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Notes on Scotland (cont.)

Marching through the streets of Glasgow (August 11, 2015)

The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes took to the streets of Glasgow today to give the city a taste of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The band kicked off the day by marching around George Square with the other bands that are performing in the Tattoo. Many of the audience members consisted of local residents, but lots of Citadel family, alumni and supporters could be seen in the crowds too.


After the march around the square, each group performed a condensed version of their usual Tattoo performance in the center of the square. The crowd enjoyed the sneak peek into the show and the bands helped to brighten up a chilly, rainy day. The Citadel was a great hit with many fans seen taking ‘selfies’ with the band in the background. One little girl even stopped to pose with one of the band’s tuba players in the street.

A lunch reception was held for all Tattoo performers at Glasgow City Chambers following the march and brief show. The building was stunning and provided a warm and welcoming setting for the cadets. Now it’s nap time for the band as they prepare for the second show of the week!

Universal language of music (August 6, 2015)

With the first performance tomorrow, bands from all over the world have been hard at work and practicing long hours to prepare for the event they have all been waiting for, the 2015 Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Talent from four continents will come together to perform in the Tattoo that celebrates ‘East Meets West’. Bands from all countries were required to learn music before arriving in Scotland that would be performed as a group during the opening and closing of each show. The cadets were excited to see how well it came together after the first collaboration and practice during rehearsals. Watch the video for a sneak peek of the mass band and pipes!

The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes prepares for 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

By Shannon Scovel, August 5, 2015 2:52 pm

When Major Jim Dillahey first picked up the bagpipe as a ten-year-old, he never imagined that he would one day be directing the Pipe Band at his alma mater, The Citadel Military College of South Carolina. Today, he not only assists in running the band, but he has also helped them secure a spot in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an international military music performance held this month in Scotland.

“This is like the Super Bowl of bagpipe and military events. There’s nowhere to sign up, it’s invitation only,” Dillahey says. “It’s a chance to showcase what you can do.”

To kick off the month-long event, over 70 cadets from The Citadel will play in a preview event together on August 6 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The opening night performance will be held on August 7, and The Citadel will serve as the sole U.S. representative at the event. The Citadel previously attended the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1991 and 2010, and Dillahey says returning to Scotland is a huge honor for The Citadel.

As a professional bagpiper and Vice President of the Eastern United States Bagpipe Association, Dillahey brings over a decade of bagpipe instruction to the Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes, but he says the true leadership within the group comes from the cadets.

“It’s their band, they run it,” Dillahey says. “It means more coming from them. The Citadel is a leadership laboratory. They see each other not as classmates, but as leaders.”

The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes practices in Scotland

Andrew McMahan, a senior and Pipe Major in the band, holds the responsibility of leading rehearsals, conducting practices and maintaining the well-being of the pipe band. He also coordinates with the Regimental Band and serves as a liaison between the administration and the band.

“Our leaders, Commander [Mike] Alverson, Major Dillahey and Major [Steven] Smith, really give us a lot of responsibility, and in turn, I think it really produces a better product because we realize that this is ours, and that we have to make it or break it essentially,” McMahan says. “It really just forces us to just focus on what the mission is and not so much just follow orders. We have to give some orders, we have to follow some orders and it presents a whole new leadership challenge for us at a young age.”

Dillahey praises McMahan’s leadership and says he represents the classic overachiever. A talented piper, McMahan also performs well in the classroom and Dillahey says he sees a direct correlation between music and other aspects of cadet life.

“It teaches you dedication, it’s a balancing act,” Dillahey says. “It takes a certain individual to play the bagpipes. It’s like having all these balls in the air and having to juggle them.”

In May 2015, McMahan earned recognition as the recipient of the Captain Ryan Hall Leadership Sword, an award bestowed upon an individual cadet who distinguishes himself or herself through “integrity, loyalty, strength of character, honor, dedication, leadership and service before self,” according to the Citadel website.

Citadel band members pose for a photo in Scotland

For the last three months, McMahan has been running the Pipe Band, and the group often rises before dawn to practice their skills. Two weeks prior to departing for Scotland, the band integrated eight new freshmen into the Regimental Band and Pipes, and McMahan has worked to teach these underclassmen the necessary skills needed to perform on the world stage.

“I just try to set the tone for them, so that they have something to aspire to and look up to, so that the expectation that they are trying to meet is clear,” McMahan says. “I try to set that tone clearly.”

During the Tattoo performance, The Citadel will play a seven-minute segment that includes a collection of songs designed to showcase American culture. When designing the show, Dillahey says he struggled to choose the songs that best represented the nation because America is a melting pot of backgrounds.

For McMahan however, the highlight of the show will come when the band performs Rocky Top, the fight song for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

“That’s where I’m from, so that’s a familiar song to me, and ever since I was a freshmen, Commander Alverson and I have connected because that’s where he went to school and that’s where I’m from, so I think that’s probably my favorite part of the show,” McMahan says.

Commander Alverson, —The Citadel’s music director who played as a trombone instrumentalist in the University of Tennessee Marching Band before joining the Navy in 1971 — says it’s a thrill to be a part of the event, and the Tattoo producers expect an audience of over one billion viewers.

“We’ve been offered the opportunity to not only represent our college but to represent our country on the World Stage, and we were just told yesterday by the producer that the estimated viewing audience for this year’s tattoo is going to be over one billion people,” Alverson says. “They had initially thought 400 million, but it’s over one billion people.”

The Regimental Band plays alongside the Pipe Band, and the two groups practice together throughout the entire school year. All of the members of the Regimental Band and Pipes live together in the barracks at The Citadel and play during the Friday parades each week. For the next three weeks, however, The Citadel will have a chance to demonstrate their skills to an international audience, and they will take the stage with other bands from around the world for the performances each night.

“Every bagpiper dreams of performing in Scotland at least once in their life, so this is an incredible experience,” McMahan says. “It’s incredible, it’s exhilarating, it’s a lot of hard work, but I know that when we step off onto the Esplanade for our first performance, it’s all going to be worth it.”

Shannon Scovel is a student at American University and a summer 2015 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. | Story as seen in U.S.A. Today College

Taking the castle (August 4, 2015)


The first performance is just a few days away. The regimental band and pipes took the castle - hitting their timing exactly on the mark at 7.00 minutes each of the three times they performed for the producer whose excitement is pretty obvious. Practicing from the wee hours of the morning until late at night, they'll will make even the Queen proud when the shows begin on the castle esplanade Friday.

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