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The Boise Highlanders

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Meet the Band
Pipe Corps
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Pipe Corps

Pipe Major Grant Harbison

Grant got his start with the Boise Highlanders at the tender age of 16.

Several years, and pipe bands, later he rejoined us in 2010 and has been Pipe Major since 2012. 

Grant brings significant experience from years of pipe band competition to the band.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Band Manager Ron Lopez

My first memory of hearing bagpipes was in a movie called Paratrooper (I have this movie!) in 1954, starring Alan Ladd as a Canadian fighting with the British in WW II.

In High School Marvin McGowan, a friend of mine, invited me to a practice. I met the Pipe Major Ray Briggs. He gave me a practice chanter and the Logan's tutor, opened it up to Barren Rocks of Aden and told me if I could play that by next week I would probably be a piper.  He left the next week and Marvin tutored me for a while. This was in 1960. The Band was the Piping and Dancing Society. Robert McRill joined the band as the new Pipe Major but left a year or so later. 

The Band evaporated. Marvin went to the University of Idaho, one went to MIT another piper went to Boise College and I went to the College of Idaho. I graduated in 1963 and in 1964 McRill's wife Kathy, whom I had known from the first band asked me to join the Treasure Valley Royal Highlanders. I went to the practice where I met a 16-year-old Joyce Bottoms. She had been playing for a couple of years and was given the job of catching me up on their tunes. Fourteen years later Joyce and I were married. We had our son Ryan and later our daughter Sara. They became very productive members of the Boise Highlanders. 

Bob McRill left the band in 1972. He and Kathy had divorced. She was a much better piper than I was and we tossed the "who wants to be P/M" hot potato back and forth. Neither one of us wanted it. Kathy got remarried and left. 

In 1973 Joyce and I attended the Coeur 'd Alene piping school. We met a great young piper Rene' Cusson who was our instructor and the first "real" Bagpiper instructor we ever had.

The turning point for me was when Gunnery Sgt. George Earley joined the band in 1969. McRill had invited him to be our Drum Major. George had gone to Vietnam for his second tour. When he returned he worked with me with leadership. Up to that point, I always marched on the Pipe Sgt. side because I did not feel comfortable marching on the Pipe Major's side. George would have none of that and I became the Pipe Major.  We changed the name to the Boise Highlanders. George convinced me to start our piping school. I told him I couldn't teach. He said, "Sure you can, I will help." We started with the Community Education in 1974.

I was the Pipe Major for 40 years. No one should be the Pipe Major of a band for that long. There were others who could have done just a good a job but none who had the vision I had for the band.

Grant Harbison, who was 17 and one of the piping school students came back and joined our band. I knew he would be the one who had a vision and could take the band further than I ever could. He has done a great job. I am the Band Manager and run the piping school along with some very dedicated Boise Highlanders as instructors. I feel I am piping better now than I ever have thanks to Grant and several others.  

Now my grandsons, Davin and Meric, are in the band and becoming good pipers. Any success I had as a Pipe Major comes from the influence of George Earley and the strong support of Joyce and my Family.

Pipe Sergeant Bill Earley

Bill is our great Dance Piper and lends his years of expertise to playing for our Dance Corps.

He is also an active member of the pipe band, and encourages others to join him in playing dance tunes.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Pipe Sergeant Jordan Pierce

Jordan Pierce started taking lessons from the band's school in 2007 and became an outfitted Boise Highlander in 2008. In 2012, the newly elected Pipe Major selected Jordan as one of his Pipe Sergeants.

Jordan enjoys playing a large variety of tunes, but prefers jigs and hornpipes as genres. 

He credits much of his early progress to Pipe Major Emeritus Ronald Lopez and Brian Reese, and credits Pipe Major Grant Harbison for his further refinement.

Jordan loves how pipers come from different backgrounds. The one thing that brings them all together is the feeling they get when they hear the pipes. Due to his light skin tone and reddish hair many people ask Jordan if he's Irish or Scottish; his reply is "My family's all from Kentucky."

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Pipe Sergeant Brian Reese

Brian began piping at the age of 9. His first lessons were from Ryan Lopez, the son of Ron Lopez.

He joined the Boise Highlanders a year later. He began taking a variety of courses, and competing heavily in 2004.

Ultimately he attended Lyon college briefly in 2008, on a scholarship through bagpiping.

He continued his education in music at Boise State University, and on his own.

Today Brian is a composer, and active teacher in bagpiping. He loves sharing his knowledge and experience with others.

Brian's work was recently published in the Winnipeg Collection.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Davin Aycock

Perhaps one of our most recently outfitted pipers, Davin and his brother Meric officially joined the band in the summer of 2017.

Davin is the son of tenor drummer Sarah Aycock, and grandson of the former Pipe Major Ron Lopez.

