SFU piper Jack Lee claims world’s best solo piper title – for the third time

November 05, 2021
SFU Pipe Band pipe sergeant Jack Lee has claimed the title of world’s best piper. He has now won the award three times in the past two decades. Photo: Derek Maxwell

SFU Pipe Band pipe sergeant Jack Lee has claimed the title of world’s best piper—for the third time—with his recent win at the Glenfiddich Piping Championships at Blair Atholl Castle in Scotland. 

The elite competition is reserved for the world’s top 10 solo pipers, all of whom had been invited following recent major piping contest wins. 

The Glenfiddich competition involves two pieces, including the Piobaireachd (a Gaelic word for piping) and the March, Strathspey and Reel. Lee took second and third place respectively to feature in both prize lists and emerge as the overall winner.

Lee first won the contest nearly 20 years ago, becoming the first North American piper to win what is considered the biggest prize in highland piping. He won again in 2017.

Lee has won all of the top international solo prizes, including the trio of Glenfiddich championships, gold medals at Oban and Inverness, the Clasp at Inverness (twice), the Silver Star at Inverness (four times), the Bratach Gorm at London (three times) the Open Piobaireachd at Oban (twice), the Silver Star at Oban and the Masters Invitational (twice).

“Jack is such an exceptionally talented player in every respect—technically, tonally, and musically—but it takes more than just talent to remain at the pinnacle of our art into one’s 60s,” says SFU Pipe Major Alan Bevan. “It’s also reflected in Jack's huge passion for the music and his incredible self-discipline and work ethic.   

“As a musician he is extremely competitive, but always a class act, as gracious in victory as he is in defeat. Despite his huge successes as a soloist and band leader, Jack remains humble and down-to-earth. I can’t think of a more well-respected personality or better role model in the piping world than Jack.”

Bevan, an SFU alumnus, was inspired by Lee as a youth and had the opportunity to study under him. “His mentorship elevated my playing dramatically, which eventually led to success in North America and Scotland,” he says.

Lee also devotes much of his time to teaching the band’s junior players who make up the Robert Malcolm Memorial Band. In a story posted on bcpipers.org, BC Pipers Association President Graham Davidson called Lee “an incredible ambassador for BC pipers” and young musicians around the world, concurring that his work ethic “has kept him on top of being one of the world’s best pipers for more than 40 years.”

Lee and his brother Terry, formerly the band’s pipe major, started the SFU band in 1980 and both were awarded honorary degrees from SFU in 2013 in recognition of their lifetime commitment to piping.

Lee continues to teach piping schools and workshops as well as numerous private students around the world, and operates his home-based company, Lee and Sons Bagpipes Ltd, together with his piping sons.

Lee with his recent win at the Glenfiddich Piping Championships at Blair Atholl Castle in Scotland. Photo: Derek Maxwell