look, there are no words that adequately do the job. To Pete, Annie and the whole family at the pub; we thank you so much for all that you do for us and we love you all dearly.
Another organization that has given much to our group over the years has been the City of Raleigh Fire Department. We got the chance to give back to them this year, as they celebrated their 100th Anniversary as a professional, paid fire department. We were honored to lead off the Centennial Day Parade with the RFD Honor Guard escorting the Colors proudly. We also signaled the opening of the 100th Anniversary Gala, a first of its kind for the department. We played for the graduating class of RFD Academy 37, as well as several promotional ceremonies throughout the year. With three of our current band members being active duty and retired Raleigh Fire, we share a common bond that is ever present.
This band formed to serve, honor and when necessary, remember our brothers and sisters in public safety. While we may not receive invitations to play for all of the fallen, we feel the sting no less. When called on, we played, and when necessary, we stood quietly by and sent our condolences as public servants across the state and beyond were laid to rest, having given their all to their fellow man.
We honored the peacekeepers, during events like the Wake County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the annual Run For Our Heroes, and from agencies like the Watauga County Sheriff’s, Bladen County Sheriff’s, Lumberton P.D., and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, as they gently laid their brothers to rest. We honored the firefighters, as the White Oak F.D. Antioch F.D. Kernersville F.D., and Bladen County Emergency Services all sent brothers home this year. We honored a fallen medic from Pinetops, NC as he was called home following service to his community. We also helped pipe home a very special public servant that is truly missed by children all over Wake County. He taught many of them to stop, drop and roll and gave them all very heartfelt and wet kisses. Angus the Firefighter Canine served his community as his brothers in the Durham Highway Fire Department do today; with all of his heart.
The band was honored to send a representative to Fort Bragg in tribute to soldiers lost this year from the 16th Military Police Brigade, Airborne. Once again, the band sent a contingent of our firefighter membership to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmetsburg, Maryland, where the families of the fallen were held up in support and love, and the fallen were honored with respect and reverence.
2012 has been a real breakout year for Wake & District in the area of competition. Through hard work and commitment from many instructors and players, we were able to field competition bands in both Grade IV and Grade V this year. We traveled as far as Delaware to see how we would stand up to some of the Eastern United States greatest bands. Our drumming competitors spent entire weekends in workshops with professional instructor Andrew Hoinacki, owner of AR2 Drumming. Several pipers spent hours under the instruction of renowned instructor and adjudicator Ken McKeveny.
All of our competitors reached into their own pockets in order to travel to highland games competitions throughout the Eastern U.S., not in an effort to aggrandize themselves, but instead to further themselves as musicians and further the reputation and good name of this band. In the end we did pretty well, with the Grade IV band placing 16th out of 61 bands and the Grade V band placing 8th out of 103 bands. Several of our band members placed extremely well in solo competition as well. We are all very proud of their musicianship, professionalism and dedication to the mission, a dedication that we all share.
This year saw the welcome return of a fan favorite that took a break last year. What used to be called our Tartan Ball was this year renamed the “Fall Fling”, and that it was. While it was a more intimate affair than in years past, it seemed to be just what the doctor ordered, as it was one of the most well received and complemented events of its kind we have had to date.
It is our hope that we have done everyone proud through our actions and service. We continue to answer the call that is our mission; to honor our fallen. We will continue to strive for improvement. We reaffirm our commitment to our brothers, our families, and our community at each rehearsal, and at every event. We hope you will come out and see us in the coming year and be pleased with the sights and sounds we provide. We wish everyone all the best and look forward to new experiences, new friendships and new opportunities to serve all of you.
The famous British surgeon, scientist and politician Lord Robert Winston said these words: “Man is a competitive creature, and the seeds of conflict are built deep into our genes. We fought each other on the savannah and only survived against great odds by organizing ourselves into groups which would have had a common purpose, giving morale and fortitude.”
And so almost eight years ago, the first members of the Wake & District Public Safety Pipes and Drums organized themselves into a group which would have a common purpose. It is a purpose that is among the most noble and fulfilling of purposes; and by honoring this singular purpose, of honoring our fallen, we have ourselves been carried upon a rising tide that, unlike our ocean’s tides, could not have been predicted. It is a tide that continues to rise and carry us to ever expanding horizons, where we continued throughout 2013 to form new alliances and make new friends. It is a purpose that continues to fill all of us with morale and fortitude.
