“My confidence level improved immensely. Being an older player I don’t have time to waste. The instructors at the Balmoral School instructed me on exactly what I needed to do to improve. Other pipers in our band went to other schools that had much larger classes and they did not receive anything to compare to the small focused sessions at Balmoral.”
David Hopper, Illinois session student

City Paper cover story
How Balmoral School made a difference in the life of one young person … who is now making a difference in the lives of others

Highland piper Lyric Todkill was attracted to the alluring music of the pipes and registered for the fine instruction and mentoring of the Balmoral School staff at the Kentucky summer session in 1998. Lyric had a vision which led him to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious music conservatory. Lyric is only the second person in the world to hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music performance on the bagpipe. Under the direction of famed Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies, Lyric received his degree in 2003 along with his Graduate Teacher Certificate from the Institute of Piping in Glasgow, Scotland.

After a successful amateur career, including overall wins at the George Sherriff, Nicol-Brown, and United States Piping Foundation, Lyric turned professional in 2003. Since that time, he has been a member of the Scottish Lion 78th Fraser Highlanders and in 2005 began teaching piping full time at St. Thomas’ Episcopal School in Houston, Texas, and led the band to their fifth win of the Junior World Pipe Band Championship. Today, he is instrumental in the lives other young people encouraging them to love the Scottish traditions and develop their expertise as pipers and drummers.

Lyric is now a member of the advisory board of Balmoral School.

Bagpiping: Then and There, Here and Now

A Brief History of Bagpipes

Here are some facts regarding the history of bagpiping as well as its impact on the US:

Reed instruments similar to the reeded pipes on a bagpipe have been found in the pyramids of ancient Egypt from 3000 BC, as well as, in several archeological sites that are much older.

During the late Middle Ages, bagpipes were common instruments, with more than 100 varieties throughout Europe.

During the baroque period, the French bagpipe called the musette de ceour was a favored court instrument, from which were derived the Northumbrian bagpipes.

Pipes were played by the Scots to signal the clansmen or soldiers and intimidate the enemy on the fields of battle. In 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, Piper Reid was executed for playing the bagpipe, labeled by the English an "instrument of war," when out with the Jacobite army.

During World War I, more than 1,000 Scottish and Irish pipers were killed in battle or from wounds.

The first US bagpipe society was formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1901.

There are more bagpipers in the US than ever before — over 10,000.

Alasdair Gillies, principal instructor of Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming, has won more competitions in Scotland than any piper in history.

Bagpipes are being learned today by a growing number of women, some of whom have won top competitions in Scotland.

Bagpipes have become increasingly popular in non-traditional genres of music, particularly rock and roll as well as heavy metal. Bands and musicians that have incorporated bagpipes into songs and albums include Paul McCartney, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, The Darkness, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Enter the Haggis and AC/DC.

Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming instructors — past and present

Jimmy Anderson
George Balderose
Jimmy Bell
John Bottomley
Rob Boyd
Gail Brown
Maureen Connor
Mike Cusack
P/M Brian Donaldson
P/M Alasdair Gillies
P/M Norman Gillies
Nick Hudson
Murray Henderson
Richmond Johnston
Peter Kent
Kathy Thomas Kinderman
P/M Ron Lawrie
Donald Lindsay*
Jack Lee
James MacColl
Ian MacDonald, Glasgow
P/M Jimmy MacGregor*
Donald MacPhee
Willie McCallum
Donald McBride
John McDougall*
James McIntosh, MBE*
Joyce McIntosh
P/M Iain McLellan, BEM
P/M Harry McNulty
Adrian Melvin
Gordon Mooney
P/M Iain Morrison
Jacky Pincet*
Dr. Jack Taylor
Lyric Todkill
P/M Terry Tully
Nancy Crutcher Tunnicliffe
Scot Walker
P/S John Wilson

*Piobaireachd students of P/M Robert U. Brown and P/M Robert B. Nicol of Balmoral

Bert Barr
Richard Baughman
Bernadette Bell
Gordon Bell
Graham Brown
Drew Duthart
Michael Eagle
John Fisher
Hunter Gullickson
Andrew Hoinacki
Mark Humphrey
Alex Kuldell
J. Reid Maxwell
Liza McAdam
Duncan Miller
Jon Quigg
Jim Sim
Doug Stronach
Andy White


A Brief History of the Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming

by George Balderose
Executive Director and Co-Founder

The Balmoral School is the oldest non-profit, tax-exempt 501.c.3 bagpiping and Scottish drumming school in the US. Its summer sessions have taken place in more than 22 college and university locations, and the school is the only certified US Government vendor for bagpipe instruction.

