Seumas Anderson

Seumas Anderson

Marking 20 years of Piping Hot Summer Drummer

The bagpipes and drums are calling as world champion SFU Pipe Band returns to Vernon and Silver Star Mountain.

Fresh on the heels of tallying a 19-year unbeaten North American streak with a win at the recent B.C. Highland Games, the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Pipe Band is set to celebrate another mark: two decades of summer instruction at Silver Star Mountain Resort.

Taught by world-class members of the six-time world champion pipe band, more than 280 students are on the mountain now until July 21 to take part in the world’s biggest piping and drumming school, Piping Hot Summer Drummer.

A highlight this year is the concert to be performed Sunday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

The SFU Pipe Band will be accompanied by the entire Piping Hot Summer Drummer student body for a few tunes – a pipe band of more than 200 players.

Last year saw students travel from as far as New Zealand and Europe to participate in the school, while closer-to-home participants included those from Fort St. John, Nelson, Armstrong as well as Vernon.

The instructors also come from varied backgrounds and include SFU Pipe Sgt. Jack Lee and his brother, Pipe Maj. Terry Lee, as well as their sons who are all elite players.

The sessions are as much about building confidence as musical skills, said Jack Lee.

“This has been a commitment of ours for two decades now, and it’s one of the more hands-on ways we engage with the community,” he said. “Not only do the students learn more about playing the instruments, they do so in an idyllic setting.”

For the 20th anniversary, current world solo drumming champion Steven McWhirter and one of the world’s current top pipers, Stuart Liddell, will also serve as tutors along with SFU drum major Reid Maxwell.

It was Maxwell who helped start the program in 1994 as a drumming-only school, pioneered by Vernon bagpiper Don Campbell, who was seeking quality tutoring for his son Arran, a young up-and-coming drummer.

Campbell approached Maxwell, who agreed to travel to Vernon to run a week-long class for local players. It was so successful, it has now grown to include drumming, bagpiping and highland dancing.

In 2009, it expanded from one week to two due to popular demand.

The instructional program precedes a rigorous final practice set as the SFU band prepares for the annual World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland in mid-August.

The band, which has traditionally qualified directly into the final event by finishing each previous year in the top three, will have to qualify this year along with all the other bands as the event spreads into a two-day affair.

The band has also performed at the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts in New York City and has toured all over the world, including the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall and the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall.

“They are excited to be returning to perform in Vernon again, to say thanks to the community for all their support over the past 20 years,” said Rachel Parkinson, publicist with the school.

Many students will also be travelling to the Kamloops Highland Games on Saturday to put the skills they’ve learned to the test in band and solo competitions.

The public is welcome to attend the SFU Pipe Band concert at the Performing Arts Centre, Sunday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30.50, available at the Ticket Seller box office at the centre, or order at 250-549-7469,