In the last year, Wake and District was of service to many of our old friends. We provided the backdrop for graduating North Carolina State Troopers and City of Raleigh Firefighters; for Wake County Sheriff Deputies and for incoming Raleigh City Council members. We played for our brothers in blue during the Run for Our Heroes event in Raleigh. Our friends in the NC chapter of the USO invited us once again to several events, including their annual black tie Gala. While we have always held close our brothers and sisters in the military, we expanded our family this past year, by playing the Spring Ball of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, as well as our traditional participation in Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day parades and activities. New friends were also made in Operation Coming Home as we helped welcome a deserving wounded veteran and his family into “Hero Home Six”.
We continued to foster our growing relationships with friends like Campbell University by providing pomp and circumstance for new graduates. Another new acquaintance and fast fan of our group is Raleigh’s own mayor, Nancy McFarlane, who asked for the pipes and drums during several of her local appearances. We celebrated our nation’s Independence under our state’s magnificent Capitol dome as the pipes and drums lit up the square for the 4th of July.
And of course, we were once again honored and humbled to play our signature event, which was the celebration in remembrance of North Carolina’s Fallen Firefighters. It is our band’s centerpiece; the event that brought together the people and events that would lead to the reason we are all together today.
We tend not to dwell very long on the fact that what we do has strong ties with death and mourning. We would be remiss, however, to not take a moment and remember the fallen of the last year. From the wildland firefighters of Prescott, Arizona, to the Garda Police in Europe, men and women; our brothers and sisters, paid the ultimate price in service to others. Many were our friends, from as near as Fayetteville Fire Department, New Hanover County Fire and Rescue, Asheville Police, and Brassfield Fire Department. The members of our Armed Forces lost in battle also will not be forgotten as they gave the last great measure of devotion for their country. Then there was the loss of a great friend of the band and to the piping world; a friend that is directly responsible for our band’s existence, all because he saw promise in a young boy from Chicago many years ago, who wanted to learn the bagpipes. We will miss you David McKee Sr. and we are better for having known you, if only for a short while.
Luckily for us, we play as hard as we work. This past year we played in pubs and other locales across the southeast, opening for bands like My Three Kilts, Albanach and the Battlefield Band. We kept tradition alive, through celebrations like Burns Night, and through competing in the Southern branch of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, where we tasted success in both our Grade 4 and Grade 5 bands, along with individuals gaining accolades in solo competition. During St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we made no less than 9 appearances across two states and managed to squeeze in an impromptu gig at a wedding reception, much to the surprise of the wedding party. We even attempted to help set a world record. Although we came very close, we will have to redeem ourselves this year as the “kilted shenanigans” continue.
One of our proudest moments this year was in service to someone we have come to love dearly, as we helped our band mother, Annie Nice, reclaim her personal possessions from years spent in a storage unit in Europe and bring them back home to North Carolina, this time to stay. Without the love of Annie and our family at Tir Na nOg, we would be in a far different place. We thank them so much for allowing us to hold our fundraiser there this year, which was a rousing success.
As is often the case with groups, there have been comings and goings. Over the last year we have had members step back for the good of the band. We have had some retire from the band and we will miss them. At the same time, we have welcomed new, young people into the band, who have taken up the mantle of commitment and honor that is required of a good band member. We have gained strong leadership, which pushes us farther as we strive to improve. 2013 was the “year of the clinic”, as we learned from some of the industry’s best and brightest players and composers, and we are all the better for it.
During the past year of events and performances, it often happened so fast that we hardly realized just how quickly it all took place. Before we knew it, another year had flown by. We have all learned so much in the past year; about our music, our mission, and ourselves. Our band has been forged in the fires of determination, commitment and honor. We will continue our journey on the rising tide, and we will see the sun rise and set on many tides to come; and we hope you will all be there to share in it.
Every year, I am asked to provide a “year in review” — looking back on the past 12 months of accomplishments and experiences of this very special group. This year I sat in front of my notebook, thinking of words that describe our band. Several came to mind rather quickly. Strength. Resiliency. Concentration. Fun. Honor. Some other words, just as important, took more effort to bring into clarity. Sacrifice. Dedication. Focus. Spirited. Limitlessness. Hope. Brotherhood.
