Please tell us a little about yourself and your corps.
I began playing snare in October 1991. I had always been running around with sticks, and pounding out rhythms, but it was that fall that I found the right teacher and started to learn seriously. Over the next 10 years I played with the Milton Optimist Juvenile Pipe Band, Peel Police, and 78th Fraser Highlanders, before moving to Scotland in 2002 to play with the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band. This had always been my dream, and I enjoyed a fantastic 6 years playing with Jim Kilpatrick and the band. In the fall of 2007 I returned home and took over position as Lead Drummer of the Peel Regional Police Pipe Band. Together with Pipe Major John Cairns we are very dedicated to trying to one day win the World Pipe Band Championships, and building Peel into a top caliber band that endures for years and years to come.
The corps themselves are a great bunch of people, from many different walks of life. Aside from the local players, I have players traveling from as far away as Houston Texas, and British Columbia. They all put in an incredible amount of work, and it’s great to see the dedication they have for the band.
As a professional drummer did/do you have a day job and how does this affect you?
I recently have stepped down as manager at a retail store to focus more on teaching drumming. My goal is to be able to make pipe band drumming a full time profession. My employer was very good at giving me time away for teaching clinics, summer schools, and performances, which was much appreciated, as doing all these things while also working a full time job can be very difficult.
How and when did you get into pipe band drumming?
I started just before I turned 10, in the fall of 1991. From the moment I could hold them I had been bashing about with drum sticks. The pipe band connection is a family one. My mother is a piper, and in fact was the first ever woman to play with a Grade 1 band (Shotts and Dykehead 1973). So, getting involved in pipe bands was a forgone conclusion. I have two brothers who also play, one a piper, one a snare drummer.
What was it about pipe band drumming that attracts you to it instead of say, rock or jazz drumming?
For me, it’s actually the pipe music that attracts me. I don’t really know what made me want to play drums as opposed to the pipes, but developing a love for the pipe music is what made me want to be involved with a pipe band.
Who would you consider your favorite or most influential percussionists, marching or otherwise and why?
Although this could be a longer list, I can leave it at 4 and be pretty happy.
Alex Duthart - My earliest childhood memory is of Alex being at the house when I was 4 years old and showing me how to hold the sticks, play mamma daddas, and paradiddles. His music is enduring, and his style has been a big influence on me.
Doug Stronach - My teacher. Doug is simply a great teacher and without his instruction I wouldn’t be the player I am today.
Jim Kilpatrick - From as far back as I can remember all I wanted to do was play in Jim’s corps. I spent many days transcribing Shotts music from Worlds cd’s and trying to play his style. He’s been the biggest influence on my playing, as well as a huge influence on me as a person. Besides making me a much better drummer, I learned a lot from Jim on how to conduct yourself as a person, as a leader, and how to successfully run a corps.
Blair Brown - My brother. Blair is a fantastic drummer, and through the years we have always pushed each other and encouraged each other. I think on our own we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Which events would you consider ‘defining’ moments in your career and why?
My whole time with Shotts was definitely big. We won 16 drumming majors, including the Worlds 3 times as a corps, and twice as a band. Also, making the finals at the World Solo Drumming Championships, as it showed me personally that I can compete with the top drummers. Being named Lead Drummer of a Grade 1 band has also been a defining moment.
What’s your current corps set up and why do you choose it?
We’re playing the new Premier HTS 800 snare drums. The drum is very good. The top snare mechanism is the best of any pipe band snare drum. It is consistent, easy to set, and maintain. The drum also has some “body” to it. There is volume and projection, and I find this can be lacking in other drums. We use the Remo Cybermax top heads. I find they give the best clarity of sound, as well as volume and pitch. On the bottom we are using Aquarian heads, which I choose because of the bottom head pitch we can achieve with them. I think it takes the drums to a different level. In the Bass section we are playing Premier Professional Series bass and tenor drums. The tuning range and defined notes are what make these appealing. We use Remo Powermax heads.
What are your plans during the coming months?
August is a busy month as it sees the band traveling to Scotland to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships, as well as the North Berwick, and Bridge of Allan games the week before. For me personally, September will be busy teaching and writing new music, and then October sees me back in Scotland for the World Solo Drumming Championships.
What are your feelings about the future of pipe band drumming in general?
I think the future of Pipe Band drumming is bright. There are many talented people out there teaching and pushing the art forward. I’m interested to see how things develop with the pipe band medley in the coming years, both from a drumming perspective, and an overall band perspective, as I feel there’s some room to push the envelope a little there.
Do you have any advice for aspiring drummers out there?
Two things come to mind:
Really focus on good rudimental playing. Too many young drummers are trying to play material that’s too hard, or are thrown on the drums by their bands before they’re really ready. Put the hard work in and get really good at the basics and everything else will work itself out.
Immerse yourselves in as much pipe band drumming as possible. Go to clinics, workshops, weekly lessons, schools, band practices, recitals. Listen to performances on youtube. Try out different styles and become a complete drummer. There is a lot of great stuff out there, and opportunities available. Take advantage of them.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would just like to add that I’m very excited to be working with Premier. This is a company with a rich history in pipe band drumming, that has always been on the cutting edge with regards to pipe band drum sound. I’m proud to say I play Premier drums.