Educational Background: The Development of a Champion

Andrew has been lucky to receive instruction from champion players and well-known teachers throughout his entire career. His first instructor was James I. Sim from whom he learned both tenor and bass drumming as part of his membership in the local junior band. He progressed to eventually take snare drumming instruction from James S. Sim, at that time Drum Sergeant of the Midwest’s most successful pipe band program.

Once proficient enough to begin competing as a soloist, Andrew received frequent advanced tuition from visiting instructor J. Reid Maxwell whose influence largely shaped a winning climb through the amateur grades. Some years later as a successful professional competitor, and newly appointed as Drum Sergeant of his own corps, a mentorship was forged with Carl Lenny. The impact of this most recent tutelage was an enhanced perspective on technical precision and strict expectations for corps clarity and sound.

Andrew was quite lucky to have had access to additional instructional opportunities from some of the highest possible caliber of players. In band workshops and solo lessons over the years, he has worked with with Jim Kilpatrick, Gordon and Tom Brown, Gordon Parkes and Joe Noble.

Accolades as a professional grade soloist have included such titles as United States Champion (2002), MWPBA Champion Supreme (multiple), WUSPBA Champion Supreme (2007) and a number of other keynote placements including runner-up at the Agnew-Harrison Memorial Invitational (2001) and runner-up to the North American Championship (2002). These professional awards are additional to multiple MWPBA and US Championship titles as an amateur competitor on snare and bass.

The sum of knowledge from these fine teachers, combined with years of championship competitive experience, is what has shaped Andrew’s teaching methods and paved the way for his students and corps to gain success and acclaim for their precision and musicality.

Pipe Band Career: From Junior Band Directly to the Upper Grades

The Midlothian Junior Pipe Band is where Andrew began his pipe band career from a very early age. He served as the bass drummer (at that time a tenor drum on its side!) and the band competed very successfully in Grade 4. Frequent challenges to Grade 3 were made often making the prizelist as well. Most of the best players to have started in the Midwest are alumni of the Midlothian Juniors, or in modern day are students of these former members.

Andrew was promoted to the Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band, Grade 2, as a tenor drummer for the 1992 season at the age of 13. The following year he was switched to snare and remained with the band through the end of the 2000 season. During this time the band was perennially the Midwest Champions Supreme, were successful during frequent visits to Canada, and placed in the Top 6 of the Grade 2 World Pipe Band Championships.

The new millennium brought new experiences for Andrew as he joined the Chicago Caledonian Pipes and Drums in 2001. He went on to be appointed Drum Sergeant of the band, and was instrumental in the teaching of their Intermediate band and the founding of a Junior band. In 2002 both the Grade 2 and Grade 4 drum corps won the US Championships and placed Top 3 at the North American Championships. Unfortunately the Grade 2 band dissolved the following year.

Andrew began commuting in 2003 to Orange County, California, to play with the Los Angeles Scots in Grade 1. The corps was initially under the leadership of his mentor, Carl Lenny, who departed that same year. Andrew moved to California and was appointed as the new Drum Sergeant, a role which he served for two years essentially rebuilding the corps from a few key members. The nucleus players at that time are still key members of the corps to this day.

The next post was as Drum Sergeant of the James J Coyne Memorial band in Grade 2. Andrew teamed with his friend Seumas Coyne to lead and build this band over the course of four seasons. With very lean numbers at the outset, the roster grew steadily and became a very respectable band in the California scene, a frequent visitor to the Pacific Northwest, and guest band around the western States.

Upon moving home to Chicago at the end of 2009, Andrew made the decision to take a break from band membership while building his very active teaching and judging business. After a well-deserved break, he accepted an opportunity to become a guest player with the Los Angeles Scots. Andrew’s recent achievements have been competing at the World Championships in 2011 and 2012 and both times advancing to the Grade 1 Finals including winning the drumming in the 2012 Qualifying round.

Judging Credentials: An Early Start and Diverse Impact

The Midwest Pipe Band Association named Andrew as an Associate Judge of solo and band drumming at the end of 1998 at age 20. With the requirements for upper grade competitive experience, this was quite a feat of recognition to accomplish at such an early age. This apprenticeship lasted for two years until Andrew was vetted as a Full Judge of solo and band drumming and of band ensemble at the end of 2000 at age 22.

When Andrew moved to California in 2004, the Western US Pipe Band Association appointed him to the “A Panel” of judges for solo snare drum, solo tenor/bass drum, band drumming and band ensemble. As the program continued its professional development through a rigorous examination procedure (proctored from the PPBSO), Andrew passed the exams for solo drumming, band drumming and band ensemble.

Returning to Chicago at the end of 2009, the MWPBA renamed him to their Full Judge panel for all levels and types of solo drumming, band drumming and band ensemble. Due to his continued involvement in the west as a teacher and player, he has retained his adjudicator membership with WUSPBA on their “A” Panel for the same credentials. Andrew also serves on occasion as a guest judge for the BCPA, EUSPBA, and most recently for the PPBSO at the North American Championships.

Having studied all instruments within the band – snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum and bagpipes – Andrew is among a small number of drummers who are uniquely credentialed to judge band ensemble. His hands-on practical knowledge of each instrument, and how they are intended to come together tonally, rhythmically and musically, has been increasingly leveraged by competitions hiring him as an ensemble adjudicator to judge the bands as a whole.

Volunteerism: Leadership in Action

Andrew has used his time and volunteering outlets to strongly promote the advancement of piping and drumming through quality education and accurate competitive grading. A key avenue for this has been through service to his local pipe band associations in a variety of capacities over the years.
The first position was serving as MWPBA Webmaster from 2001-2004. He redesigned the site during this time and managed the group’s email list service.

Andrew was an appointed member of the WUSPBA Music Board from 2005 through 2009. Among the standard responsibilities of grading and standards advisement, his key contribution was overseeing the credentialing program for drumming judges. He collaborated on the curriculum for a bass and tenor judging seminar and examination. He was also a key contributor to the development of the association’s new competitive Grade 5 band program assisting with creating sanctioning requirements and program implementation which launched in 2010.

Upon returning to Chicago at the end of 2009, Andrew was elected to the MWPBA Advisory Board as a central region representative. In this capacity he was directly involved in the administration of the group and made great strides in bringing information and recommendations from his constituent bands to be heard. One of the key successes of this term was the formation of the MWPBA Education Committee to create, operate and support instructional opportunities throughout the Midwest region.

Andrew now serves as an appointed member of the MWPBA Music Board where he again utilizes his knowledge and experience to ensure accurate grading standards, judging credentials, and competition requirements.