All of these words only begin to define Wake & District. To understand truly what we are about, you need to encounter it. For many of our members and fans as well, the experience has been transformative. I personally have witnessed the spark in the eyes of a new member that feels the emotion of brotherhood and the band mission for the first time. It brings a smile to my face even now. To see the moment when they realize this feeling is something that was missing in their lives and has been newly discovered; when they next realize they will never be without that feeling again…it is quite a moment.
It is a contagion that travels through word of mouth, enticing people from near and far to come and see; to be party to what they have been hearing about; to see if it is indeed true. Oftentimes, this means the addition of another member. We have experienced this quite a few times over the past year. Our group is over 70 members strong. Finding this many people who embody the words in the opening paragraph is extremely difficult. We are fortunate to be able to say they have found us, and we have taken them to task.
One of the earliest tests of our members for 2014 came in March, as heavy demands were placed on the band during the festivities surrounding St. Patrick. After several years of spending the day marching in parades in other locales, Wake & District came home this year, marching proudly for our home town fans in Raleigh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, followed by a myriad of events throughout the city and beyond. How far beyond? In the case of our pipe major, all the way to Quebec City, Canada! Some have dubbed this trial, “The Crucible”. It is indeed a challenge; a most welcome challenge. Fun doesn’t begin to describe it.
Good times are often the centerpiece of events we are asked to participate in. During 2014, these were occasions like providing the opening act for the internationally acclaimed Chieftains and the Makem & Spain Brothers from Ireland, and our friends making up the band known as My 3 Kilts. We were honored to participate in massed bands performances for both the Men’s and Women’s 2014 U.S. Open golf tournaments in the picturesque village of Pinehurst. We formed new friendships with companies like Ranger Up Military and MMA Apparel.
While having fun is a luxury we often get to enjoy, Wake & District is a Public Safety pipe band, and this means service above all. We exist to serve. 2014 was no exception. We provided distinguished service to many organizations, including the 50thAnniversary celebration of the Durham Highway Fire Department in Wake County, the Raleigh Veterans Day parade, the 3rdAnnual Wives Behind the Badge Gala, and the Carolina Brotherhood, a dedicated group of cyclist\firefighters who pedal across the Carolinas, from Raleigh to Charleston, in support of the brotherhood forged in fire.
Our spirit of service continues to manifest itself through events played for some of our bedrock organizations, those groups who have been there for us since the very beginning, many times providing much needed financial support, as well as a kind word of encouragement and thanks. Events like the promotional ceremonies and the graduation of Recruit Academy 39, of the City of Raleigh Fire Department. It was an honor to help our brothers and sisters in the Raleigh Police Department dedicate their new City of Raleigh Police Memorial, honoring the eight officers who gave their last full measure of devotion to the city they loved.
We owe so much to our family in grey, the NC State Highway Patrol. They provide us with our home for rehearsals and clinics. We proudly honored them in 2014 through performances at promotional ceremonies, as well as the graduations of Basic Patrol Schools 134 and 135.
We cannot properly express our humility, gratitude and love for our brothers and sisters in grey. They are truly a part of our band family.
One of the highlights of our year was when we received the invitation from our Highway Patrol family to attend their annual awards ceremony, not to perform, but to be honored. The Highway Patrol recognized our group, bestowing the Colonel’s Appreciation Award in thanks for all we have done for them.
In 2014, as in every year of our existence, we paid tribute to our community’s bravest, by performing in the parade and ceremonies of the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Raleigh, where 11 names were added to the wall of the fallen. Joined this year by pipers and drummers from Asheville, Charlotte and Cary Fire Departments, we were able to deliver a strong presence and a heartfelt performance at this, the birth place of Wake and District. This spirit of honoring our fallen continued into the year, when three of our band members – all firefighters – traveled to Maryland to participate in the honor guard services for the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend.
As a further continuation of our commitment to our mission statement, we dispatched individual members and mini bands across the state and beyond throughout the past year, to pay tribute as law enforcement officers and firefighters gave the ultimate sacrifice, in service to the public they so faithfully served. We all leave a piece of ourselves with our brothers when we pipe them home.
2014 was a year of unprecedented growth for the organization, as the members of Wake & District renewed their efforts to improve themselves and the group through increased levels of competition in the Southern Branch of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. We had enough interest to provide bands in Grades 4 and 5 on the competition field at highland games across the southeast, including Loch Norman, Greenville SC, Charleston SC, Stone Mountain GA, Laurinburg NC and Richmond VA. Several of our members competed at the solo level and garnered several awards for their efforts.We are proud to call them members of Wake & District and applaud them for all their hard work.
