THE STUART HIGHLANDERS PIPE BAND
The Stuart Highland Pipe Band was founded in 1964 under the auspices of the First Parish Church in Bedford, Massachusetts. The original members knew they wanted to form a performing musical group and initially explored forming a banjo band. They gave up the idea when they realized it would be hard to procure the necessary instruction. A parishioner of Scottish descent suggested they mine the rich Celtic pockets of the Boston area and form a bagpipe band instead. The group turned to a local piper, Archie MacLeod to lead as first pipe major and principal instructor. MacLeod, raised in Johnstone, Scotland, brought to the band the lessons he had acquired under the legendary piper Robert Reid.
With Royal Stuart tartan kilts obtained at surplus from the British Army, the band was properly outfitted and originally took the name The Stuart Highlanders Regimental Pipes and Drums. The band moved and changed over the years along with the changes in the greater Boston area, but always the band stuck to its mission of teaching and performing pipes and drums to the best of their ability. Etched on the band’s cap badge, and taken in tribute to Bedford’s historic roots, is the Latin motto, Vince Aut Morire, (“Victory or Death”). The motto appears on the Bedford flag, the oldest in the United States, and a flag that was carried by the Minutemen at the Battle of Old North Bridge during the Revolutionary War.
Today, The Stuart Highlanders boasts more than 80 members and three successful performing groups. The band continues to perform and compete in festivals and events worldwide, including performance at the Basel Military Tattoo in Basel, Switzerland and successful competitive forays in Ontario, Canada and Scotland.
Over the fifty-one years since the its founding, the band has actively pursued its mission to spread a greater appreciation for the art of Scottish bagpipes and drums and Scottish culture in general.
COMPETITION & PERFORMANCE
The Stuart Highlanders are an active competition band, successfully performing and competing at Scottish Highland games and festivals across eastern North America and Scotland. The band fields three competition groups across three grades of competition, each of which regularly see success on the competition field.
The Stuart Highlanders have been an active competition band since 2002. Pipe band competition is a feature of Highland Games and festivals and pushes bands to play at their finest. Bands are judged on musicality, quality of sound, and overall ensemble effect. Bands are “graded” at differing levels of ability from grade 5, the lowest beginner level, to grade 1, reserved for bands at the highest level of competition in the world. The Stuart Highlanders made their first competitive effort at the grade 5 level in 2002 and have fielded a band in every grade over the years in a steady progression to grade 1, the top grade of competition. Today, the Stuart Highlanders organization boasts three bands competing in grades 1, 4 and 5.
In 2011, the band had a successful season, winning second place at the prestigious North American Championships in Maxville, Ontario. The band also made the first overseas journey since its founding to compete in the grade 2 competition at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. The band won the qualifying heat with straight first places and went on to place first in piping and fifth overall in the final competition.
In 2012, the band continued its winning efforts, placing third in grade 2 at the North American Championships in Maxville, Ontario.
In late 2013, the band welcomed many members formerly of the grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band from the Albany area of New York. The combination of talents from the two groups fulfills the mutual goal of all involved to combine the many talents that are scattered across the eastern seaboard, and to ultimately develop a world-class American pipe band. Steps closer toward this goal were made when the band was upgraded to grade 1, the top level of competitive bands, by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) in May of 2014. The Stuart Highlanders made their first venture into the highest grade of competition by traveling to Scotland once more and won the top prize at the Perth Highland games. The band made a successful debut in the premier grade at the World Pipe Band Championships, placing ahead of several well-established grade 1 bands. The band is currently one of only two grade 1 level pipe bands in the USA.
The Stuart Highlanders grade 4 and 5 bands are not without their own competitive success. The grade 4 band has consistently placed in the top of the prize list over the last several competitive seasons, and performed undefeated on the US competition circuit in 2015. The band most recently finished third at the 2015 North American Championships in Maxville, Ontario. The grade 5 band, four months after being newly formed as a teaching group with newly recruited members and learner pipers and drummers, made their competitive debut at the New Hampshire Indoor competition in April 2015. Since then, the grade 5 band has appeared across the eastern competition circuit, making steady progress and finishing ahead of other, older established bands.
The Stuart Highlanders make regular appearances in parades and festivals across New England. For many years running, the band has staged concerts and made notable appearances at events throughout New England. The band makes regular appearances at holiday parades across the state of Massachusetts. While in Scotland, The Stuart Highlanders have been one of the featured pipe bands performing during Glasgow’s International Festival of Piping, known as Piping Live! The Stuart Highlanders have regularly performed in concert and with past appearances at Fenway Park. In 2012, the grade 4 band traveled to Basel, Switzerland to perform in the prestigious Basel Military Tattoo.