As a toddler, Andrew Lee would drag his toy bagpipes around the B.C. Highland Games.
By six, he had traded in his novelty set for real bagpipes and was already playing in the beginner class of the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band, the junior arm of the SFU Pipe Band.
Lee, now 31, whose father is SFU Pipe Sgt. Jack Lee, will take over from his dad as the leader of the RMM band just as it celebrates 25 years in the New Year.
“My passion started right at the beginning. I have pictures of me, two years old, at the Highland Games carrying around my toy bagpipes,” he said, with a chuckle. “I just always really wanted to play. I don’t really remember a time when I ever thought I wasn’t going to play the pipes. It’s just always something that we’ve done.”
Bagpiping is in the blood, it would seem. His father and uncle, both world champion pipers, started the SFU band before he was born, 35 years ago. Lee’s two brothers are also professional pipers. His wife is a champion highland dancer. So is his cousin.
Even his infant daughter is showing some interest in the music, he said, lightheartedly. Although, whether she picks up a set of pipes or dances will be her choice.
“We were never pushed into it,” said Lee. “It just naturally happened. We have seen situations where the kids are pressured, and that never works out very well. You need to have a passion for the music. It’s such a unique instrument.”
To say Lee lives and breathes the bagpipes would be an understatement. When he is not teaching kids in the RMM or playing with the SFU band or competing in Scotland, he is making reeds and bags at the family business, Jack Lee and Sons in Surrey.
“There was a Scottish man who was doing bagpipe repairs in this area and he wanted to retire, so he trained me because I used to work as a machinist and some of the skills transferred,” said Lee.
“It’s bagpipes all the time,” he said, laughing.
Lee will continue to play in the SFU band as well as lead the RMM, so it is shaping up to be a very busy summer next year.
The SFU band will be going to the World Championships in Glasgow in August, and the same month they will be taking their Grade 3 RMM band to Ontario for the North American Championships.
As for his plans for leading the RMM, Lee hopes to bring in more kids from all walks of life.
Lee’s father, Jack Lee, said when they started the RMM band nearly 25 years ago all the kids had Scottish last names, but now it is very diverse.
“In the early years, the typical youngster coming in the door would have a last name of MacDougal or MacDonald or Macleod, and that has really changed. We have all ethnicities in the band. We try to be super inclusive and make this a really fun experience,” he said.
Another thing that has changed over the last 25 years is that there are a lot more girls joining the band.
Andrew Lee said as the Scottish government continues to put more resources into piping programs in schools, it is getting much more difficult to compete against them. But for now, they are still competitive.
And they still win. The SFU band has won the World Championships six times, and the RMM band has also won six championships.
Parents with kids who are interested in the pipes are encouraged to check out the SFU Pipe Band website for classes.
Jack Lee, who has been leading the RMM for the last 22 years, said his son will do a great job.
“It’s time to pass the torch. I think it is time for a fresher and younger person, and Andrew is the logical guy because he is one of the top players in the SFU pipe band,” he said.
Jack Lee said he believes the draw for new pipers is simply the music.
“It just gets into your blood and it is so exciting,” he said.
The SFU bands will celebrate the RMM’s 25 years at the annual Robbie Burns Dinner at SFU on Jan. 25, and at a concert at the Vogue Theatre on April 13, featuring the SFU pipe band and the RMM band.
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com
Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.