His current focus has been on the clean development of embellishments and steady tone.

Great to have you playing with us!

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Meric Aycock

Perhaps one of our most recently outfitted pipers, Meric and his brother Davin officially joined the band in the summer of 2017.

Meric is also the son of tenor drummer Sarah Aycock, and grandson of the former Pipe Major Ron Lopez.

His current focus has been on controlling tempos, and expressing the dreaded "long notes" of his tunes.

Great to have you playing with us!

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Piper Lloyd Blackstone

Lloyd is an active member of the Boise Highlanders, as well as a member of the City of Boise Police Pipes and Drums.

Lloyd is also the first, and to our knowledge only, piper to play at the summit of Mount Borah. 

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Lon Blair

In real life I'm a general dentist. My mother guilted me into playing the pipes by giving me some surprise "Paki" pipes for Christmas then periodically asking if I was playing them yet.

After a year of badgering I took the Highlanders community-ed class and ended up joining the band in 2006. Thanks Mom!

Lon is an active member of the Boise Highlanders, as well as a member of the City of Boise Police Pipes and Drums.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Canyon Blauch-Chappell

One of the most visible success stories from the Boise Highlander piping school.

Canyon began several years ago under the direction of Ron Lopez and Bud Lancaster. 

Over the years, Canyon has developed considerable skill, and an ever-growing technique with the bagpipes.

-Keep it up, Canyon!

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Rob Gallas

My name is Rob Gallas and I am employed by the Boise Police Department.  I was hired in 1999, and proceeded to start learning the bagpipes in 2003 when a fellow officer, Dan Grothaus, sent an email to the department asking if anyone wanted to learn to play the bagpipes.  At the time I could not read music but figured out ways to learn how to “cheat” by writing the note letters all over my music. 

I started in January of that year by taking 1 on 1 lessons from Dan who would stay after his full day’s work to teach me before I came to work the graveyard shift.  I struggled in learning the pipes, but could not quit and let Dan down.  Luckily I stuck with it and soon bought my first set of pipes, and by the Fall of that year I enrolled in the community education classes taught by the Boise Highlanders.  The first thing I was forced to do was to rid myself of all of my “cheat music” and learn how to read music the right way.  So began my association with the Highlanders.

I remember going to the Highland games that year as they were held at the Old Penitentiary and I made it my goal to someday play along with the Highlanders and hopefully add to the sound that had touched my soul.   No other musical instrument touches the heart like the bagpipes. 

I was soon kilted (outfitted) by the Highlanders and began learning the numerous selections of music that were required to be able to perform.  I was also chomping at the bit to become an active member of the City of Boise Police Pipes and Drums, but needed to reach a level of proficiency that seemed to take forever to achieve.  I attended 3 different summer schools to learn the bagpipes and in 2006 I was outfitted as a member of the “Police Band”. 

I have a lot of favorite tunes, but my “go to” tune, and the first one I could march to, is Rowan Tree.  It is a simple tune, while at the same time somewhat noble.  Tunes don’t need to be complicated or fast to impress someone but when you learn the tune “right”, and play it with passion, the feeling you get from playing becomes priceless. 

I enjoy our patriotic, parade, performances the most, as they allow us to march along the streets of Boise with flags waving in honor of our Veterans and this great nation.  We often take for granted what was sacrificed for our freedoms, but the sincerity of the crowd and the stirrings of patriotism create an ‘electricity’ that fills the heart. 

I hope to play well into my retirement and continue to be blessed by the opportunities that playing the bagpipes provides.

Bill Hughes

Bill is one our great holdouts in the band. He's been playing for many years, and has received instruction from a variety of professional pipers.

He's most notably one of the quickest to learn a new set, and take direction without hesitation. 

Bill has recently become one of the cornerstones to the harmony pipers within the band.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Zane Harbison

Zane Harbison joined the Boise Highlander’s in 2013.

His favorite performance is Robbie Burns Night, which takes place in January each year.

His favorite tunes are The Beaches of Harris, St. Ninian’s Centre Parish, and 400%.

Bud Lancaster

Ever wonder why the band often looks so sharp? Well this guy is the answer.

Bud began his piping education through the Boise Highlanders school. 

Today he is an active performer with the band, and instructor through the school.

In addition to all of that, Bud is currently our Quartermaster. Needless to say the Band relies on his prowess and standards!

Scott McCain

"To the make of a piper go seven years of his own learning and seven generations before.

If it is in, it will out, as the Gaelic old word says; if not, let him take to the net or sword.

At the end of his seven years one born to it will stand at the start of knowledge, and leaning a fond ear to the drone, he may have parley with old folks of old affairs."

The Lost Pibroch, Neil Munro

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Deborah Mullner

Deborah joined the Boise Highlanders in 2010, after attending the local piping school.

