US University Holds First Solo Piping Contest

Competitors and judges at the CMU contest

By Andrew Carlisle

Carnegie Mellon University hosted its first ever solo piping competition on Friday, March 8th 2019. Adjudicators for all events were Jimmy McIntosh MBE, founder of the world’s first degree in piping and his good wife Joyce McIntosh.

The competition was confined to students at the university. The nine competitors had to submit three piobaireachd, three march, strathspeys and reels and 6/8 marches.

In the morning, competitors played a 6/8 march followed by a piobaireachd. In the afternoon, competitors played a march, strathspey and reel followed by a different piobaireachd from the morning.

Adjudicator Jimmy McIntosh MBE said, ‘The quality and variety of tunes presented, both light music and piobaireachd, played with such maturity is a credit to their dedicated instructor.

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It is evident they are being held to a very high standard by Andrew Carlisle, through their excellent exhibition of all the basic fundamentals of proper piobaireachd technique, so often absent in today’s contests.

Adjudicator Joyce McIntosh said, ‘We spent a delightful 6-7 hours listening to this group of awesome young musicians. It’s remarkable that these students are able to devote careful study and practice to their music, in addition to the heavy requirements put on them at a world-class university.

In addition, they listened to each other’s performances when possible, and were obviously supportive of one another. There’s a bright piping future here with these young folks.

It was a terrific day of piping and I was proud of all nine of my students. It is great that the university today has this body of top pipers at this grade one level.

I would like to thank adjudicators Jimmy and Joyce McIntosh for their hard work judging and also for conducting a workshop with the students following the competition, providing them with valuable feedback on their four performances.

For me, this was testing the waters holding this competition – hopefully following this successful day, we could look at running a full scale solo piping competition at Carnegie Mellon in future years.

The venue for the competition, Cohen University Centre Studio Theatre, has fantastic acoustics. 


Morning Piobaireachd:
1 Kolya Sier, Illinois, The Big Spree
2 Bobby Dunn, New Jersey, Lord Lovat’s Lament
3 Ryan Kavanagh, Ontario, Lament for the Union
4 Tyler Destremps, Pennsylvania, Melbank’s Salute
5 Colin Tait, Michigan, Nameless: Hiharin dro o dro
6 Alex Burlew, Pennsylvania, The Groat

CMU Champion Piper Koyla Sier

Afternoon Piobaireachd:
1 Bobby Dunn, Battle of Waternish
2 Kolya Sier, Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay
3 Ryan Kavanagh, Battle of Bealach Nam Brog
4 Colin Tait, MacDougall’s Gathering
5 Tyler Destremps, Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks
6 Evan Burlew, Lord Lovat’s Lament

March, Strathspey and Reel:
1 Tyler Destremps, 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh, Loch Loskin, Arnish Light
2 Bobby Dunn, Kantara to El Arish, MacBeth’s Strathspey, Cecily Ross
3 Kolya Sier, Southall, John Roy Stewart, Broadford Bay
4 Steven MacDonald, Abercairney Highlanders, Ewe wi’ the Crookit Horn, Cockerel in the Creel
5 Ryan Kavanagh, P/M George Ross’s Farewell to The Black Watch, Top of Craigvenow, Rejected Suitor
6 Evan Burlew, The Glengarry Gathering, Lady MacKenzie of Gairloch, Fiona MacLeod

6/8 March:
1 Kolya Sier, Mrs. MacDonald of Uig
2 Bobby Dunn, MacLeod of Mull
3 Steven MacDonald, Miss Ishabel T MacDonald
4 Colin Tait, Tug Argan Gap
5 Ryan Kavanagh, John MacColl’s Farewell to the Scottish Horse

Champion Piper overall winning An Bratach Dubh (The Black Banner): Kolya Sier

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