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Local Artist Feature – Thomas Wise and Jaron Park

April 29, 2016

It’s Scholars’ Day, 6:30 in the morning, and after a long night of having fun, you are awakened by the sound of, seemingly, the world’s loudest instrument. The source of this noise is of course one of the reasons you chose to go to Monmouth College, the bagpipes. If you were brave enough to crawl out of bed and open your door to look out into the hall, you might have seen a couple of serious pipers. Freshman Thomas Wise and sophomore Jaron Park have been playing the pipes for a good chunk of their lives. Both of them are non-traditional students, having served time in the United States Marine Corps.

Wise and Park both play pipes in the Monmouth College Pipe Band, but also spend time playing in other pipe bands throughout Illinois. Park plays in Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band and occasionally plays in the St. Andrew’s Society of Central Illinois Pipes & Drums. Wise also plays in the Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band with Park. Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band is a Grade 1 band and they compete against some of the best pipe bands in the country.

Wise started playing the bagpipes 14 years ago. Wise said, “I chose to play the bagpipes because it was the most interesting instrument to me. I had a family friend that played them at my great grandfather’s funeral and I knew I wanted to play from then on.” Unlike Wise, Park seemed to have been destined to always play the pipes.

Park said, “My dad plays bagpipes, and I was eventually told I would also play the bagpipes. While I didn’t have a choice really in starting, I continue to play because I enjoy the challenge of playing such a unique instrument and I enjoy competing as a solo player and in a band.”

Both pipers agreed that Monmouth College’s pipe band influenced their decision to come to Monmouth College. Wise said Monmouth was his choice because there are few schools in the country with a bagpipe program, let alone a whole band.

Park believes a common misconception about the instrument is that it is an instrument at all. Park said, “I’ve had fellow musicians inform me that I do not actually play a musical instrument to my face. When I was playing at a gig recently someone remarked that it was first time they had heard bagpipes played well. While I am sure that this can make a difference in the perception of an instrument, no instrument should be judged simply by the playing ability someone has witnessed.”

Wise said, “A common misconception about bagpipes is that everyone that plays them is Scottish or has Scottish heritage. I actually have no Scottish heritage, and the band that won the World Bagpipe Championships in 2014 was actually from Ireland.”

Timothy Yates
Staff Writer

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