MARQUETTE - There will be a quite a few marching bands playing in Fourth of July parades today and Sunday.
One that's unique is Superior Pipes and Drums, the Upper Peninsula's first bagpipe band. Not only does the group have bagpipes and drums, though. It also features Celtic dancers.
"My best friend, Wayne Oien, and I had been marching with the Grand Traverse Pipes and Drums from Traverse City," said Pierre Ogea, co-founder of Superior Pipes. "We started with them when several friends invited us down to play. Wayne and I talked about it and thought why not get something started up here?
The Superior Pipes & Drums performs as they march down 3rd Street in the Ishpeming Fourth of July parade in 2008. (Journal file photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
"With the Grand Traverse corps help with uniforms and equipment, we got started."
That was in 2005 and Superior Pipes and Drums has been growing ever since.
Ogea, who has been a members of a number of drum and bugle corps, including the Ishpeming Blue Notes, the Munising Castle Guards, the LaCrosse (Wis.) Blue Stars and the Concord (Calif.) Blue Devils, said recruiting members for the new marching unit wasn't difficult.
For booking information, contact Pierre Ogea at firstname.lastname@example.org or (906) 249-1999.
Superior Pipes and Drums welcomes new members and will arrange for instruction in Scottish Piping, Drumming, and Highland Dancing. To arrange for instruction, contact:
Drum Sergeant Wayne Oien at email@example.com or (906)360-1409
Lisa McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org or (906)482-9137
Pipe Major Doug McKenzie at email@example.com or (906)482-9137
or David Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (906)458-2671
or Barry Tippett at email@example.com or (906)337-4533
"We solicited members through the local school systems," he said. "It was pretty much word of mouth."
Ogea and Oien spent time working with members as they joined in.
"Even among bagpipe bands, we're unusual," Ogea said. "Most have pipe and drum, but we also include Scottish dancing, so we have all three together.
"That's a special niche for our organization," he said. "That puts our band over the top, I think. It's something special."
For any given performance, Superior Pipes and Drums has six to eight dancers, eight to 10 pipers and up to 14 members in the drum unit.
The members come from all over the Upper Peninsula.
"Geographically, we are spread out from Escanaba to the Copper Country as far as members go," Ogea said.
The Marquette County contingent practices on Tuesday evenings at Lake Superior Christian Church, which is in the Marquette area.
"The church has been generous enough to loan us the facility for rehearsal," Ogea said.
The Houghton-area portion of the band practices on Thursday evenings at the Hancock Fire Department.
"Rehearsals mostly take place from October through May, which is typically our off season," Ogea said.
The band's "on" season started in 2010 with a Father's Day performance at the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival.
"Parade season, we're usually really busy," he said. "We will be in the Ishpeming and Marquette Fourth of July parades (today) and in Munising on Sunday for their parade."
The group is the U.P.'s first ever bagpipe band and its members take pride in the music the band performs.
"Our group promotes Celtic arts and traditions," he said. "We enjoy doing that."
Right now, there are about 35 members in Superior Pipes and Drums, ranging in age from 10 to 60, Ogea said.
"We always welcome new members," he said. People who want more information can visit the group's website at superiorpipes.org to find out more.
"We usually have a membership drive in the fall, late September or early October for those who want to learn more," Ogea said. "We get the word out through community school programs about that."
Ogea said Superior Pipes owes a debt of gratitude to a number of local organizations in getting its start.
"There have been several organizations that have helped us get up and running," he said. "In addition to the Marquette, Ishpeming, Negaunee community foundations, the Negaunee Eagles helped us out. They helped us with uniforms and equipment when we desperately needed it."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253, or firstname.lastname@example.org.