Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

B.Ed. Alumnus Brings Scottish Music to Kingston Youth

February 20, 2019

When John McKay (B.Ed. ‘16) came to Queen’s for his B.Ed. he brought his passion for the bagpipes with him along with a lifelong interest in teaching and learning. These two parts of John’s life intersected in Dr. Jane Chin’s Prof 110 during a show and tell. At the time, John was interested in the Inveraray and District Pipe Band, a competitive pipe band based in Scotland. He shared this for the class activity, sparking a connection that eventually led to an alternative practicum at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow and establishing free programs that bring traditional Scottish pipe band music to any Kingston area youth interested.

During his alternative practicum in Scotland, John purchased 10 practice chanters and 10 sets of sticks and practice pads from McCallum Bagpipes with the intention of bringing traditional pipe band instruction to kids in Kingston without the usual financial barriers associated with learning these instruments.

Kids Pipe Band Photo
Kingston Police Pipe Band

Reaching out to the community through the Kingston Police Pipe Band 

The program began as the Kingston Pipe Band, and after partnering with the Kingston Police in 2018, became the Kingston Police Pipe Band. This partnership broadened the reach of the program and, as John notes, “I take pride in starting The Kingston Police Pipe Band because we get to share the same values that the police exemplify within the Kingston community. It gives me the opportunity to act as a positive role model to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club by portraying these core values.” He reflects that this program gives kids the chance to lead and fosters their learning in all areas of their lives.

Every Sunday evening anyone can show up for free lessons from the Kingston Police Pipe Band and around 50 people show up each week --a mix of adults and kids. This mix was an important part of the band for John, who sees the benefit in bringing people together from different backgrounds and ages to learn together.  The changes in the kids are significant, not just in terms of the music they are learning, but in their confidence as well. John notes that, “It’s a good feeling to see the kids who were once shy, come out of their shells, have fun and learn to play the pipes and drums.”

The Boys and Girls Club and the Kingston Police are not the only organizations supporting John’s work. The Rotary Club of Cataraqui recently gave a donation that enabled the purchase of 30 practice chanters and 30 practice pads and sticks for students registered in the programming at the Boys and Girls Club – ultimately opening up the music instruction to even more kids.  

Using skills developed at the Faculty of Education  

John sees many similarities between teaching in a classroom and teaching pipes. “We talked a lot [in the B.Ed.] about empathy – about what students bring into the classroom and how to handle every student individually. People come to the band with all different musical experiences and different skills sets. Differentiating my piping instruction allows me to treat the band like a classroom, ultimately allowing me to demand excellence from each person individually.”

A website is in the works – but for now, visit the Kingston Police Band Facebook page to learn how you can support or join in.

John McKay photo