The coming year will see Wake & District increase its presence, with the addition of a Grade 3 competition band (standing alongside our G4 and G5 groups), as well as the creation of a juvenile program, a labor of love created by our pipe major, Joseph Brady, which has been christened The Crossroads Kilty Band. The band continues to catch the eye of adjudicators and fans alike as we perform among the highest levels of pipe band competition in the country.
One of our old friends has gone to unprecedented lengths to help us continue in our quest for better sound. Roddy MacLellan, master pipe maker and owner of MacLellan Bagpipe Company, recently granted some of our advanced players exclusive access to his facility in an effort to create an instrument customized to our band’s needs. The trip was wonderful, and the results of many hours of patient and tedious work on Roddy’s part are showing promise for the future. We thank Roddy and his family for their support and encouragement as the band strives to find its own clear, distinctive sound.
We have fostered many endearing relationships with fellow pipe bands and individual players on the competition trail, and look forward to a new year of spirited rivalry, and of friendships renewed.
One of the greatest joys we experience as a band is playing for our fans. We love seeing familiar faces, who go to the trouble of seeking out our performances. We love seeing new faces, that light up when a wall of sound envelopes them for the first time. The Wake & District family wishes to thank all of you for your continued support of what we do.
The members of Wake & District wish to thank our family members, who allow us to make sacrifices of our time in order to take part in this group. For all of us, this has become a family affair. Without your patience, approval and love, we simply would not be. Thank you.
From the very beginning of this journey, every member has been told this will not be easy. In fact, it will oftentimes be quite difficult. Your patience will be tested. It will place a constant demand on your time, your finances, and your attention. You will give everything you have and it still may not be enough. You may find in the end, it just isn’t for you. But oh, my friend, what a journey it will be. Those of us who find this to be a calling have had new doors opened to us from every direction. In my own experience, I have been places I never had before. I have made lasting friendships with people I would never have met through any other aspect of my life. It has brought a true enrichment to life. It is our hope that these feelings are made evident to all of you, our fans, every time we perform. Music is the stuff of life; an escape from reality; a refuge for the mind. It is memories and experiences made into sound. Please come and share some time with us when you can. We promise you a smile and a fulfillment that only the sound of the pipes and drums can bring. See you then.
2015 marked our 9th year together. In some ways it seems so long ago we gathered together; a group of strangers, to see what this concept was all about. We looked around the room and recognized some familiar faces, but more often our gaze was met by complete strangers. We listened intently, while those with the vision of what we could become laid the plan before us. We quickly learned this would not be an easy thing, but few things in life worth having rarely are. At that first meeting, a cornerstone was set into place, which became a foundation for a group of men and women the likes of which had never been seen. We have heard these words from so many of our members; “I have been in many pipe bands, but I have never been a part of anything like this.”
Over the past 9 years, that room full of strangers has met with challenges and triumphs, with difficulties and frustration, and are strangers no longer. Few remain of the original group, but if you look around, you might be able to pick out the six founding members who remain. They have survived through adversity and stand a little straighter than most, maybe just a bit proud, and rightfully so, but if you speak with them you will not hear of any pride, but instead a sharp wit or quick bit of humor, used as a disguise for humility. Hopefully, you will see in them the virtues the band strives for: honor, duty, and service. They are fiercely protective of this group and all who are involved with it. Most of all, they are thankful. They are thankful for this group of men and women here today, because we would not be where we are now without them.
Throughout the year we have managed to maintain relationships with organizations such as the USO, Wives Behind the Badge, and the City of Raleigh. We have continued to honor our public safety brothers and sisters through our support of graduation, promotion and retirement ceremonies for organizations around the area, including the Raleigh Fire Department, Raleigh Police Department, Cary Police Department, Wake County Sherriff’s Department, the NC Highway Patrol, and the NC State Bureau of Investigation. We have even managed to forge new relationships with great local organizations, like the Raleigh Comic Con and the Carolina Hurricanes. Through it all, we have never wavered from our founding mission and reason for being here, to honor our fallen.
The band once again found time to devote to competition this year, attempting to field three different grade level bands in contests across the southeast, and as far north as Chicago. The instructors have always said that competing makes you an overall better player, and the majority of our band’s roster chose to accept the challenge and find out if this statement was true. It presented us all with incentive to push harder and commit fully to the task. It also allowed us to have a lot of fun and continue building relationships with pipe bands near and far that we are honored to call our friends.
