2015 marked our 9th year together. In some ways it seems so long ago we gathered together; a group of strangers, to see what this concept was all about. We looked around the room and recognized some familiar faces, but more often our gaze was met by complete strangers. We listened intently, while those with the vision of what we could become laid the plan before us. We quickly learned this would not be an easy thing, but few things in life worth having rarely are. At that first meeting, a cornerstone was set into place, which became a foundation for a group of men and women the likes of which had never been seen. We have heard these words from so many of our members; “I have been in many pipe bands, but I have never been a part of anything like this.”
Over the past 9 years, that room full of strangers has met with challenges and triumphs, with difficulties and frustration, and are strangers no longer. Few remain of the original group, but if you look around, you might be able to pick out the six founding members who remain. They have survived through adversity and stand a little straighter than most, maybe just a bit proud, and rightfully so, but if you speak with them you will not hear of any pride, but instead a sharp wit or quick bit of humor, used as a disguise for humility. Hopefully, you will see in them the virtues the band strives for: honor, duty, and service. They are fiercely protective of this group and all who are involved with it. Most of all, they are thankful. They are thankful for this group of men and women here today, because we would not be where we are now without them.
Throughout the year we have managed to maintain relationships with organizations such as the USO, Wives Behind the Badge, and the City of Raleigh. We have continued to honor our public safety brothers and sisters through our support of graduation, promotion and retirement ceremonies for organizations around the area, including the Raleigh Fire Department, Raleigh Police Department, Cary Police Department, Wake County Sherriff’s Department, the NC Highway Patrol, and the NC State Bureau of Investigation. We have even managed to forge new relationships with great local organizations, like the Raleigh Comic Con and the Carolina Hurricanes. Through it all, we have never wavered from our founding mission and reason for being here, to honor our fallen.
The band once again found time to devote to competition this year, attempting to field three different grade level bands in contests across the southeast, and as far north as Chicago. The instructors have always said that competing makes you an overall better player, and the majority of our band’s roster chose to accept the challenge and find out if this statement was true. It presented us all with incentive to push harder and commit fully to the task. It also allowed us to have a lot of fun and continue building relationships with pipe bands near and far that we are honored to call our friends.
While 2015 has been a lot of business as usual, it has been a different year for the group as well. Much of this year has been devoted to looking inward as a group. It shouldn’t really be described as a rebuilding; it is more of an exploration into what we can truly become. The instructors are focusing the players on exactly what it will take to become something more; something better than we are even now. The commitment level of our members is being constantly tested. This year the group has been very fortunate to have several of the best and brightest players and instructors in the region seek us out and contribute their talents and abilities to making us all better, stronger musicians.
As 2015 draws to a close, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar place. Our pipe band home, Tir na nOg Irish Pub, recently closed it’s doors for the last time, after providing years of great memories for the local Irish community. Fortunately, local Irish roots grow deep, and we have been graciously adopted by another fixture in Raleigh’s Irish scene, the Hibernian. While we miss the old pub already, we are excited for what the future holds with our new old friends on Glenwood South.
After a year with so much introspection and growth for many of our members, we can’t help but anticipate what lies ahead. We have come through so much, and there is much left to conquer. Only those who focus and commit will survive. Several inspirational moments have worked their way to the forefront of our consciences this year. Two that stand out in my mind are these – and we hope to find our way to both…
“We aren’t just playing music. We are playing history.”
“Practice as if you have never won. Perform as if you have never lost.”
– Lloyd Johnson
Lloyd Johnson is a Captain with the City of Raleigh Fire Department and a founding member (bagpiper) of the Wake and District Public Safety Pipes and Drums. His daughter, Jessica is also a member of the band as a tenor drummer.
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