BYU bagpipers meet every Halloween

Ethan Winkleman
Collin Jensen plays the bagpipes every year on Halloween with his band. (Ethan Winkleman)

There were superheroes, princesses and a woman dressed as sushi. Albert Einstein came to campus, and a guy went as “Netflix and Chill.”

Some may not have seen them, but on Halloween at BYU, three students dressed up and commemorated their heritage and musical skills with kilts and bagpipes.

Members of the Thomas Cordner Memorial Pipe Band have met each year on the BYU campus near Brigham Square and performed for personal and crowd enjoyment. The band is named after the first Irish settler of Orem, Utah. The pipe band also plays Irish instruments as well as Scottish. They are currently seeking a new drummer to play with.

It all started three years ago, when Collin Jensen dressed up in his traditional Scottish attire because he couldn’t think of any other costume idea. Jensen, a BYU student studying geology, decided he should make the most of it and try and play his bagpipes on campus.

“There has to be an occasion to play the pipes,” Jensen said. The usual occasions are weddings and funerals, which they are asked to participate in often. The group was even asked once to play bagpipes for an MMA fighter as he entered the fighting rink.

The most requested song the band sees is Scotland the Brave/Praise to the Man, with Amazing Grace and Braveheart coming in second.

Halloween also marks the last official time the band can comfortably play outside. All the band members admitted that their fingers are usually colder during the fall and winter. Colder fingers results in weaker dexterity and more mistakes.

Jensen also used his bagpipes to accompany his little sister during her trick-or-treating endeavors. “I’d dress up and bring my pipes as she visited each house,” he said. “The whole time, I’d be playing songs while walking down the street.”

Ethan Winkleman
Collin Jensen, Nicholas Lewis and Forrest Clines are members of the Thomas Cordner Memorial Bagpipe Band. (Ethan Winkleman)

Playing the bagpipes takes a lot of effort and practice. Much lip and finger stamina is required to play the instrument. “I was once told that there is no way to look sexy when playing the bagpipes,” Jensen said.

The bagpipe sound is recognizable by its volume. “We try to be respectful,” said band member Nicholas Lewis, a BYU chemical engineering student. “Most people appreciate the sound of the pipes,” he said.

Forrest Clines, a BYU ACME student, said he tries to practice at reasonable hours of the day. “You have to practice often,” Clines said, “if you miss a week you’ll feel it.”

It takes a lot of effort to maintain breathing while playing the bagpipes. Jensen said if he ever panics, he usually breaks his breathing pattern and makes a mistake.


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