The City of Chicago Pipe Band has come a long way since it was formed in 2003. The idea for the band started with two friends: Patrick Lynch and Michael Forkan over lunch at the Alma Highland Games in the year 2000. It was just an idea and there was much more needed to make a pipe band. But the idea stuck with both of them. At the time both of them were associated with different bands, but the dream to start a band remained on the forefront. In 2001, Patrick Lynch, Jason Freeman and Andrew Hoinacki teamed up and brought their enthusiasm to a local band that was being instructed by Seamus Coyne, Chicago Caledonia Pipes and Drums. In 2002, Michael Forkan joined Patrick, Jason and Andrew and it was the first time the four had played in the same band at the same time. There they recruited the best Chicago had to offer, but the venture soon failed as the band lost momentum and direction. In July of 2003, Michael, Patrick, Jason, and Andrew Hoinacki formed the Chicago & District Pipe Band.
The Chicago & District Pipe Band hit the competition field in the summer of 2004 in grade three. It was by a wing and a prayer that we did so. In the year leading up to that, we were like all start-ups, broke and eager with dreams of world domination. We still joke to this day, that its blind optimism that has gotten us this far! But it was that first summer of 2003 that we marched miles of parades in band t-shirts that were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Lynch. That fall we picked out our tartan, County Galway, and with a generous donation from The Perkin family, we were able to outfit the band in matching kilts. That year we also bought drums and Gibson Chanters. The first year had many setbacks, our lead drummer and founding member Andrew Hoinacki left to play with the Grade 1 Los Angles Scots Pipe Band. By chance, one of our students, Hunter Beesch, met a transplanted Canadian who recently moved to the area, Jim Bush. With a new lead tip, and with Sharon Burden on Bass, we had the beginnings of a band.
Under the direction of Pipe Major Jason Freeman, the band started in grade three. That first year our goals were simple, and survival was key. We placed last if not almost last in every category in the grade that year. To our credit, we dreamed big and we played music at the time that was too big for our students. We learned, we reevaluated and the band got better after that first year. In the end of 2004, Tristan Wilson joined the band. Funny enough, his college apartment was just down the street from where we had practiced. During that year several of us played with other bands as register instructors to Chicago and District. Jason, Patrick, Hunter and Tim went to play with the Windsor Police, and Tristan played with the band he grew up in, the Kansas City St. Andrew Pipe Band.
In 2005, we changed the name to the City of Chicago Pipe Band....and the locals were mad! Somehow, someway the local legend was that you cannot be named The City of Chicago Pipe Band...well as with most things Celtic and pipe band related the legend grew to a point of fact. Over the years bands came and went but they always had something in the name related to Chicago, but because of this false legend it was never used as the City of Chicago. That being the case, Patrick and Michael searched for names and were always unsettled on the original name of the band, they then researched the possibilities, changed the name and the rest is history!
After a rocky season in the 2004, we embarked on setting higher goals, we taught and integrated more players into the band and made a cross country trip to the Pleasanton Highland Games in California. Our results picked up that year but it wasn’t until 2006, with a new set of Sinclair Chanters in hand that we had our breakout year in grade 3. We won the Champion Supreme and most contests we did that year and were promoted to grade 2. With a new set of challenges in 2007 and a new grade we did not do exceptionally well, especially against our cross town rival the Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band. That year also marked our first trip to the North American Championships in Maxville, Ontario, where we finished towards the bottom of the boards. It was also Marty Boyle’s first year as lead drummer. At the end of 2007 season, Jason Freeman left the band to start a family.
The 2008 season the band went through drastic changes. Jason Freeman, Tim Perkin and Michael Forkan all left to pursue other life endeavors. In 2008, a new Pipe Major took the helm, founding member Patrick Lynch. Left with a shell of a band Patrick along with P/Sgt. Tristan Wilson set out to rebuild the band and change the direction of the organization. Part of that directional change was to create a Grade 5 band for beginners and thus start a feeder program. With the organization building on both the advanced and beginner level we set our sights on being the largest competition band in the area. That Spring, the band held it first concert to a sell out crowd, followed by hitting the stage again that summer at the Dublin Irish Festival as a featured stage act. With a new pipe corps the band saw its first signs of success in grade 2 winning its first contest under new management with the largest playing roster of any Chicago Band. This set the tone for the next three years in grade 2. The 2009 season brought the band to greater heights and saw the band beating the Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band on a more consistent basis.
The 2010 season brought a systemic change to our drumming program with the appointment of Lead Drummer Chris Barr. Chris came to us after winning the best drum corps title at the World Pipe Band Championships, in Scotland, with the 78Th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band of Toronto, Ontario. With Chris on the project the band went to the next level of performance with a drum corps that the Chicago Area has never seen before in sheer numbers and quality. With unprecedented results for any Chicago Band, the City of Chicago Pipe Band won the Grade 2 North American Pipe Band Championships in Maxville, Ontario; and the U.S. Pipe Band Championships in Alma, Michigan. This was a landmark year for the organization, not only did the band win Championships but was also promoted to the premier grade of grade 1 by the Midwest Pipe Band Association.
Debuting in 2011, but built on the successes Pipe Major Steve Moore achieved in Grade 5, we witnessed the promotion of the band to Grade 4, and the return of founding member Michael Forkan as their Pipe Major, and the rebranding of the Grade 4 unit as the Chicago Scots. The Chicago Academy of Piping and Drumming was also founded in 2010 with support from the Irish American Heritage Center. Steve is currently Pipe Major of our Grade 5 band, The Academy.
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