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Old 10-29-2009, 08:30 AM
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ilbegone ilbegone is offline
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Default Let's cut math and science instead

A move to save UC Riverside bagpipe, Scottish drumming programs hit by budget cuts

October 24, 2009

Special to The Press-Enterprise

Two years ago, UC Riverside became the only college in the country to offer music majors the chance to concentrate on bagpiping or Scottish drumming.

It made sense. The university's nickname is the Highlanders. Residence halls have Scottish names: Aberdeen-Inverness, Lothian and Bannockburn. And the school has its own tartan plaid registered in Scotland.

It appeared to be working. The bagpipe band started winning competitions. The world-class bagpiper hired to lead the program started to be recognized on campus. Alumni were excited. Students enrolled to continue studying the bagpipes.

That all changed last month. The university's $51 million budget gap this school year led officials to lay off the bagpipe and Scottish drumming instructors.

Cuts in state aid and increasing operating costs have led to similar budget gaps at all University of California campuses. In response, UC leaders have increased student fees, cut employee pay and decreased enrollment. While those decisions garnered headlines, campus leaders have made many smaller-scale cuts, such as those in the UCR music program.

Those smaller-scale cuts have also caused individuals to mobilize to save programs. At UCR, bagpipe band members have already raised almost $8,000, enough to keep Ian Whitelaw, the bagpipe instructor, leading the band through the winter quarter.

Ian Whitelaw leads a rehearsal of a portion of the UCR Pipe Band. Whitelaw's position was eliminated in budget cuts, but money was raised to pay his salary through the winter quarter. UCR, which offered bagpiping and Scottish drumming majors, also laid off the drumming instructor.

They hope to raise more to permanently restore Whitelaw's position and the Scottish drumming spot once filled by Ed Best.

Students, alumni and faculty are upset and concerned about the future of bagpiping and Scottish drumming on campus.

"We had quite a program," said Walter Clark, a music professor who was department chairman when Whitelaw and Best were hired. "They were doing a lot of winning. And, let's face it, that's something UCR is not used to doing."

Getting Started

In 2000, Mike Terry, assistant director of facilities at UCR who has played the bagpipes since 1987, started the UC Riverside Pipe Band. The 45-member band -- made up of students, university employees and community members -- receives no funding from the university, Terry said. All money is raised through performance fees and donations.

In 2006, after reading an article about what was then the only bagpipe program for students in the country at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Terry approached Clark about creating something similar in Riverside.

Clark agreed. Because music majors must play with an ensemble, the bagpipe band agreed to serve in that role. Whitelaw and Best were hired in fall 2007 to lead the band and teach students. Whitelaw also taught a class about Scottish music.

Attracting Talent

Whitelaw, who is 52 and lives in Redondo Beach, started playing bagpipes when he was 10. In 2000, after more than 20 years as a pipefitter and part-time bagpiper, the instrument became a full-time occupation.

He holds an annual summer bagpipe school in Palos Verdes. He travels to San Francisco once a month to teach students. He consults and holds clinics around the world.

He has also opened for Sting and played the bagpipes as Groundskeeper Willie on "The Simpsons" and on the soundtrack of the movie "The General's Daughter."

Tom Janus, who is 18 and has been playing bagpipes since he was 11, enrolled at UCR this fall to study bagpipe in part because of Whitelaw. He turned down Carnegie Mellon.

Janus said he is disappointed that UCR won't offer Whitelaw's Scottish music class and concerned about the future of bagpipe instruction at the university.

"The bagpipe program is the most important thing that brought me to UCR," Janus said.

Jeff Krynski, a UCR alumni association board member who takes lessons from Whitelaw, shares that concern.

"I think it's one of the things that really stands out for UCR," said Krynski, 50, who graduated in 1981 and lives in Manhattan Beach.

Saving the Band

Deborah Wong, chairwoman of UCR's music department since July, said cuts to the bagpipe and Scottish drumming instructors were one part of cutting 25 percent from the department's budget. Other cuts included laying off a vocal instructor, eliminating one of two Mariachi ensemble classes and reducing concerts for the university's ensembles, she said.

While Whitelaw and Best were laid off, students can still take private lessons from them, Wong said. The university provides scholarships for the lessons, she said.

She said she's impressed that members of the bagpipe band and community have raised money to temporarily save Whitelaw's position.

Terry, the bagpipe band's pipe major, or music director, said fundraising began last month, shortly after the bagpipe band learned the university wouldn't be paying Whitelaw to instruct the band and that students wouldn't get credit for playing with it.

Almost $8,000 has been raised, said Evie Toll, assistant dean for development in the university's College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences who is coordinating fundraising. Students will get credit, at least through the winter quarter. The goal is to raise $75,000, so the university is no longer in "emergency mode," Toll said.

The long-term goal is to create an endowment to support Whitelaw and Best, Terry said. It will take a minimum of $25,000 to get that started, Toll said.

Whitelaw said he is grateful the bagpipe band has launched the fundraising effort.

"This is the crème de la crème, working here," he said. "I want to stay here and make this the place of the future."
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Old 10-29-2009, 08:43 AM
ilbegone's Avatar
ilbegone ilbegone is offline
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Tons of irony, truckloads of joke fodder, and vast instructional insanity as well as the educational delusionism of our educational system resides within this article.

We have a recession and budget crises.

What's more important, Doctors and Engineers, or bagpipe players and Gaelic drum beaters?

Oh, diversity in all it's inane forms.

And that begs the question: why is it that many of the great musicians never took lessons, and some couldn't even read music, why can't the aspiring bagpipe player destined for bagpipe greatness mail order a bagpipe and a stack of Gaelic music CDs and just have at it?

Last edited by ilbegone; 10-29-2009 at 08:48 AM.
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