Before Deborah started with piping she could count on her left hand the times she got to hear actual bagpipe music. She thinks that the best thing about joining the band is that one is suddenly exposed to a lot of bagpipe music and experiences many fun events with fun people.

She enjoys the unique sound of the bagpipes because it is a powerful instrument that when played at the right moment, or in the right setting conveys much meaning.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Judy Pittman

Judy began piping at 19 studying with then PM Ron Lopez.  She later went on to study in Scotland with Hugh MacCallum, getting tutoring from several top class pipers at summers schools and for the past decade studing with PM John Cairns, via Skype.  Her greatest love is the classical form of piping, piobaireachd, which she continues to learn.  After having spent almost her entire adult life with the Boise Highlanders she regards most of the members as dear friends and some as family.  

Her favorite tunes are Jeannie Carruthers, Susan MacLeod and Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran, and her favorite piobaireachd is the Nameless tune Cherede darievea.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Leah Shaw

Leah started to learn the practice chanter in the mid 90's, but didnt become an outfitted playing band member until 2001.

She considers herself a late bloomer.  

 Her favorite tunes include "Star the County" and "Hector the Hero"  as well as 6/8 marches and slow airs.

Her goals with piping include improvement on blowing and steady tone techniques.

Her favorite performances are Trailing of the Sheep and Robbie Burnes night.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Hayden Sinclair

I originally became interested in learning to play after attending several Highland Games and learning that I share my last name with Scottish clan Sinclair. With music played by the Boise Highlanders and the Wicked Tinkers to spark my interest in bagpipes, learning about the piping school was a big opportunity for me that I'm glad I jumped on.

I first started learning how to play the bagpipes through the Boise Highlanders' piping school at the age of 9 in 2008 and I've been playing ever since.

I like my bagpipe music to be full of character. A tune that can convey excitement, cheer, solace, sadness, pride, or any other emotion or feeling effectively is likely a song that I can enjoy.

I also have a soft spot for anything with good harmony. Some of my favorite songs are Road to the Isles, Castle Dangerous, Me and My Chanter, and Highland Cathedral.

I'm extremely grateful that learning to play bagpipes has been so accessible to me. Bagpiping has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of my life for years to come

Sharon Vanderlip

Sharon joined the band in 2016 and her first performance with the band was Burns Night 2018.  

Sharon fell in love with bagpipes the first time she heard them, when she was in kindergarten.  For years she asked her family for a set of bagpipes. In 1966, Sharon’s grandmother bought her the Lawrie bagpipes that she plays today. She remembers her grandmother every time she picks up her pipes. Sharon played in a bagpipe band during her high school years. She is one of the instructors at the Boise Highlanders Piping School.

Sharon thanks everyone who has been an inspiration to her and who helped her on her wonderful piping journey. Special thanks go to Brian Reese, her instructor; Pipe Major Grant Harbison;  Kathy Mars….and of course, to all of the Boise Highlanders!

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography  

Samuel "The Smolder" Ward

Samuel first started learning pipes at the age of 10 yrs. old from his uncle, Tim.

Samuel later began taking lessons from Ron Lopez, Brian Reese, Grant Harbison and Bob Worrall.

He joined the band at the age of 12 and loves playing with them in all the parades, highland games, dinners, etc.

Samuel has participated in a number of piping competitions and continues to enjoy practicing at home as well as with the band.

Along with a few others, he loves to play harmonies in the band medleys which contributes to a more dynamic sound.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Susan Westergard

Susan was first exposed to bagpipes by her Scottish-descended grandmother, who used to play her bagpipe 78 records. Then she heard them live as a teen and was immediately hooked.

Though she played clarinet in high school band and had no clue where or how to learn bagpipes, she always said if she played another instrument it would be the pipes. Then a friend gave her a practice chanter as a 29th birthday gift, so it was time to find lessons. Enter the Boise Highlanders and community education.

So even though she was an older learner, with fine tutelage from Pipe Major Emeritus, Ron Lopez, and other members, Susan joined the band a little under a year later and we haven’t kicked her out yet. Susan helped teach at the piping school for several years a while back and currently serves on the band board.

Susan’s favorite tunes tend to be 6/8 marches because they make you want to swing the kilt pleats, but a nice harmonic or soulful slow air is also a favorite. But mostly it’s the band camaraderie with love of the music that keep her coming back.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

Bryan Whipple

Bryan started on the bagpipes at the rather late age of 45.

His parents sent home a set of Pakastani pipes they had found. The bag was rotten, and one drone did not work correctly.

He found a teacher who had been playing since he was 12.

Bryan played with the Galloway Highlanders in Ogden, UT and then joined the Boise Highlanders in 2003.

Photo courtesy of Jacquelynn Holly Photography

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LAST UPDATED: 03/16/20

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