Skye Youth Pipe Band in need of drumming instructor to progress

 The band performing in Portree last year  – photograph by Willie Urquhart.

By Keith MacKenzie

A youth pipe band on Skye fears it will be unable to build on recent progress without a regular drumming instructor.

The Isle of Skye Youth Pipe Band have been repeatedly frustrated in their attempts to persuade Highland Council to provide the drumming tuition which it funds in other parts of the region.

The group currently relies on its own funds, and some grant support, to provide drumming tuition on one day a week to around 30 youngsters in and around Portree.

In recent years the Skye band’s neighbours in Lochalsh faced a similar battle before the council agreed to extend the patch covered by an instructor based in the east Highlands.

There is currently a vacancy for the one-day-a-week post in Lochalsh, and the Skye group have suggested the role could be extended to Skye.

Alan MacKenzie, from the Isle of Skye Pipe Band, said the lack of support for drumming would have a knock-on effect on the senior band.

He said: “Despite years of trying, a drumming post for Skye has not been supported by Highland Council.

“It would be great to get someone employed through the council for a couple of days and offering the same opportunities to both sides of the bridge.”

At the recent Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships, the Skye youngsters secured first places for piping, but their overall marks suffered because of drumming — backing up the group’s claim that the lack of regular instruction was a barrier to achievement.

Responsibility for music tuition in Highland is soon to transfer from the council to the arms-length body High Life Highland, and there are hopes that this new arrangement could bring better news for the Skye band.

Local councillor John Finlayson said musical opportunities promoted attainment and achievement and suggested cash from the Scottish Government-backed pupil equity fund — awarded to schools to close the attainment gap and address deprivation — could help the pipe band.

He added: “High Life Highland assumes responsibility for the delivery of the council’s music tuition service from April 2018 and I have been impressed by their willingness to work with me and other local interest groups to expand drumming instruction on the island to ensure the best support for all our youngsters, and also our pipe bands.

“I am currently working with HLH on a number of fronts to explore potential sources of funding, and while I remain optimistic it is too early to say when we will have a clear way forward. Our joint aim is to have something in place for the new school year in August and we will continue to work together to achieve a positive outcome.”