Emphasizing Highlander tradition, school seeks students for bagpipe band

Baldwin+school+leaders+are+looking+for+students+to+play+in+a+new+bagpipe+band.

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Baldwin school leaders are looking for students to play in a new bagpipe band.

Kalonga Mwenda and Grace Spozarski

Baldwin High School has been represented by the image of a Fighting Highlander since the high school’s opening in 1939, and for years, it has been a tradition for bagpipes to be played during graduation ceremonies. Now, however, Baldwin school leaders are looking for students to play in a new bagpipe band.

Interested Baldwin students from seventh grade though senior year are being sought. Because this is not an easy instrument to learn, the bagpipe band is expected to practice for two years before performing in public, but upperclassmen can still join and learn how to play.

An informational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium.

Principal Shaun Tomaszewski proposed the idea of a bagpipe band to cultivate more school spirit.

“Having the Highlander be a physical mascot makes people smile, and the more people we have smiling the better,” Tomaszewski said. “We should have bagpipes to make these things that are outward manifestations of our high school show everyone we are the Fighting Highlanders.”

Tomaszewski recalls seeing students playing the instrument in photos from earlier editions of the yearbook.

“If you look in older Baldwin yearbooks, you can see we used to have students playing bagpipes, and then at some time it sort of fell apart,” Tomaszewski said.

The band will be led by Palmer Shonk, who is heavily involved in the Pittsburgh bagpipe community and is the director of the bagpipe band at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Shonk has been playing bagpipes since the age of 10, and teaching the instrument professionally for five years now. 

We should have bagpipes to make these things that are outward manifestations of our high school show everyone we are the Fighting Highlanders.”

— Principal Shaun Tomaszewski

“I’m passionate about the music and I just love being around the instrument,” Shonk said. “The other great reason to teach bagpipes is to introduce new musicians to what can easily become a lifelong endeavor that they can continue after middle school, high school, and beyond.” 

Shonk created a proposal for a Baldwin bagpipe band that was approved by the school board.

“Having bagpipes at Baldwin will allow the school to set itself apart from other schools by offering unique school spirit and culture,” Shonk said.

Baldwin band Director Marissa Virgin said the bagpipe band will be its own ensemble, separate from marching band.

“The bagpipe band will practice fully on their own, and they will not be attached to the marching band,” Virgin said. “They are two separate ensembles that we hope will perform alongside each other in the future.”

Virgin encourages everyone to give the bagpipe band a try – whether they have played an instrument before or not. The band will be an after-school extracurricular activity, not a class during the school day.

“Anyone can be a part of it – no music experience required,” Virgin said.