Macalester Pipe Band Spring Concert. bagpipe jokes included

By Mariana Roa Oliva

Anticipating the Spring Pipe Band Concert of this year, we conversed with Mike Breidenbach, the current director of the band. Breidenbach, a Pipe Major, graduated from Macalester College, has been conducting the band for about ten years, and has played the bagpipes since he started college.The discrimination bagpipes often face has not been an impediment for the Macalester College Pipe Band, which keeps rehearsing on campus all year long, and performing on the Concert Hall at least once every semester.

There is a fair number of pipe bands based in the Twin Cities, including the Minnesota Police Pipe Band, one of the best pipe and drum bands in the nation, and the Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band, which has performed with Green Day and Blink-182. Yet, in the words of Breidenbach, Macalester Pipe Band is “as good as or better than the other bands in town, partly because of the concerts we’ve played, partly because of our level as a competition band.” In fact, last year at the Minnesota Games, the band won second place in the MSR (March, Strathspey and Steel, a type of musical arrangement for pipe band) and Medley sections, and the year before they won first place in both events. Recently, the band has been to Michigan, Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Seattle to compete.

When asked about his own experience with bagpiping, Breidenbach commented that, “I started playing the bagpipes here at Macalester. I was planning to be a music major and bagpipe lessons, as you know, are free, so I decided to try out and it turned out to be a lot of fun.”

In relation to his experience directing the band, he said that, “It’s fun to play and to see people improve, but of course it can also be frustrating when we don’t perform as good as we would like to.” Breidenbach also noted that this year the band has several students performing for the first time in the Spring Concert. The repertoire they have been preparing includes modern and traditional Scottish tunes.

The Macalester Pipe Band is composed of students, alumni, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community non-affiliated with the college. According to Breidenbach, there are about 40 people performing in the band, and another 10 to 15 students learning the basics to play with the full band.

The Macalester Pipe Band will be performing next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. The concert is free for students, staff and faculty; and yes, there will be bagpipe jokes.