Pipes and Drums: Preparation to Parade


Manhattan College’s Pipes and Drums band has been spreading Irish culture since 1981, and this year is definitely no exception. With a large assembly of both students and alumni, Jasper pride is strong among the group’s members.

Alumni members are a large part of what make Pipes and Drums so great, as many other college bands do not allow students to be a part of the band after they graduate. Daniel Murphy, senior civil engineering major and Pipes and Drums’ band manager, looks forward to continuing to play the bagpipes even after receiving his diploma.

“By far my favorite part is the alumni participation. Other college bands […] kick you out once you graduate,” said Murphy in an email statement. “Just that fact alone is great for me as I’m graduating this May. The alumni are a huge reason this band is so great and I look forward to coming back next year as one!”

In addition to having Murphy as the band manager, the band is directed by Michael Hogan ‘91 and pipe majors Iain Chalmers ‘18 and Bryan Smyth ‘19.

Another great aspect of MC’s band is that students do not need to have experience playing neither the bagpipes nor the snare drum in order to join. The band accepts new inexperienced members and will teach them how to play and march.

Olivia Crowley, junior band member, joined the group with no experience, but has grown to love playing the bagpipes.

“I’ve been a member of the Manhattan College Pipes and Drums band since my freshman year. I play the bagpipes. I didn’t know how to play at all when I joined, but the alumni and students who had been playing for years taught me,” said Crowley. “Everybody in the band is friendly and welcoming and it really feels like one big family. It’s great to be a part of that family. Joining the band was definitely the best decision I’ve made during my time at Manhattan College.”

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Manhattan College’s Pipes and Drums invites alumni to march alongside current members during the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade allowing generations to come together to celebrate and participate in Irish culture. OLIVIA CROWLEY/COURTESY

Throughout the school year, Pipes and Drums has a number of performances, including Memorial Day parades, Veterans Day parades, the Bronx Irish Music Festival and most notably, many St. Patrick’s Day parades.

It has been a Manhattan College tradition for many years to have alumni, students and family march in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade along with the Pipes and Drums members. This is often the most memorable performance and overall experience for the band, as the celebration is bigger than any other.

This year, Pipes and Drums once again marched on the parade route on March 17.

“My favourite memory is marching up 5th Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day, there is nothing like turning onto the avenue and seeing it lined with all of the cheering people and getting to march up it,” said Smyth.

Crowley also shared a similar sentiment when asked about her favorite part of performing.

“Marching in the parades is always a fun experience, but there is something truly special about the NYC parade. It’s an incredible feeling to turn onto 5th Avenue and see a sea of green cheering for you. This year was my third time marching in that parade and the entire experience still amazes me,” said Crowley.

She continued.

“At the end of the parade, the band will play a set while the Manhattan contingent walks off the parade route. There are always a lot of people marching behind us with Manhattan and you can really feel the bond that the Jasper community shares at the end of that parade.”

In addition to performing on their own, Pipes and Drums collaborates with some other campus groups, including the Gaelic Society. The Gaelic Society invites Pipes and Drums to perform at their Irish Night each year, and many students are members of both organizations. In addition, the Gaelic Society and the Pipes and Drums band work together in organizing MC’s involvement in the New York City parade.

A lot of time and effort goes into preparing for performances, and the band meets every week to practice.

“Typically we meet on Thursday nights. The bagpipers meet in Thomas Hall to practice new songs and old on our practice chanters. Likewise, the drummers go to Cornerstone in Miguel. After warming up we all meet in Smith Auditorium to practice together as a band on our bagpipes and snare drums,” said Murphy.

As the spring semester comes to a close, the band is finishing up with their last performances and looking forward to recruitment and practicing again next fall semester.

“There’s not much left for the rest of the year. We have two more St. Patrick’s Day Parades this weekend: McLean Avenue and Bay Ridge,” said Chalmers. “After that we just continue practicing for a few weeks until the end of the semester preparing for the Memorial Day Parades.  Then we get the summer off and pick back up when the fall semester begins.”