While 2015 has been a lot of business as usual, it has been a different year for the group as well. Much of this year has been devoted to looking inward as a group. It shouldn’t really be described as a rebuilding; it is more of an exploration into what we can truly become. The instructors are focusing the players on exactly what it will take to become something more; something better than we are even now. The commitment level of our members is being constantly tested. This year the group has been very fortunate to have several of the best and brightest players and instructors in the region seek us out and contribute their talents and abilities to making us all better, stronger musicians.
As 2015 draws to a close, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar place. Our pipe band home, Tir na nOg Irish Pub, recently closed it’s doors for the last time, after providing years of great memories for the local Irish community. Fortunately, local Irish roots grow deep, and we have been graciously adopted by another fixture in Raleigh’s Irish scene, the Hibernian. While we miss the old pub already, we are excited for what the future holds with our new old friends on Glenwood South.
After a year with so much introspection and growth for many of our members, we can’t help but anticipate what lies ahead. We have come through so much, and there is much left to conquer. Only those who focus and commit will survive. Several inspirational moments have worked their way to the forefront of our consciences this year. Two that stand out in my mind are these – and we hope to find our way to both…
“We aren’t just playing music. We are playing history.”
“Practice as if you have never won. Perform as if you have never lost.”
Inspiration. It can come from the simplest of imaginings, or it can be almost unattainable at times. In a word, this defines our band during the past year. We have sought it out in every possible way. From the written words of well known speakers, to the encouraging words of others. We were honored by visits and in-house workshops by influential players and friends from across the globe. We looked for inspiration in everything we did this past year, as it was a year of constant change.
We have spent the last year focused intently on what and who we are. It has been a time of reformation, as the band has breathed and groaned through the growing pains and the changes necessary for continued development. It has been a time of reaffirmation of our mission and our ideals, to instill in our newer members an understanding of just what it is we strive to do. This must be understood above all else…For Our Fallen is everything we stand for.
As we have done since our humble beginnings, we continued to honor our local communities and our public safety community whenever called upon. We reached out to share our heritage through local events, from kilt runs to Christmas tree lightings and everything in between. We supported higher learning, through participating in graduation ceremonies for Wake Technical Community College and Campbell University. Once again, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with our friends in North Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
The band was honored to be selected as a participant in the 2016 Virginia International Tattoo, a week long display of military music and the largest of its kind in the United States. Wake and District performed alongside 1500 performers from Ireland, Jordan and all corners of the globe. With several days in hotel rooms and many exhaustive hours of practice, this was a massive commitment that stretched our participating members to their limits. It was an effort that all involved will agree was absolutely worth it, as they made new and lasting friendships with like-minded musicians from around the world, made possible by the international language of music.
Our commitment to our public safety family was honored in 2016, as we added, in our own small way, to graduations, promotion ceremonies and academies for agencies including the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Wake County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Raleigh Police and Fire Departments.
As in years past, we continued to honor our fallen in memorial services around the country, including the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial at Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Our commitment to music extends into the realm of competition, as we believe it makes us stronger performers and allows us to further sharpen our playing abilities for the times when we must honor our mission to our public safety brothers and sisters.
Competitions across the southeastern U.S. provided the band with motivation and inspiration to strive for more. In 2016, the band also gave back to the piping community, by sponsoring a competition right here in Raleigh. The Inaugural Mike Murphy Memorial Indoor Pipe Band Competition was an officially sanctioned event, held on the grounds of Ravenscroft School, attracting bands from across the southeast with the lure of an air conditioned indoor pipe band contest in the blistering heat of July. It was a great time and well represented, with many favorable comments from participants and attendees. We look forward to sponsoring the next offering of this event in 2017.
During 2016, we found ourselves homeless, in a way, as the Irish pub known as Tir na nOg closed its doors. Having been our “home” from the beginning, we became a wayward pipe band, being welcomed into pubs and taverns across the area throughout the year. Our band mother, Annie Nice, however, refused to give up on the idea of a home for the Triangle’s Irish community. Through her hard work and dedication, Tir na nOg was reborn on East Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh, and a welcome sight it was. Best of all, Wake & District was included from the start, with our influence scattered throughout the pub. We are sincerely thankful to Annie and our pub family for creating a new home that includes us.
