If John Errico ’08 and John Graham ’08 have their way, the melody of bagpipes may soon overtake sirens among the most frequently heard sounds in New Haven.
The two sophomores launched Bulldog Pipes and Drums, a new undergraduate club dedicated to traditional Scottish music, this fall. Last spring Errico postered the campus to gauge interest in the instrument and offer lessons — Graham took notice, and the two have been partners ever since. Now they are trying to spread bagpiping across Yale, after an original bagpiping group folded two years ago when its organizer graduated.
“I got a huge response, and John expressed the most interest, so together we are trying to bring bagpiping back to Yale,” said Errico, a veteran musician who learned to play the bagpipes through a high school music course.
So far this year, he and Graham have organized one group lesson, appeared at the freshman bazaar, and placed an order for practice chanters, recorder-like instruments used to teach novice bagpipers.
“There are 25 people who are interested in Bulldog Pipes and Drums, but it’s tough because our club is literally being born right now,” said Graham, who first used a DVD to learn the bagpipes and then took free lessons from Errico.
Though they are receiving positive responses, Graham said the club is struggling with funding.
Last year after officially registering as a club, they applied to get funding from the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee but said they were denied. Graham and Errico have now applied for a Sudler Grant, and they said if that fails, they will again turn to the UOFC.
“We are not sure how to get funding, and we encourage people to contact us by e-mail with fund-raising ideas,” Graham said. “Our eventual goal of course is to perform.”
At this point, this goal remains distant because only five members of Bulldog Pipes and Drums own practice chanters, which have the same fingering as bagpipes and are easier to play.
Current practices, which are held every Thursday at 7 p.m., are only useful to people who own chanters, although the organizers welcome anyone who is interested to stop by or e-mail them.
The club is also actively seeking drummers. Mike Drapala ’08, a roommate of Errico’s, has been Bulldog Pipes and Drums’ percussion leader for the past year.
“Not as many people want to drum as play the bagpipes,” Drapala said. “We only have two, but it’s coming along.”
Although Errico wants his new organization to last longer than the previous bagpiping club, he said he hopes that they both have at least one common trait.
“The previous group designed a Yale tartan,” he said. “For next year our goal is to have a uniform that incorporates this plaid.”
Errico said many know bagpiping as much for the distinctive attire the musicians wear while performing as the instrument’s sound.
“John played the bagpipes at the bazaar and I was wearing my kilt,” Graham said. “It was a visual and audio cue that got a lot of people to come over and talk to us.”
Novice bagpipers Tony Garvan ’07 said he is looking forward to learning to play a unique instrument that lacks representation in Yale’s numerous other musical groups.
“Music is spiritual, and people relate to the divine in all sorts of ways,” he said in an e-mail. “I felt so elevated when I first heard the bagpipes.”
When asked how difficult he thought it would be to learn to play the bagpipes, Garvan said he plans to practice daily.
“I am not sure, but I plan to practice everyday at 6 o’clock outside the [Yale Daily News] reader’s dorm window,” he said in an e-mail.
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