BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Every Thursday after the last bell at Governor Livingston rings, most students run to catch the bus or to get into their cars. However, one group of students begin the long walk down to the band room. On Thursday something special happens, something almost magical. Thursdays are for bagpipe practice.
Pipe practice is run by Governor Livingston teacher Mr. Bolger, who is currently in a pipe corp and has been piping for several years. The pipers are a diverse group, consisting of about fifteen students of all high-school ages, and one-eighth grader. Each piper is at a different level, depending on when he or she started to learn. Many freshmen are just learning to use the ‘practice chanter’, which is a small instrument similar to a recorder that must be mastered in order to play the bagpipes. Most students have already moved on to playing the actual bagpipes. GL junior and pipe major Ben Cook started learning to bagpipe in his freshman year. His hard work and natural talent made it possible for him to succeed in the Corp and be promoted to the highest level in the pipe Corp in his sophomore year. He quickly mastered the basic tunes and progressed on to more challenging pieces such as reels and jigs.
The dynamic of the bagpiping corp is truly incredible, as many of the bagpipers have formed close friendships. GL junior Arden Foster, who has been a part of the bagpiping corp since her sophomore year, described the deep bonds formed by these musicians, stating that from bagpiping she discovered new friends. Many of the friendships pipers form blossom not only due to their shared love for piping, but due to the amount of time they spend together during practice. These practices, though they are educational and productive, are laid back and pretty fun. When the pipers are there, they are constantly laughing and making inside jokes, as most close friend groups do. Through their practices and by teaching and learning from each other, the Governor Livingston bagpipers form close friendships and a tight-knit community.
Naturally, the group is always looking for new members. Pipe major Ben Cook encourages students to try piping, stating, “Bagpipes are a great instrument to play, and display much of this school’s character and heritage.” Of course, he is referring to Governor Livingston’s connection to Scottish culture, which allowed the pipers to perform with the marching band in Scotland over the summer.
All in all the bagpipers have a lot of fun, while learning to make beautiful music in the classic GL style.
Editor's Note: The Highlander section features articles written for The Highlander, Gov. Livingston High School's student newspaper.