One of the hallmarks of successful organizations is their ability to remain dynamic. Their leaders recognize that change becomes necessary to avoid stagnation and to stimulate creativity. The band has been no different, as some changes in leadership have taken place this past year. The membership has looked on somewhat tentatively as our “founding fathers” have taken a step back; a well deserved rest after years of shaping and building this group. At the same time, we are hopeful, as new leaders emerge and bring their influences to the group. The transition thus far has been smooth and impressive. We look forward to what lies ahead in 2017 and beyond.
As you hopefully have gathered by now, 2016 was a very meaningful year for our band. It was a period of intense focus; of reigniting the fires of ambition and commitment. It brought a renewed focus on perspective; what is truly important to the life of this group. We were reminded to stay centered; to not forget who we are. And so we press on. We continue striving for more. Becoming satisfied can be a slippery slope. Rather than settle for being satisfied, we instead prefer sliding down that slope head first. What waits for us at the end will come up fast, but we will be ready for it. We will change if we must, but no matter what, we will have a fantastic time getting there; and we hope you will come along for the ride.
Rhythm can be a funny thing. It takes on any one of an infinite number of meanings, all depending on the person and what they need for it to be. It can be your daily routine, the thing which gets you going and keeps you moving through the day. For many, it is a "just right" feeling which comes along every so often, like a great night's sleep and that perfect morning cup of coffee. Like the end of a day when everything went right and nothing broke or slowed you down.
For musicians, rhythm is an all-important constant; like a heartbeat. We have to have it. Our heads buzz throughout the day with a barrage of syncopations and note combinations; it is literally the music in our heads. And it never stops. It is special for each one of us, but it becomes something greater when a group of musicians get a hold of the same rhythm. They hear it. They feel it. They may not even speak the same language, but they understand one another without uttering a word. Instead, they offer each other a smile; and the rhythm takes them forward. Together.
During 2017, we worked and fought and stretched ourselves, looking for that all important constant. We found it through serving our communities, whether it was a ceremony for one of our many beloved public safety agencies, or the tiniest funeral in some lonesome rural graveyard somewhere; maybe even close to your home. Though you never knew, we were there, standing vigil, in honor of someone who had fallen. That is our reason for being, our ethos. It is part of our rhythm.
Our communities mean everything to us. Many of us in the band have made careers out of serving them, whether it be through teaching, soldiering or public safety, to name a few. Maybe that is why it is community that binds us so closely together as a group; it is what comes naturally. While we will always stand ready should we be needed for our ultimate purpose, we also love getting out into our neighborhoods to help celebrate; be it a holiday parade, a Christmas tree lighting, or just an excuse to have a great party. The chance to get toes tapping and people smiling is one we always welcome.
We have found so many new friends at these gatherings, and it never fails; while watching and listening, someone's soul is stirred, to the point they come knocking timidly at our door, asking, "How can I do what you do?" Little did they know, all they had to do was ask. And so, we watch new friends become eager students, picking up drumsticks and practice chanters, to begin the journey we are all still on ourselves. We will always be just up the path, reaching back to help them catch up. Just like all paths, this one will not be completed by all who travel on it, but we strive to help all who wish to try. We have watched new found friends and old ones alike, move through the fabric of our band, each adding their own, indelible thread to the tapestry. Together, the hopeful outcome will be an ever-changing work of art.
Our year together found us in fields and meadows across the east coast, in halls and on stages in cities both near and far away. We spent the days feverishly working to hone the edge of our craft to its finest fit and finish. We spent them in solitary stillness, playing our very best, hoping we would help just one person find a momentary respite from untold grief, as they gathered around an engraved granite stone. We spent them reveling in the comfortable smiles of older generations, as they heard our music and recalled some glorious time from their past; in the laughter of little ones, as their tiny feet flurried in reckless abandon, twirling themselves until collapsing dizzily to the grass, enveloped in happiness. It is all a part of the rhythm; the thing that keeps us coming back. Back to demanding rehearsals, day after day. Back to funerals, when we think we couldn't possibly do another one.
So many parts of our lives can be unrelenting. They can seem unstoppable. In the midst of it, we all find so much more worth living for. You experience the joy of living; of life itself. It is what keeps you coming back; morning after morning, looking to make it even better. Each new day, each new year, is a chance to hope, a chance to try harder, to find your rhythm.
