Junior pipers world champs

Sep 04, 2003, vol. 28, no. 1
By Carol Thorbes

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SFU President Michael Stevenson (left) shares the joy of holding the Robert Malcolm memorial junior pipe band's third first place trophy since 1999. With him is David Hilder (right), the pipe major for another SFU junior pipe band.

Simon Fraser University President Michael Stevenson watched with pride as the university's star pipers reaffirmed their place among the best of the best at the annual World Pipe Band championships in Glasgow, Scotland in August.

While SFU's Robert Malcolm memorial junior pipe band claimed its third first place finish since 1999, SFU's top level senior band finished third in its category, keeping it among the top three bands worldwide.

The 28-member junior pipe band (under 18 years old) competes at the world championship every two years.

By the time competition roles around many of the band's faces have changed as members are promoted through SFU's feeder band system after each championship.

Senior pipe band assistant manager Rob MacNeil attributes the band's success, despite constant change in its makeup, to “the high level of instruction and player dedication in our junior program.”

The senior band has picked up four first place wins in the last eight years and remained among the top three finishers for the last four years.

Eighteen-year-old piper Andrew Douglas, the youngest member of the senior band, wanted to see his 30-member group clinch gold.

But the native of Syracuse, New York and SFU freshman adds, “When you're born and raised a bagpiper, just getting into the world champion SFU band is a fantasy come true.”

Only three points separated the top three bands in the senior or grade one competition, which featured 14 bands in the finals.

Stevenson is the first president at SFU to see the university's pipers perform at the highly competitive world championships.

One of more than 40,000 spectators watching 226 bands compete, President Stevenson witnessed the respect felt among competitors and piping enthusiasts for the SFU pipe bands.

“Wherever the band performs, they build great profile for SFU, and because of their genuinely international recognition, SFU is better known throughout the world.”

SFU's high profile at the championship set the tone for President Stevenson's meetings in Glasgow with Scottish government officials and members of a group promoting awareness of modern Scotland.

Their meetings started collaborative plans for a major expansion of the work done by SFU's centre for Scottish studies.

“Scotland historically was of enormous importance to the development of Canada,” notes Stevenson.

“In the contemporary world, Scotland is still a dynamic centre of intellectual and economic innovation with which we do well to maintain closer contact.”

The expansion will include a visiting professorship, a field school and a Scotland Today lecture series.

The series, slated for spring 2004, will focus on modern Scotland and feature speakers from Scottish business, industry and government.

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