The Christian Brothers Academy Pipes and Drum band made its debut marching in the South Amboy and Rumson St. Patrick's Day parades last weekend, less than 12 hours after their brand new St. Andrew tartan kilts arrived at the Lincroft high school campus.
The dozen members have been loudly practicing for a year. They've learned The Marine Hymn, The Caissons Go Rolling Along, Minstrel Boy, Sean South of Garryowen and Amazing Grace. Some of them had no prior musical instrument experience.
"As you can imagine, a year ago, the band sounded like kids who never played before," said CBA President Frank Byrne, who's been playing the Highland pipes for 22 years with Manhattan College Pipes and Drums. "But marching down the street in South Amboy and Rumson with hundreds and hundreds of people cheering for them, it was a thrill and they saw the fruits of their labor."
The idea of starting the marching band began last year with Rumson seniors Matt Buckley and Gorsha Saling, who noticed that 19 colleges and universities offered scholarships for piping and drumming.
For the first six months instructor Frank Johnson had the young pipers practice melodies on the finger holes of the practice chanters. Drum instruction was by Gordon Bell, who also marched in the fledgling band. The group practiced together once a week and were asked to practice every day at home for at least 15 minutes.
Next weekend they will play for their classmates at a fundraiser for the CBA Crew Team at Trump National in Colts Neck. Pipe Major Gerard "Roddy" Ward of Manalapan, is the anchor of the band. He will be joined by pipers Zach Barden of Howell, Mike Collins of Freehold, Conor Foor of Manchester, Bryan Smyth of Colts Neck, Tom Palisi of Morganville, Jack Ruiz of Long Branch, and "Brother Frank" Byrne.
Junior Allan Cuttle of Manalapan leads the band on the base drum, and sophomore Andrew Wessel of Red Bank is on the snare. The band is seeking a tenor drummer. Byrne says it shouldn't be too hard; he's the guy who gets to throw around the mallets.
Pipes and drum bands get paid to march in parades. The money the CBA band earns will go to offset the cost of the nearly $800 pricetag to outfit each member with the kilt, flashes, belts and other accoutrements, as well as to purchase four bagpipes from Scotland (some members bought or borrowed their own), the drums, and the instruction.
Too bad the kilts arrived so late; the band would have like to have been scheduled for more St. Patrick's Day events, said Byrne, who is performing with his college band in the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday, at the event in Colts Neck Saturday night, and in a parade in Mamaroneck, NY on Sunday.
"We only got the word out there recently," said Byrne. "Hopefully we'll be in a lot more parades next year," he said.