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SPBA Summer School

History of the SPBA Summer School

FortSanIn the mid-1960s a well-known piper from Moose Jaw started a small school of piping and drumming in that city. Jim McWilliams had trained as a piper with Bob Shepherd and Jim Carnegie in Moose Jaw, and had an appreciation for the benefits of piping schools based on some experience with the Canadian Army and through attending the Invermark school in New York.  With the help of Hugh Scott of Moose Jaw, he started a small summer program.

At about the same time, the Government of Saskatchewan had decided to turn the old Tuberculosis Sanatorium—Fort San— in the Qu'Appelle Valley into a summer school of the arts. In 1967, The Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts had its first piping and drumming session at the new facility, and it was a great hit. 

In the years that followed, a lot of work was done to ensure that local students would receive a rounded education in piping and drumming. The school set up a series of certificate exams based on the requirements of the famous Army School of Piping in Edinburgh, and these certificate levels stood as the basis of instruction for many years at the school.

For the school's second year, Pipe Major Donald MacLeod was hired. This was the beginning of a long-term relationship with one of the century's greatest all-round pipers. Donald MacLeod was a legend in his own time. He was a decorated veteran of the war, a multiple winner of every prize offered, a gifted composer of both light music and piobaireachd, and the owner of Grainger and Campbell, one of Scotland's premier bagpipe makers at the time. It also turned out that he was an inspiring teacher, a recitalist without equal, and a charming, gentle man who related well to everyone he met. Donald MacLeod taught at the school from 1968 to 1981, and he died suddenly in 1982.

For many years, the school's primary drumming instructor was ex-Shotts lead drummer and Canadian Forces drumming instructor, MWO John Kerr. John Kerr influenced many leading drummers, and he was instrumental in converting prairie drummers to written scores, from the old-fashioned method of "try to play what I do." John was extremely forceful in his views that drummers should be "musicians first," and his direction at the school helped to formulate many of our best musicians on drums.

In the mid-1980s, the Government of Saskatchewan responded to budget pressures by cutting a number of programs and services in the province, including arts subsidies and maintenance of the Fort San facility. The arts community scattered to find other venues for the school, and for a couple of years the Piping and Drumming School was held in Saskatoon. The school operated in Saskatoon for a couple of years with mostly local instructors, and then stopped operations for about three years.

In 1994, the Saskatchewan Pipe Band Association decided to re-establish a summer school program, and had several successful sessions in Regina. Following 2002, the instructional program was completely redesigned to better meet the changing needs of SPBA members and bands and in 2008 the school moved to the University of Regina, where it has run each year since.

FortSan 1967

Fort San, August, 1967
This was the first year of the summer school. This photo features most of the students and instructors.
Front row [L-R]: Frank Connell (organizer), Andy McAnsh, Hugh Scott (administrator), woman seated (/), Irene Scott (drums), Angus Spence.
1st step [L-R]: Larry Garth, Alastair Rodger, Sonia Ford (?), Pat Meikle, Mary-Ann Bastedo,
2nd step: Iain MacDonald (plaid shirt, sitting), Bruce Monette, Scott Preston, Rod Sim, Doug Lutz, Bruce Lutz, Pete Gibson, Charlene Duffy, ?
3rd step: Bill Pritchard, Maureen Rodger, ?, ?, Jackie Cameron, Judy McCaw, ?, Gina Petty
2nd from top: Barry Robinson, ?, Dave Monette, ? Cant, Randy McNichol, Brian Alquhist, ?, ?
Top row: Dave McNichol, ?, ?, ? Cant, ? Cant
[Photo provided by Jackie (Cameron) Holmberg.]



FortSan 1967 back

Fort San, August 17, 1967
L-R: Hugh Scott (MJ), school administrator;
Andy McAnsh, Bill MacLeod, Jim McWilliams, Angus Spence

L-R: Andy McAnsh, Jim McWilliams, John MacLellan, Angus Spence
In 1967, the school was held at the Fort San facility for the first time.
Capt. John A. MacLellan was a visitor to the camp for a couple of days.
In those days, the school was 14 days long, and the Capt. was there long enough to play a recital,
teach some tunes, and have a visit with instructors.



Andy McAnsh [right] tunes Rod Sim's drones at camp.
Rod is playing one of the original sets of R.G. Lawrie bagpipes purchased by the Regina Boys & Girls Pipe Band (later the Fraser Pipe Band).

school 1968 lg


The Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts, 1968
Piping Instructors: James L. McWilliams (back row, left); Angus Spence (back row, far right);
P/M Wm. MacLeod (middle row, 2nd from right); P/M Donald MacLeod (front row, far right).
Drumming Instructors: Geordie Pryde (middle row, far left); Irene Scott (front row, far left).
School Administrator: Hugh Scott (middle row, far left)

Click for larger view. | Click for complete listing of names

1970 school sm

The 1970 Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts
[photo: Lorne Adams]

Click for LARGE view.

Instructors include the famous Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, MBE 
and Geordie Pryde, a former member of the Edinburgh Police and the L/D of the well-known Powell River Pipe Band.

1971 school
The 1971 Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts
[photo and program: Lorne Adams]

Click for LARGE view.

There are some pretty well-known faces from the piping world in this photo.
See if you can find Jack Lee, Jamie Troy and John Fisher.

