UCR Bagpipers Win Top Honors

Ian Whitelaw named top professional piper by Western United States Pipe Band Association

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Ian Whitelaw, music director of the University of California, Riverside pipe bands and a lecturer in bagpipe and Scottish music, has won the professional solo piping competition of the Western United States Pipe Band Association (WUSPBA) for 2012 and the aggregate prize at the Angus MacDonald Annual Piping Competition in San Diego. It was his eighth win in WUSPBA competition for professional soloists and his seventh in the MacDonald contest.

Jeanne Surdak, a Loma Linda resident who studies with Whitelaw and is the pipe major of the UCR Grade 3 Pipe Band, won the aggregate prize for Grade 1 solos at the Angus MacDonald Annual Piping Competition in November. Erin Thomson, a master’s candidate in Scottish music at UCR and a Perris resident, placed first in Grade I Piobaireachd competition at the same event. Grade 1 is the top tier of competitors.

Whitelaw is widely regarded as the top piper in North America, said Walter Clark, professor of music. Since his arrival at the university in 2007, the UCR Pipe Band has grown from a small group of pipers and drummers competing in Grade 4 events to more than 40 members who compete as three distinct units in Grades 3, 4 and 5 events, he said.

The establishment of a Grade 3 band is “a feather in the cap” of UC Riverside, Whitelaw said, which makes the campus unique among university music departments nationwide.

The native of Scotland began playing the Scottish Highland Bagpipe at age 9 after hearing a performance that mesmerized him.

“I couldn’t put them down,” he said of the day 46 years ago when his love of piping was born. “I think bagpipes touch people in a personal way.”

Whitelaw performs at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies, and teaches students at UCR and elsewhere in Southern California.

“The bagpipe is such a ceremonial instrument,” he said. “Western people don’t have enough ceremony in our lives. Ceremony acts as a milestone and draws people together. Music draws people together. It’s the common denominator that speaks to our spirits.

Media Contact


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Additional Contacts

Ian Whitelaw
E-mail: ian@aceltictraveler.com

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