We at Wake and District have found a great rhythm; now we move forward to make it even greater. We hope you will experience it with us. Happy New Year.
We often make the assumption, what is interesting to us is therefore interesting to others.
If you have read one of these year end entries before, then you know they normally follow a fairly set pattern. After all, it is meant to be a ‘year in review’. This year, at least for me, is different.
For me, this was a year of vast change. With the help of family and friends, I came to the realization that I needed time to turn inward; to take care of myself for a while. Some of you in the band may not know me, but you will. I will be returning soon, to take my place as a good band member; to learn your names and to try my best to remember them. To care for each of you as family. For those of you who know, thank you for your patience and your friendship. Words will never describe my thanks to you adequately.
So, if I have been away for a while, you might ask yourself how I could write anything about the band’s goings on for the past year? Well, that’s actually easier than if may first appear. I have been around for some events, but more importantly, this band is different than most. It is closer than most. So, this year’s entry is more about what we are than what we have done. Let the love-fest begin.
The band has not just continued on a steady course. It has grown greatly. For the first time in a long time, our numbers have swelled with some truly remarkable students, who we now refer to as pipers and drummers. We are all the better as an organization for having them among us. To those of you who have tried your hardest, who have stayed the course, and continue to grow and improve, thank you for showing up. Thank you for your work; and make no mistake, it is work. We hope you will stay with it. Continue to enjoy yourself. See you at rehearsal.
The band has remained consistent in its mission. We have honored the organizations that show grace enough to include us in their families; like the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, our home base for so many years now; like the Raleigh Fire Department, home to some of the first members of our band; like the Raleigh Police Department, who continues to honor their fallen comrades through memory and ceremony. So many others called on us this year, and we answered willingly. It is our honor to do so. It is our mission to do so.
Through the years, we have had the good fortune of having members behind the scenes who know how to make us shine brightly. They understand the importance of image and branding. They know what it takes to reach across generational divides and attract people of all ages and backgrounds. Chief among these has been our band manager and founder, Joseph Brady. While he would not accept any recognition for his work, he needs to know that we see him. His work is tireless and heartful. If you have the will to join this band and remain, you will one day be on the receiving end of the Brady stare, but make no mistake; he cares for each and every one of you in a way that is hard to describe or express. Don’t ever doubt this about him. Joe, from all of us, thank you.
We are only as good as those who teach us. Without instruction – consistent instruction, we would be a group of individuals, learning in our own ways, the best way we could find; occasionally coming together to see if we could make it all work. In our leaders and instructors, we have the best of everything. They not only show us the way, they show us the way properly, with understanding, patience and persistence. Personally, I have never met people with as much patience and genuine authenticity as these few. To our leaders and teachers, thank you so much. We simply wouldn’t be anything without you.
Finally, we come to folks who are certainly appreciated, but rarely spoken of. They show up. That’s it. Gig after gig, show after show, rehearsal after rehearsal. They have been around for years; not making a fuss, not trying to stand out; just trying to blend in; just trying to be good band members. They form the main body of this band. They are dependable, consistent and always well-meaning.
They bring the right attitude to every event they attend. They want to help. They want to make the group better. They will be heard to say, “Whatever is best for the band.” They are steady. To all of you, we say thank you for your steadiness; for your willingness to keep pushing forward. For helping this group continue to be what it is, thank you.
The year 2018 was very good to us. We saw much. We watched members rack up solo awards and gain upgrades in competition. We made new friends at highland games and gatherings, one of the best parts of what we do.
Hopefully, the laughter and easy-going nature that exudes from our band tent is a large part of what makes folks wander over and see what we are about. We displayed friendliness, good sportsmanship, professionalism and good will wherever we travelled.
It was a great year. Thank you to everyone, for yet another great year.
See you in the circle.
- Lloyd Johnson
Over the past 13 years, so many of us have invested much of ourselves towards this band. For some, there has never been a question of, “Will I be able to make this a priority in my life?”
Those have never wavered from doing what it took to keep this band as close as any other part of life. They are the center of the circle, the guide, where all others concentrate their focus. They remind us of our purpose.
There are some, regardless of their love and devotion to the band, who have needed time away; time to turn inward and take inventory of their personal lives. It may have resulted in a realization that right now, just for the moment, other things in life demand full attention. It may have been a time to refocus and recommit. Whatever the result, it is what is best for each of us at the time.
