Premier is very proud to announce the addition of the City of Chicago Pipe Band to its world class roster.
Founded in 2003 as a competition band with the aim of competing at the highest international level, the City of Chicago Pipe Band saw a steady rise and fast promoted to Grade 1 where improvement is continuous thanks to the dedication of the players, and one of the finest teaching groups ever assembled in North America.
In addition to a strong competitive element, members of the band devote much of their time to instructing Chicago area youth, where since its inception, the band has been firmly committed to offering free bagpiping and drumming lessons to anyone aged between 8 to 18 years old.
In 2011 the City of Chicago Pipe Band topped its most successful season to date with a Grade 1 drumming win at the North American Championships.
The drum corps lead by Chris Barr, play Premier HTS 800 snare drums with Diamond Chrome hardware and Premier Professional Series mid section, all finished in a beautiful Autumn Cherry Lacquer.
Chris Bar recently gave Premier an insight into his career, inspirations and thoughts on pipe band drumming.
Please tell us a little about yourself and the City of Chicago Pipe Band.
I have been married to my beautiful wife Kelly for 4 years and we’ve been blessed with two amazing children, Cayla and Colton. We currently reside in Clinton Township, Michigan with the hopes of moving to a more rural area in the very near future. I have been a professional pipe band drummer for much of my life. I’m currently the lead drummer for the Grade 1 City of Chicago Pipe Band. The City of Chicago Pipe Band was founded in 2004 with the goal in mind of reaching the highest possible standard, while still growing the piping and drumming community around us. Currently our organisation consists of a Grade 1 band, Grade 4 band, and juvenile program which is promising to produce quality players in the very near future. We have over 100 members within the organisation and are growing rapidly. The drum corps talent consists of many phenomenal players residing within the United States. I see big things for the band in the very near future. Our plans are to travel to Scotland in 2013 in hopes of getting through to play on the "big stage" at the World Pipe Band Championships.
As a professional drummer do you have a ‘day job’ and how is this affected?
Yes, I have been fortunate enough to earn a living doing what I love. I am the owner of Barr 1 Highland Supply, which provides everything needed for the pipe band enthusiast. You can check us out at www.barr1highlandsupply.com. My wife and I started the business back in February of 2010, and it’s blossomed from there. How many jobs out there allow you to wake up and talk piping and drumming all day? I also instruct pipe bands and have more than 15 students. I’m one that wakes up every day and can’t wait to go to work. It truly is a dream job.
How and when did you get into pipe band drumming?
My father, Ted Barr, started me at the age of 6. He never pushed drumming on me, but it was something he truly loved which came through in his teaching. My father also taught my brother, who currently plays with me in the City of Chicago Pipe Band. Drumming was always a family affair, which allowed us to develop many great memories together. One of the greatest of these memories was when all three of us played together under Drew Duthart in Grade 1. My brother and I were only 9 and 11 years old at the time and it was an amazing experience at such a young age - a very influential one that helped shape our careers.
What was it about pipe band drumming that attracts you to it instead of say, rock or jazz drumming?
I find rock and jazz drumming very cool and I really enjoy listening to it. Many of my best friends that reside within pipe bands are very accomplished kit players. However, the unique Scottish sound of 11 snares, 6 tenors and a big bass, all playing as one unit, is the biggest rush in the world for me. In the future, I plan to seek out lessons on kit to continually expand my knowledge of drumming. You could say that it is a "must do" on my bucket list.
Who would you consider your favorite or most influential percussionists, pipe band or otherwise and why?
Favorite and influential are two different things for me. It would be difficult to choose one favorite pipe band percussionist, so I will narrow it down to three: Willie Kerr, Jim Kilpatrick and Drew Duthart. Willie was Jim Kilpatrick's flank drummer for years and played with amazing power and finesse. Jim has set the bar of achievement high with all of his success and Drew has helped guide me in my career and shown me what success is like above that bar. My favorite drummer outside of pipe bands would be Neil Peart. He is a truly amazing drummer, who plays with such flair that he is always enjoyable to watch. The most influential pipe band snare drummers in my life would be: Ted Barr, Alan Savage, Drew Duthart, Jim Kilpatrick and my brother Ryan. They have all given me inspiration over the years and have had a big hand in making me the drummer I am today.
Which events would you consider ‘defining’ moments in your career and why?
The biggest defining moment in my career would have to be winning the World Drum Corp Championships in 2007 with the 78th Fraser Highlanders under the leadership of Drew Duthart. Until that point, I had spent 12 years focusing all of my energy on making it to the Worlds and playing for a spot in the finals. To have won that prize over so many accomplished, talented drum corps, was literally a dream come true. The second most defining moment for me was winning the Sets in 2011 in drumming at the North American Championships, with the City of Chicago Pipe Band, during our first year in Grade 1. It solidified our position in the Grade 1 arena. None of these defining moments would be possible without the help of my brother Ryan, who has been drumming by my side throughout our career.
What’s your current corps set up and why do you choose it?
For the 2012 season and beyond, the City of Chicago Pipe Band chose Premier HTS 800 snare drums with Diamond Chrome, and Premier Professional Series mid section, finished in beautiful Autumn Cherry Lacquer. I consider these the best sounding drums on the market, not to mention the phenomenal quality and craftsmanship. I’ve played Premier Drums for most of my 30 year career and have been very successful using them in solo and band contests. We as a drum corps are very excited to get back to a winning sound.
What are your plans during the coming months?
Firstly, I am heading to Winter Storm in Kansas where the City of Chicago Pipe Band will be playing at the concert. We (my brother and I) are also planning on playing in the open solo events. This contest has grown over the last several years and has turned into one of the biggest solo contests in the World, let alone within the US. In past years I have missed this contest due to instructional clinics that I teach in Florida. Once that weekend has passed, we will be focusing most of our energy on a concert/workshop the band has scheduled for the first part of April. We also will continue to refine our competition medleys and sets in preparation for the competitive season starting in May.
What are your feelings about the future of marching drumming in general?
I see a very bright future with all of the young talent that continues to arise. I have numerous students right now with a tremendous amount of talent and drive. It’s great to see many instructional clinics popping up in order to educate our younger drummers. Our future success relies on educating our younger bands. My 2 year old son already holds his sticks properly. No comment yet on how he plays, but he already has great technique!
Do you have any advice for aspiring drummers out there?
First and foremost, seek proper instruction. Next, be sure to practice properly since it is the biggest key to success. I have seen numerous times where a drummer is sitting on a couch in front of the television practicing on their drum pad. To really excel, you must start with proper posture. I instruct my students to sit up straight in front of a mirror (when they can) and really pay attention to all of the fine details. My drum corps use the most defined practice pads possible, which feel very similar to a drum. When practicing individually, and as a corps, every pad is on a stand which promotes good posture. Lastly, beginners should focus strongly on practicing technique rather than learning numerous scores. Technique is everything in drumming and reinforcing this early allows for students to excel quicker and farther than those who have to "unlearn" bad habits along the way. For great success, I would rather see 10 minutes of proper practice as opposed to 45 minutes in front of the TV on the couch.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank my wife for continuing to make my drumming career possible for me. She supports me and stands by my side through good times and bad, giving me the time required to really excel. I would also like to thank my brother Ryan for always being there for me and sharing in all these great memories we’ve created together. Without him, I would not be where I am today.