Pipe major

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An early photograph of a Pipe Major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The pipe major is the director of bagpipe music in a Scottish or Irish pipe band, whether military or civilian. Like the appointment of drum major, the position is derived from British Army traditions. During the early twentieth century, the term sergeant piper was used instead. A pipe major is generally an educated person who is well versed in the history of bagpipe music as well as that of the clan, regiment or relevant host body. He is often assisted by a pipe sergeant.

Duties and responsibilities[edit]

  • Band administration
  • Selection, compilation and arrangement of tunes for the band's repertoire
  • Acting as the musical director and leader at rehearsals
  • Management and coordination of the performance schedule, including arrangement of solo appearances at weddings, funerals, dinners and other functions
  • Recruitment and training of new pipers

British Army[edit]

A pipe major's position is by appointment, and is not a military rank. An appointee is required to attain a senior non-commissioned officer rank of sergeant, staff sergeant, colour sergeant, or warrant officer and to have successfully completed the pipe major's course at the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming. Since the pipes and drums of an infantry regiment are typically assigned the military duties of a machine gun platoon, the pipe major is also responsible for:

  • Command (or second-in-charge) of the platoon during military exercises or battle
  • Maintenance of military discipline in his platoon
  • Purveyance and promotion of regimental custom, tradition and history

He is customarily addressed and referred to as "Pipe Major", not by his service rank. The insignia of appointment is four point-up chevrons worn on the lower sleeve, usually surmounted by a bagpipe badge and often by a crown or other badge, dependent on rank and regiment.

Canadian forces[edit]

"Pipe Major" in the Canadian military is also an appointment, not a service rank. Pipe majors are appointed by the unit's commanding officer in consultation with the supervisor of music. The insignia (a four-bar chevron with bagpipe badge) is usually surmounted by the service rank badge.

Most pipe majors in the Canadian forces are also responsible for regular-force volunteer bands or primary-reserve bands.