June 8th marks our 14 year anniversary as an organization; we’ve come so far since our initial meeting and our first year together. Over these years, founding band member Lloyd Johnson has penned our year in review (you can read them all here).
Forming the Wake and District Public Safety Pipes and Drums was not an easy undertaking. The time, the money, the exhausting efforts of getting things going while some pointed at us and said “look, it’s just another police/fire band“.
Over the past 14 years we’ve striven for excellence and have been successful because of the dedication, focus and the tenacity of our members (none of whom are average). We’ve come full circle it seems — with a few police/fire bands now saying “their just a competition band” — and still others accusing us of grandstanding.
Wake and District is so much more than the pegs others put us in. We continue to examine everything we do – growing at ever opportunity and all along doing the right things for all the right reasons. The work sometimes feels never-ending…rehearsing 3-4 times per week, playing gigs in Canada, Chicago and points in-between. The work is worth it.
People come and go. Uniforms change. New tunes are added (and many removed, brought back and modified again and again). Through it all our mission never waivers.
FOR OUR FALLEN REMAINS OUR CONSTANT, OUR BANNER.
As our journey continues though the new normal — we look forward more good times, exhausting challenges and the fulfillment which comes from being together week after week (on Zoom or in person), gig after gig.
IT HAS BEEN 14 YEARS OF GROWTH, SURPRISES, SADNESS, AFFIRMATION, AMAZEMENT AND SHEER JOY.
HERE IS HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
In 2005 – under the leadership of veteran Chicago police officer and long-time piper Joe Brady, the members of a fledgling Carolina Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society had worked in the Johnston County area 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!