Another Successful Week in Not So Sunny Florida

The Florida Pipe & Drum Academy concluded after an excellent week of study and good fun – shame about the weather, cold and wet to begin with, writes Robert Wallace.

We spent the last day of the trip at the North East Florida Highland Games where it was good to catch up with piping judges John Bottomley, John Rechnagel, Al MacMullin, Jim Dillahey and Bill Caudill, and they kindly invited me to share the shade of the judging canopy with them.

With John Bottomley, John Recknagel and Al MacMullin. Bill Caudill and Barry Donaldson are in the background

Bill was telling me that he had completed over 30 years at the Sandy Jones School up in North Carolina – tremendous dedication. Bill also told me that Sandy himself has not been keeping the best of health lately. Well Sandy, if you read this, all the best. Your 50 years running piping schools must be a world record. 

A few of the pupils from the Academy played at the games and picked up prizes, notably Laura Romine in the G4 piobaireachd. Laura played a new G1 ‘Gold’ chanter set up for her by Barry Donaldson. Her tune was the Wee Spree.

Laura and her G1 ‘Gold’ chanter

Another of the students, Walter Ivey, gained third playing the Lament for Alan, My Son by Duncan Johnstone. Coincidentally Bill Caudill remembered me playing the same tune at the 1988 contest held in Glasgow for modern piobaireachd.

Also at the games were Eric Stein and his wife Maureen who have moved from New York to Florida. Eric is the man who started the Metro Cup and built it up into the prestigious event it is today. Eric and Maureen are great friends of the St Laurence O’Toole band and were delighted to be able to catch up with our drumming instructor and SLOT L/D Stephen Creighton.

Eric, Maureen and Stephen

Stephen went round all the G4 and G5 bands helping them set up their drums and they were pleasantly shocked to have such an expert in their midst.

Over at the beer tent I spotted this hungry young man having a snack before supper: 

That joint of meat would have fed a family of five in Glasgow when I was a boy – and the bone would have gone straight into the soup pot!

The carnivore’s colleague in the the very well sounding Alma College band from Michigan was Laureano Thomas – Sanchez, an excellent young piper. Laureano gave us an impromptu tune. Here’s snip: 

Big future for Laureano. Excellent hands. He has been very well taught by Barry Conway and Andrew Duncan. Note how his fingers are well clear of the chanter giving solidity and professional touch to his technique. This was something I hammered away at during classes and here was Laureano proving the point for me.
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Jim Dillahey, President of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association reported that they are in fine financial fettle after a raft of economies. Jim spoke warmly of the year he competed round the games in Scotland picking up a prize in the piobaireachd at Mallaig plus several other awards.

Next year’s Florida Academy will be on the same week in 2021. Piping students will be limited to 20, the same for sides, plus ten tenor and three bass. We plan to open registrations over the next couple of months. All things being equal, the teachers will be as this year and we hope to have some sponsorship from Premier drums, and G1 chanters.


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4 thoughts on “Another Successful Week in Not So Sunny Florida

  1. Bet you it was warmer than Glasgow, Rab! LOL! Nice playing, Laureano – as Rab says, an EXAMPLE to budding players out there of HOW to use fingers on the chanter…

  2. Hi Rob,
    Sorry I missed you at the games. We took off north soon after the scores were available.
    Quite surprisingly, I got third in both the Piobaireachd ground and the 2/4 march.
    Must have been all the hard work and great instruction from the week at Florida Pipe & Drum Academy.
    Brigid

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