Founded in 1979 by George Balderose and James McIntosh, M.B.E, the Balmoral School features top piping and drumming instructors taking part in the seven summer weeks of courses in the art of Highland piping, bellows smallpiping, and snare, tenor and bass drumming. Pipe Major Brian Donaldson (ret. Scots Guards), Willie McCallum, John Wilson (ex P/S Strathclyde Police), and others currently provide instruction at various Balmoral sessions in California, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, and Pennsylvania this summer. Besides these piping "celebrities," the school has a staff of teachers experienced in teaching both young and adult students from rank beginner up to competitive standards.

A major feature of the Balmoral School summer sessions are small classes of a maximum 3-5 students per hour, with 3-4 classes each day, mostly with different instructors.

The name "Balmoral School" derives from the fact that most, if not all, of the piobaireachd instructors at the Balmoral School are in some way connected to the piobaireachd interpretation and teachings of Robert Urquhart Brown and Robert Bell Nicol, pipers to the Royal Family at Balmoral Castle, the royal residence in the Highlands, from 1927 until their passing in the 1970's. They studied piobaireachd under for six weeks each autumn for a period of about 13 years with the great piobaireachd master John MacDonald of Inverness, who always stressed the importance of singing the tune before playing it. As time went on, the students of "Bobs of Balmoral" won many of the major competitions in Scotland, and the "Bobs" became recognized by many as primary tradition bearers of the five century- old piobaireachd musical legacy of Scotland. Jim McIntosh, Andrew Pitkeathly, Jimmy MacGregor, and others became "bearers" of this traditional music and style. Donald MacLeod also attended many of these sessions at Balmoral with John MacDonald of Inverness.

Over the years the Balmoral instructional staff has included: Jimmy Anderson, George Balderose, Jimmy Bell, John Bottomley, Rob Boyd, Gail Brown, Maureen Connor, Nancy Crutcher-Tunnicliffe, Mike Cusack, Brian Donaldson, Alasdair Gillies, Norman Gillies, Murray Henderson, Nick Hudson, Richmond Johnston, Ronnie Lawrie, Jack Lee, Donald Lindsay, James MacColl, Iain MacDonald, John MacDougall, Jimmy MacGregor, Donald MacPhee, Donald McBride, James McIntosh, Joyce McIntosh, Ian McLellan BEM, Harry McNulty, Gordon Mooney, Iain Morrison, Jackie Pincet, Dr. Jack Taylor, Lyric Todkill, Terry Tully, Scot Walker, and John Wilson. Drumming instructors have included Bert Barr, Gordon Bell, Richard Baughman, Graham Brown, Michael Eagle, Hunter Gullickson, Andrew Hoinacki, J. Reid Maxwell, Liza McAdam, Jon Quigg, and Andy White.

It should be noted that from 1979 to 1988, there were at least two separate entities producing summer piping sessions that used "Balmoral School" in their titles. In 1988, these two entities were combined into one. The northern session's summer school, founded by George Balderose and James McIntosh in 1979, was located for many years at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. The southern session, founded by Albert McMullen (Director, 1979-87) and James McIntosh, over the years took place at a number of locations including Gilford College (North Carolina) and Davidson College (North Carolina). Drumming instructors included Alex Duthart, Bert Barr, Drew Duthart, and Jim Kilpatrick. Albert also started a Balmoral School in Houston, Texas in 1982, principally for St. Thomas' Episcopal School students. This session is now directed by Lyric Todkill.

Over the past three decades, several thousand piping and drumming students in the USA have received piping and drumming tuition at the Balmoral sessions. The Balmoral Schools have made a significant contribution to raising the standard of piping and drumming in the USA. The Balmoral School of Piping has produced the only three Americans to win the prestigious Highland Society of Scotland Gold Medal, awarded at the Northern Meeting, Inverness, held annually since 1844, and the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban. One of these champion pipers, past instructors and advisory board member Mike Cusack, led the St. Thomas Episcopal School Pipe Band of Houston, Texas, to win the 1985, 1995, 1998, and 2004 Junior World Championships in Scotland. In 2006, Lyric Todkill, current Balmoral advisory board member and Mike Cusack's successor as piping instructor at St. Thomas Pipe Band, led the band to the 2006 Junior World Championship in Scotland.

The Balmoral School awards between $4000 and $7000 in scholarships for young talented teenagers to attend the summer sessions. It also sponsors concerts that feature bagpipe, organ and choir

The Balmoral Classic

For current information on this major Pittsburgh bagpiping event, please contact BalmoralClassic.org.

Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming campuses — past and present

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina
Denver University, Denver, Colorado
East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Edinboro University, Edinboro, Pennsylvania
Holy Names College, Oakland, California
University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana
Laurel Hill State Park, Somerset, Pennsylvania
Lewis University, Romeoville, Illinois
Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
North Central College, Naperville, Illinois
Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
Regis College, Denver, Colorado
Saint Joseph’s Center, Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Shady Side Academy, Fox Chapel/Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon, Washington
Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California
St. John's Military School, Salina, Kansas
St. John's Northwestern Military Academy, Delafield, Wisconsin
Thomas More College, Crestview Hills, Kentucky
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington