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How we keep our balance: Tradition

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

As we celebrated through our 15th year, we took a look at the traditions of Wake and District. It all began with small group of musicians in 2006 who created a bagpipe and drum band to continue the tradition of playing bagpipe music for our local public safety community.

To date we have played for numerous memorials, funerals, graduations, parades, and other public safety ceremonies. I say numerous because I don’t believe even our beloved Joe Brady knows exactly how many services we have played. Let’s just say that it is an impressive accomplishment and we should all be proud of our place in the public safety community.

We have a tradition of being a performance band. We have performed in parades, in concerts with infamous world renowned bands and symphonies, parades, hockey games, rugby games, military tattoos, college ceremonies and graduations, and numerous pipe band competitions all over the United States and Canada. Our best known performance has to be our 2020 Little Drummer Boy viral video with over 30+ million views.

Tartan Balls, Band Dinners, and Christmas Parties are traditions too. Do I dare mention the karaoke nights? How about the annual award ceremonies were the awards are toilet seats? Who else does this? No one! Did you know about the tradition of the Black Widows? If you know, you know.

Most of the tunes we play come from “traditional” music, such as Scotland the Brave, Balmoral, The Green Hills of Tyrol, even Wings and Col. Forbes (of course). What does traditional mean? It means these tunes have been handed down from age to age.

Sometimes from memory, sometimes hand written on paper, sometimes recorded in audio, video, or digital music formats. Our musical leaders carefully select the tunes we play each year. How many books of band music are we up to? We have also invited talented guest musicians, such as Michael Grey, Dan Nevans, John Cairns, and Alistair Henderson to influence our musical traditions.

Why do we have so many fans/groupies/followers? Is it because we have all the cool swag? Is it our awesome new hose or flashes we get at least twice a year? Could it be our online/social media presence? Friendships and relationships are a tradition. One could say the band is very approachable and we are always ready to offer a hand in friendship and good faith.

Here are some of our biggest fans: Tir Na Nog, Annie Nice, The nOg Run Club, Olde Raleigh Distillery, Melvin Reeds, TK MacLellan Bagpipes, The British Drum Company, June the Tailor, Isla Kilt Pins, My Three Kilts, The Big Rab Show, and The Chanter Rant show and the list goes on and on.

Let’s go one further... We have made friends with pipe bands all over the world, like the City of Chicago Pipe Band, The Stockyard Kilties, Collemcille, St Andrews, Charleston Police, City of Atlanta, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Fife Police Scotland and Inverary & District to name a few. Maybe, just maybe, it is the awesome leadership of this group and their complete dedication to make this band be the best it can be no matter what it takes. This too is a tradition that has been passed down from previous generations of leaders both from the business world and the bagpipe and drum world.

Do you know why MacKay? History tells us the bagpipe was played as early as the ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Today it is unquestionably recognized as an Irish and Scottish tradition. For Pipe Major Dave McKee, Sr. of the Chicago Stockyard Kilty band - bagpiping was an institution he knew had to be preserved. Big Dave was a guardian of tradition and served as pipe major of the Yards from 1975 until 2003. For generations Mr. McKee brought people into his home to teach them so that someday (and if they were good enough) they too would play in a band; and perhaps start their own.

Our founding Pipe Major, Joe Brady grew up surrounded by the cacophony of the wails of drones and beatings of the drums which took place every Tuesday evening in the Chicago neighborhood of Beverly; it was always a sight and sound to behold.

“Why MacKay” is where our traditions began. This is why we are so strong. This is why we are a great organization that is recognized by people all over the world.

Remember every time you put on the uniform and perform that we are upholding and continuing these great traditions handed down from Dave == to Joe -- to all of us in Wake and District.


John Schodtler has been playing the bagpipes for almost 40 years — and has been the band‘s Pipe Sergeant for 14 years. His nickname is “Cakes”— and his safe word is “potato“.

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