Mike Cusack Honoured at American Pipe Band Championships/ Wheel of Fortune Result

Mike Cusack, centre, acknowledges his award

Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship was held last Saturday, April 20, at Scope Plaza, Norfolk, Virginia, in excellent conditions, writes Andrew Carlisle, Artistic Director.

Each year at closing massed bands, we like to honour somebody who has dedicated a lifetime to piping, drumming and pipe bands. Previous recipients include giants of piping that are unfortunately no longer with us: Pipe Major Sandy Jones and Jimmy McIntosh MBE.

For 2024, the recipient of the award was one of our adjudicators today, Gold Medallist Mike Cusack from Houston, Texas

Mike began piping aged 10 at St Thomas’ Episcopal School, in Houston, Texas.  He was exposed early on to two masters, Donald Shaw Ramsay and John MacFadyen. At the age of fifteen, Mike was invited by John to receive tuition from him in Glasgow, Scotland. 

By the late 70s, Mike was competing successfully at the highest level around North America, and by 1980 was competing in Scotland. His first major prize was winning the B-Grade Strathspey & Reel at the Northern Meeting in 1981. Just as his solo piping career took off, he moved to Nashville to study at Vanderbilt University. He continued his solo piping ascent during his four years there. 

In the early ’80s, at a piping summer school, he met Jimmy McIntosh, who would be his most important teacher. As he did with several pipers, Jimmy took Mike under his wing and moulded his piobaireachd playing in the shape of the teachings of Bob Brown and Bob Nicol, the renowned pupils of John MacDonald of Inverness.

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After graduating in 1982, Mike returned to St Thomas to work as the piping and drumming programme director for more than two decades. During this time, he was responsible for teaching hundreds of school children how to play the pipes. He also led the school band to four Juvenile World Championships and recorded two commercial recordings, ‘Dedication and Impressions‘.

He is still the only American to have won both Highland Society of London Gold Medals (Oban 1984, Inverness 1987). He has also won the Northern Meeting Clasp, the Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering and the Bratach Gorm. Amongst his other outstanding achievements, he has won the United States Piping Foundation Championships a record eleven times!

In 2005, he became Headmaster at St Thomas, a role he’d continue with until his retirement in 2022. With more time on his hands, he is now a much in-demand piping teacher and judge.

In 2022, his student, Nick Hudson became the fourth American to win the Highland Society of London Gold Medal – which speaks volumes of Mike’s abilities as a teacher. 

Mike Cusack, Texas, in his prize-winning days

In the last few years, Mike has returned to competing, but this time as P/Sgt with the Grade One St Thomas Alumni band, playing a major part in their winning the Grade Two at the World Pipe Band Championships. 

Mike Cusack received the Virginia International Tattoo coin as appreciation to his meritorious service before the massed bands played ‘Salute to the Chieftain – Heilan’ Laddie’ in his honour. 

To the results: The last event of the day, the American Pipe Band Championship Drum Fanfare competition featured all eight competing drum corps, was won by MacMillan Pipe Band who received $1,000.

As the American Pipe Band Championship is part of a military tattoo, the first awards were for marching and deportment. These were judged by D/M Robert McCutcheon, 1st Bt. Scots Guards. The winners in G3 were Siren City and in G2, MacMillan Pipe Band

Grade Three American Championship 2024
1 Carnegie Mellon University, J. Scott Jackson trophy and $1500
2 MacMillan Birtles (Ensemble Pref.), $1000
3 Roisin Dubh, $500
4 Siren City
Best Drumming, Medley and MSR: Carnegie Mellon University

Grade Two American Championship 2024
1 Ulster Scottish, Jim Hixon trophy and $2000
2 MacMillan, $1000
3 Carnegie Mellon University, $500
4 Great Lakes
Best Drumming, Medley and MSR: Ulster Scottish

Judges: M Cusack, P Hughes, C Johnston, R MacCrindle, A MacIntyre, J Sim, S Walker, R Worrall.

Wheel of Fortune

Craig Sutherland of Crieff (pictured) took top prize at the City of Edinburgh Pipe Band’s Pipe Major’s Wheel of Fortune competition held yesterday at Danderhall Miners Club.

Cameron Drummond won the MSR and best joke. Ciaren Ross – making his debut in the competition – took third place in the Medley. Also competing were Ben Duncan, Craig Muirhead, John Mulhearn, Angus Nicolson and Callum Wynd.

Craig’s medley comprised Biddy from Sligo, Islay’s Bow (a self-penned tune about his dog), Liberton Pipe Band, Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight, Plevin Jig, Mrs Crechan and McFadden’s Reel and two Gordon Duncan tunes, Alex’s Haircut and The Fourth Floor.

Judges at the event were Robert Barnes BEM, Pipe Major Ian Duncan and the audience.  

Event sponsors included he Eagle Pipers Society, the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust, Kilberry Bagpipes, McCallum Bagpipes and Unison Lothian Health Branch. Reflecting on the the competition, band secretary Paul White said:

‘We were delighted by the success of the event.  We cannot thank enough the eight pipers who agreed to pit their wits against the Wheel of Fortune.  They treated us to some great performances and kept everyone entertained from start to finish.’

2 thoughts on “Mike Cusack Honoured at American Pipe Band Championships/ Wheel of Fortune Result

  1. My husband was a drummer in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Pipe Band. He started as a Boy Soldier at 16 and did his training in Stirling Castle where his ashes now reside. He was laid there on what would have been his 82nd birthday. I would have liked to play the pipes but I play the flute and the piano which I learned as a child. I taught myself the flute when we set up our junior band the Blue Drums of Croydon which consisted of youngsters from seven years to teenagers. We had a wonderful time with them. Our claim to fame was playing the ‘British Grenadiers’ at the Fairfield Halls in the Guards Spectacular in 1981.

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