Above all, you should be content with the decision you have made. What you do with your time should always be a source of peace and self-assuredness that you are doing the right thing for yourself.
Something I have realized during my time away, is something so easy to do; something we are all so susceptible to if we aren’t careful. I realized how almost imperceptibly, something that means so much to you can be taken for granted. We always just assume it will always be there, like a monument of stone; immovable and permanent; something we can return to over and over, at any time we wish.
As time passes, more and more of us may allow this perception of permanence to infiltrate our thinking, then, before we know it, too many of us fall victim to it, leaving only those who never wavered; to rebuild, to start over. Again.
This year has certainly been another year of gratefulness, in terms of growth and forward motion for the band. So many have devoted themselves to becoming better players and better band members, moving up through the ranks of the band, and the performing world we compete in. Some made the all important step of just deciding to put themselves on the field of competition; to be vulnerable and adventurous; and in the process, probably experienced personal growth in ways they had never counted on or imagined.
With everything going so well in so many ways, it would be all too easy to sit back and rest on the laurels of our accomplishments. If we weren’t careful, we could even fall victim to taking the whole thing for granted.
We are the only ones who can keep this from happening. We are the only ones who can support our band’s leadership; who can commit to making our instructors proud through our dedication to the art and to our mission. Without this, we become something this band has never been; average.
Let’s continue on the path that has been laid before us, through the labor and never-ending encouragement of our leaders and teachers. Let’s stay the course, and continue to be the unique example we are to so many of our peers in the pipe and drum world.
Let’s endeavor to remain…steady on.
- Lloyd Johnson
2020*. We began this year with similar intent as the previous, with plans to hit the regional competition circuit and make a trek to Maxville, Canada for a second run at the North American Championships. We had fresh music being polished into a new tune book, innovative drums on the way, and some uniform changes in motion**. Weekly general band rehearsals, a student night, and multiple competition band rehearsals each month.
The pandemic came upon us as we ramped into St. Paddy’s Day. Our substantial list of gigs for the week’s festivities started to thin as events buckled. From the few that held on, we got our first glimpse of the stillness to come. The memory of our last gig is permanently etched into my mind, with the awareness of the approaching “unprecedented and uncertain times” on all our faces. With that, we shuttered everything and entered shutdown mode.
After the fog cleared, we got down to business and took to Zoom*** to begin the great experiment of the year. Luckily, the types of personalities pipe bands attract are ones of curiosity and exploration. Weekly rehearsals for general band, students, and competition groups, as well as a more casual Thirsty Thursdays. Sound checks, green screens, and hot mics for all. It was not a replacement for face to face, but the band was still living and breathing, and cultivating the obsession for the music.
In preparation for penning this, past year summaries were reviewed, and it is quite a step back into a different reality than what this year has created. The past challenges we tackled as a band fade in comparison to the sheer weight of the year. The disruption has created the need for an asterisk in the records of anything for this year. Concerts, festivals, sports, competitions, no gatherings left untouched. What do we, who play the great gathering instrument, do while stuck in a virtual world? Through this virtual portal we all found ourselves in, we have witnessed many fellow bands lose steam.
Some have gone into hibernation, and sadly some have folded all together. Logistics have taken hold of some I am sure, but many are victim to a lack of motivation on the calendar, with no competitions, concerts, or anything else concrete with which to apply themselves. This is where we are fortunate to be stuck in the middle of the dichotomy of pipe bands. To service bands, we are a competition band, and to competition bands, we are a service band. Our foundation makes us both. Our mission is of service, and so we compete. Our mission is of competition, so we serve.
In the interest of competition, we organized our first virtual mini-band contest, and had a wonderful time doing it. And as I write this, a video of a contingent of the band performing The Little Drummer Boy on parade has gone…well, viral (it might be overdue to find a new term there).
Maybe it is also time to take hold of the opportunity to adjust more than just our vocabulary. It is our nature to measure commitment with physical presence attendance. Show up, stand here, know the music, wear the right socks. In a year where this is not possible, it has shown through that the choice of being committed, of being a band, is a frame of mind, unaltered by any outside force.
So here we are. Competition or not. Parades or not. Pub gigs or not. Festivities or not. We will be Band Ready*****
— Dalton Marshall
* Year of the Asterisk
**No, not yellow flashes
***Zoom was bestowed the title of Member of the Year at our annual awards
****Unless you want us to play Cullen Bay or Cajun Grace again