West Virginia College Creates Competitive Bagpipe Band

ELKINS, W.Va. (AP) — Recruiting efforts are currently underway to form the West Virginia Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College Grade V. Students versed in playing the bagpipes can earn up to a $5,000 scholarship per year based on audition performance.

Members of Grade V will share the same MacLeod of Lewis Scottish plaid and perform in parades and other special events along with the West Virginia Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College. In addition, they will compete at regional Highland festivals and games, and learn more about piping and Scottish traditions.

The current 20-member Highlanders pipe and drum band has a long history with Davis & Elkins College and the Randolph County community.

Formed in October 1947 as the official band of the H.W. Daniels Post 29 American Legion, the Highlanders group has continued many of its long-held traditions of music and dress with roots in Scottish heritage.

In 1990, the Highlanders began carrying a banner with their new affiliation and name — the West Virginia Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College. The band now represents the community and the college at various public events, and performs at multiple college functions, including commencement, Founders’ Day and other special events.

The band has performed in all 50 states and marched in the National Independence Day Parade on historic Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Patrick McKay, an admission counselor at D&E and drummer in the Highlanders since 1997, came up with the idea for forming a competition band after competing himself throughout the years.

“I’ve noticed the competitors are getting younger,” McKay said. “Every time I would see these young people out there pursuing their passion I would always think D&E would be the perfect environment for them to learn and practice and go on to compete.”

The younger set of pipers and the more seasoned members of the Highlanders will complement one another by sharing techniques and experiences. The comradery and years of combined experience of the group were part of what attracted Bryan LaFollette to attend Davis & Elkins College. A bagpipe student since the age of 10 and now a college junior, LaFollette was recently named the Highlanders’ pipe master.

“It’s good to pursue your love for piping because it can take you a long way in life,” LaFollette said. “At the core of everything, though, is your education, and D&E really stands out. We have great resources with professors who truly care and The Naylor Learning Center to keep you on track while you pursue your passion.”

LaFollette and McKay agree that the new group of pipers will help the tradition of the West Virginia Highlanders of Davis & Elkins College live on in the community and throughout the nation.