By Jack McShane ‘19
The cornerstone of every Saint Patrick’s Day parade is the unique bagpipe sound. The bagpipers are very skilled, and most of them have been practicing for many years. Little do most Crusaders know, we have a bagpiper in the senior class.
Andrew Thompson began his Irish music career during his freshman year. Andrew said, “I first started learning how to play the bagpipes at Brother Rice through Irish Music Club. Mr. Dunne set up the bagpipe division of Irish Music Club with bagpipe instructor Luke Cunningham. I started my freshman year, which was fun because my brother (Will) was a senior also learning the bagpipes.”
Andrew’s journey to playing at parades wasn’t easy. Andrew put down the pipes during his junior year because it became too frustrating for him. Andrew said, “I was losing focus during my junior year, but I soon realized I needed to get back to the pipes.”
Andrew joined the Stockyard Kilty Band during his sophomore year. Established in 1921, the Stockyard Kilty Band is the oldest continuing bagpipe band in the country. Andrew said, “During my sophomore year Rice’s bagpipe instructor was no longer able to show up consistently, so I started going to the Stockyard Kilty Band practice every Tuesday night at the McKee’s house, which is conveniently only a block away from my house. Tuesdays are mostly for beginners or for chanter work. Then, after I got a few tunes under my belt and my timing and fingering skills improved, I started going to band practices on Friday nights at the Evergreen Park American Legion. These practices are for more advanced bagpipers, and we actual play the pipes at these practices.” The chanter is the beginner’s version of the bagpipes. It is shaped like a recorder and is played by beginners to learn the notes.
Andrew wouldn’t trade this skill for the world. He is dedicated to his craft and takes a lot of pride in his skills, especially during St. Patrick’s Day weekend. “The biggest draw for me was definitely parade season. I love the month of March. It is the one month where people notice your hard work over the last year. Even though I bagpipe the whole year, my skill is most appreciated during St. Patrick’s Day. Honestly, all the work and time is worth it because I get to be a celebrity in a kilt for a couple days out of the year.”
A passion is the best way to describe Andrew’s love for the bagpipes. If you see him in the hallway ask him about it! He loves to talk about it and would be happy to give you information if you would like to be a celebrity for a couple days just like him!