Playing the Traditional
Pipe Music of Scotland and Ireland since 1958
BAND HISTORY (1958-2008)
Original Logo, 1958-2000
Logo (Glen Anderson), 2000-2007
Count backward to 1958. How many early Valley of the Sun landmarks
still hold their identity today after all that time? One of those
landmarks is the Phoenix Pipe Band, originally known as the Phoenix Scottish Pipe Band.
Phoenix Pipe Band is the oldest continuously running pipe band in
Arizona. One of the founding members, Joe Leonard, was still with the
band until 2002. He and his brother Bill moved to Phoenix in 1958 from
upstate New York, where both brothers had played drums with a pipe
band. The magnetism of their interest drew a few others from Tempe who
played pipes and drums. They set up a practice in Coronado Park, and
within a short time they had collected several other musicians who had
gotten their start in military pipe bands in Scotland and Canada. What
was then known as the Phoenix Scottish Pipe Band was on its way.
teamwork in music overcame the mix of tartans in the kilts they wore.
The band’s public debut came in 1958 at the Prescott Rodeo
Parade. We were quite a sensation with the cowboys, Joe Leonard
recalls. In time the Band upgraded from the original Pakistani-made
bagpipes to Scots-made pipes. They also settled on military-style
uniforms with kilts in the tartan worn by the Seaforth Highlanders, a
Scottish unit of the British Army.
The Band’s increasing
quality and inherent attention-getting capability eventually attracted
a sponsor. Pepsi Cola offered financial support in return for presence
at promotional events and other marketing visibility. In addition to
the use of a bottling plant as a practice location, the Band got new
kilts, changing to the red MacGregor tartan
at Pepsi’s request. "Phoenix was a young city then," Joe Leonard
says. We played for the grand opening of every gas station that
had a Pepsi vending machine. They also played for housing
developments, bowling alleys, the Tombstone Helldorado Parade, anything where ample sound and color were desirable to attract an audience.
bands, like any other organization, have their ups and downs. A group
of pipers and drummers splintered from the Phoenix Pipe Band, operating
under the sponsorship of the Shrine. But Phoenix kept going, its
members continuing their involvement in all kinds of Celtic arts. Joe
Leonard and Leonard Wood Jr., a piper who joined the Band in 1961,
teamed up with the Arizona Scottish Society to create the first Arizona
Scottish Games in Encanto Park in 1966. The Games have since moved to
Mesa and now back to downtown Phoenix. A copy of the program for 1970 Scottish Games shows the participation of the Phoenix Scottish Pipe Band.
wardrobe of red MacGregor kilts has clothed hundreds of pipers and
drummers through the years, according to Joe Leonard. The Phoenix Pipe
Band is the Dean of pipe bands, as Joe put it, the common
point from which band members went on to the Argyll Pipe Band, Shrine,
Phoenix Police, Mesa Caledonian, Spirit of Scotland, Seven Pipers
Society, and other bands in Arizona and elsewhere.
of tradition is giving way to change, though. The Band is expanding its
repertoire of Irish music and embracing a more inclusive approach to
Celtic music in general. To reflect this the band name was
changed from “Phoenix Scottish” to simply “Phoenix Pipe Band” in
2007. They have also moved away from a military uniform spats and
khaki shirts to a friendlier look that complements steadily improving
musicianship. The current members of the Phoenix Pipe Band
practice on Sunday afternoons at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
Piping and drumming lessons are available for new students, and both new and experienced pipers and drummers are welcome.
why did Joe Leonard stick with the Phoenix Scottish Pipe Band for all
those years? I grew up with it, I kept coming home. ... and the Phoenix (Scottish) Pipe Band marches on.
For more information on the Phoenix Pipe Band, contact Len Wood, (602) 274-8081 or at email@example.com
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