Living the Highland Park Pipe Dreams

This year’s drum majors do double duty for the marching band

Highland Park musicians Gage Swords, Natalie Koch, and Jake Wood have a reputation to uphold as the only high school in Texas with bagpipe players.

Before each football game, the three bagpipers – doubling as drum majors this year – make sure Scots’ opponents know they are coming with battle cries that can be heard from 10 miles away.

“The bagpipes have been a really strong and visible tradition at our school for a long time, and being able to be a part of and carry on that tradition is one of the things that led us to play the bagpipes,” Koch explained. “Additionally, we were all recruited by the pipers of years past, and were also drawn in by the opportunity to play such a unique instrument.”

Unlike other wind players, bagpipers maintain a constant sound and unvaried volume, uninterrupted by taking breaths,  by squeezing air they store in the instrument’s bag through the pipes as they play.

The pipe majors, who also play more traditional band instruments, have all played bagpipes each year of high school. With Swords and Wood starting in seventh grade, several recruits are at Highland Park Middle School.

“The Bagpipe Corps is currently an entirely student-led organization, and in order to graduate to become a fully ‘kilted’ bagpiper, you must be dedicated enough to put in the practice necessary to master the instrument,” Koch said.

Serving as a drum major also requires dedication.

“As a drum major, you do so much more than just conduct the band,” Koch said. “While that is the most well-known and visible part of being drum major, there is so much more going on behind the scenes, and you must be dedicated to fulfilling all your duties, both on and off the field.”

Those include helping the director run rehearsals and setting examples for other band members.

“My favorite part of being in the band is the sense of community,” Koch said. “With the amount of practice we put into it, we get to know each other a lot, and it’s a great feeling to be able to put an incredible show on the field with everybody.”

Amelia Taylor is a senior at Highland Park High School. 

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