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Campus reacts to dwindling pipe band

November 11, 2016

Michelle Ravel / The Courier

Of the many traditions at Monmouth College, the bagpipe band may be one of the most iconic and memorable on campus. The band performs at the college’s most important ceremonies, such as matriculation and graduation, and draws crowds at athletic events. Senior football player Nick Kamberis expressed his love for the pipe band and the importance of their presence on campus and at games.

“Before every game they are what we walk out to. They get us excited and pumped up for the game. When we hear them, we know it’s time to play. If there is no longer a pipe band I know the team and coaches would be displeased since they are part of our tradition, and the school’s tradition.”

Unfortunately, the future of pipe band at this time is unclear. In the past two years the band has lost a total of six members and gained only one. This decline in recruitment numbers can be attributed to a change in scholarship packages for incoming pipers, which plays a vital role when making the decision to be on a collegiate bagpipe band, according to senior band member Kathleen Brown. Brown explained that the cost of simply owning and maintaining the instrument is expensive, then added on fees for lessons and travelling to competitions makes scholarship money a necessity for many pipers to continue their career. Without an appropriate scholarship allowance being awarded to potential incoming bagpipe players, continuing the band could be difficult.

These low recruitment numbers bring more challenges than just having a smaller band to perform at college events. A lesser-known aspect of the bagpiping world is the competitions that bagpipe bands have the opportunity to perform at and gain international recognition from attending. Unfortunately for the pipe band at Monmouth, these competitions require a minimum number of members in order to be able to compete, making participating in them impossible until more members are added to the band. Having the opportunity to compete would mean being able to set higher goals and achieve a more advanced level of play than what the band is at now, as well as continuing the tradition of a strong pipe band program at Monmouth College.

While recruitment efforts for the band are evolving and will hopefully be effective towards bringing in new members, tensions are still high and current members are worried about what the future holds for the program. Brown will graduate in 2017 and three remaining pipers will graduate the year after, so this recruiting season is crucial for the band. Members of the college band will be attending Winter Storm, a bagpiping workshop for high school students, in hopes of getting more students interested in Monmouth and growing the program before current members leave. Recruiting high school students is crucial in the growth of the band since piping is a practice that takes years of work and commitment, and appealing to individuals that already have experience is the best way to make sure the band thrives down the road. As Brown said, “The clock is ticking, and we really need to bring in some new members.”

Kaelin Sommer
Contributing Writer

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