Here is the program from the final concert: page 1 | page 2 | page 3

School 972 600

Click for full size

Fort San Summer School 1972

[need help with names!]

Back row, L-R: Larry Wong, ?, ?, Jamie Simpson, Ed Helm, Gord Cowie, Garth Neel, David Dech, Bruce Lutz, Ric Clemence(?), Ken Kowalsky, Iain MacDonald, Tim Stephen, Ross MacKenzie

2nd Row: Andy McAnsh, Jim McWilliams, Barry Robinson, Willie MacLeod, ? Crawford, ?, Tony Deluca, Doug Bell, ?, ?, ?, Spratt?, Sherry Hull, Cathy Clemence, Val Gray, ?, Brenda Brough, Leigh Kindrat, Joanne Urquhart, Betty Anne McDougall, Sandy Smith, Rhonda McIntosh?, ?, Doug Nixon, (hidden head),Dave Hennigan, Hugh Fraser, ?, John Fisher, ?, ?,?,?,Lori Dunn, ?, Irene Scott, Barry McMurdo, Doug Lutz, Randy McNichol, Jeff McMurdo, Rod Sim.

3rd Row: Fred MacLeod, Sandy McMurdo, ?, Lorna Karza, Ken Clemence, Pat Kindrat?, ?, ?, Dale McDermot, Donald MacLeod. Neil Barber, ?, Kelly Todd, Rod MacDonald, ?, Sandy Thacker, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?

Front: ?, ?, ?

instructors 1972 

Pipe and Drum Instructors - Fort San, SK 1972
(L-R) P/M Donald MacLeod, MBE; Jeff McMurdo, Barry McMurdo, Fred MacLeod, Doug Lutz, Barry Robinson,
Jimmy Catherwood, Randy McNichol, Rod Sim, Andy McAnsh, Bill MacLeod, Jim McWilliams, Irene Scott.

fortsan 1973
 fortsan instructors 1973

Fort San Instructors 1973

L-R: P-M Donald MacLeod, M.B.E., Doug Lutz, P-M Andy McAnsh, Rod Sim, Barry Robinson, James Catherwood, Bruce MacDonald, Randy McNichol, Dave McNichol, Jeff McMurdo, P-M Willie MacLeod, Jim McWilliams, George Crawford.


school lg
click photo for larger view

The Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts, 1974
In this photo are P/M Donald MacLeod, MBE and the well-known Shotts drummer Bert Barr. Also here are John Fisher (L/D of City of Victoria/member of Shotts corps, and well-known drummer and instructor; Garth Neel, winner of the Marches at Inverness in the 1970s; Dave Hennigan, member of City of Victoria Pipe Band; Iain MacDonald, member of Babcock-Renfrew PB and SFU Pipe Band, now City of Regina PB; Roland Reid, member of McNish Distillery corps under John Kerr, later won the Worlds with SFU; Jimmy Walker, member and later L/D of Dysart & Dundonald; Graham Neill, P/M of Edmonton Caledonian; Dave McNicholl, originally from Winnipeg, was the first L/D of City of Victoria PB; Barbara (McDougall) MacDonald, member of SFU Pipe Band, now CRPB.

fortsan 1975


Pipe and Drum Instructors - Fort San, SK 1975
[Photo: Hugh Fraser]

 (L-R) P/M Donald MacLeod, MBE; James L. McWilliams, Hugh Fraser, Jr., Ken Ramsay, Barry Robinson, Bruce Lutz, 

Sheriff Sandy MacPherson (Glasgow); Andy McAnsh; P/M Alex Cupples, P/M William MacLeod

 Fort San 1976
instructors 1976

 Fort San Instructors - 1976

L-R: P-M Donald MacLeod, M.B.E.; P-M Willie MacLeod; P-M Alex Cupples; Bruce MacDonald; Garth Neel; WO John Kerr; Ken Ramsay; Andy McAnsh, Jim McWilliams; Tommy Thompson.


1978 school
[Photo: Blair Brown]

1978 Instructors
Back Row, L-R: Rob Rife, Garth Neel, Blair Brown, John Kellet
Middle, L-R: Roger Yule, Hugh Sutherland, Dave Neil, Barry Robinson
Front, L-R: Tommy Thompson, John Kerr, Willie MacLeod, Donald Mitchell
[Photo: Blair Brown]

1979 School
[Photo: Blair Brown]


1979 Instructors

Back Row, L-R: Tom McGurk, Tommy Thompson, Don Mitchell, Jimmy MacGregor, Rob Rife, Barry Robinson
Front, L-R: John Kerr, John Kellet, Blair Brown, Dave Neil, Willie MacLeod, Hugh Sutherland
[Photo: Blair Brown]


1980 School
[Photo: Blair Brown]


1980 Instructors

L-R: Blair Brown, John Kerr, Barry Robinson, Neil Burkett, Don Mitchell, Andrea Eresman, Jim McWilliams
Tommy Thompson, Mary Ann Houston, Tim Coffey, Jimmy MacGregor, Willie MacLeod
[Photo: Blair Brown]



1981 School
[Photo: Blair Brown]



1981 Instructors

L-R: Blair Brown, George Reid, Gerry Radford, Tommy Thompson, Don Mitchell, Andrea Eresman, Jim McWilliams,
Donald MacLeod, Willie MacLeod, Barry Robinson, Barry McMurdo, Roland Reid
[Photo: Blair Brown]