PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) - You can hear them from more than a block away, and you’d think neighbors would be yelling for them to pipe down, but they don’t.
Panama City Pipes and Drums performs at a recent ceremony in Panama City Beach. (WJHG)
“It’s really nice to play the pipes outside," said bagpiper Brian "Doc" Shaheen. "They’re really an outside instrument, I think.”
“There's something about bagpipe music that usually stirs them [the audience] in some way,” said Pipe Major Scott Perry.
“Cars were going by, they’d slow down and honk their horns," said Shaheen. "I took that as, you know, encouragement and maybe they weren't honking for encouragement, but I took it as encouragement.”
The non-profit Panama City Pipes and Drums first began blowing locals away, so to speak, 21 years ago.
“I joined the band 10 years ago and I've had a blast with it ever since," said Perry. "It has really been great. Bagpipes are a difficult instrument to play, but they're really rewarding.”
“Oh, it's a blast," said drummer Rusty Wilson. "It's good because I get to celebrate my Celtic heritage and I play the drums at the same time. I've been playing since I was in high school.”
Young or old, male or female, piper or drummer, it doesn’t matter. If you can play, you’re welcome to join the band.
“Well, it's a lot of fun," said Shaheen, who calls himself a rookie. "This is a really good group. They're very supportive and very helpful.”
One of the band’s main missions is to promote Celtic heritage in Bay County, and other parts of the Southeast when they go on the road.
“I love playing music of all different types," said Perry, "and so bagpipe music is great. It's really unique. String instruments are the things I play most, and a bagpipe's music is so different. It's very difficult, but I love it, just the sound of it.”
The band plays all kinds of gigs: weddings, funerals, and other public events. Asked if they were in high demand…
“Well, there's no other pipe band around, so yeah," said a laughing Perry. "You know, we're in pretty high demand.”
And one question we demand to know: Is going commando under those kilts an urban myth?
“You gotta be a piper before you can figure that one out," said a smiling Perry. "So, I can tell you but then I’d have to kill you, that sort of thing!" he added with a hearty laugh.
On a more serious note, on Armed Forces Day this past Saturday, the band paid tribute to the fallen during a ceremony at Harley Davidson in Panama City Beach. Folks gathered at the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to remember the more than 58,000 service members killed in that war.
“We wanted to honor the veterans and, of course, the service members who are still here with us and we're honoring that by remembering their sacrifices and what they have done for the community and for the United States,” said Wilson.
A great way segue into this holiday weekend.
The band says they’re always looking for new members. They especially need drummers. If interested, you can contact them via their Facebook page.
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