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Pipe Major Robert McCarthy

Robert McCarthy is a Ottawa born and raised piper who has spent the past 40 years perfecting his craft.Robert's first instructor was Charles Bell, the first Pipe Major of the Ottawa Police Pipeband, and Pipe Sgt for CFB Rockcliffe Pipes and Drums. Charlie introduced him to the Sons of Scotland pipeband in Ottawa which was a youth band in Ottawa eventually becoming the Ogilvie Pipeband. Roberts first summer saw him attend the Seaway School of piping where he was instructed by PipeMajor Archie Cairns- senior Pipemajor for the Canadian Armed Forces, and Capt John Maclellan from the British Army school of piping. Their influence left a lasting impression on him.  Rob was introduced to Piobaireachd while attending the Northern School of Gaelic Arts in Timmins Ontario under the tutelage of Murray Henderson, and James McIntosh, two of the most highly regarded and successful competitive pipers, and instructors in the world to this day.


During his time with the Ogilvy Pipeband, Robert competed solo and in band competitions all over Ontario, Quebec, and north eastern United States, winning numerous individual solo medals from grade 4 up to grade 2.  During this time he rose quickly to the ranks of grade 2 solo competition where he came to the attention of the leader of the then Grade 2 Niagara & District Pipeband in Niagara Falls Ontario, PipeMajor Jake Watson.  He was invited to join the Niagara & District pipeband his first season with the Niagara & District saw them promoted to Grade 1.  Robert remained with the Niagara & District band for a little over 2 years, competing at the grade 1 pipeband level.  The members of  this band were very influential on his development as a piper, band member, and as an instructor, learning many of the skills needed for musical playing, setting up pipes to their best possible sound, and the discipline of running and leading a pipeband. 


Upon the dissolution of the Niagara band, Robert returned his attention to Ottawa, going to school and eventually joining the grade 2 level Air Command Pipes and Drums under the command of CWO Bill Gilmour, one of Canada’s premier pipers.  Robert took lessons from Bill as his schedule would permit, and full time with Bruce Macdonald who was a member of that band.  Under Bruce’s guidance Robert was promoted to the Grade 1 solo competition by the PPBSO.  During his second year of competing in grade 1 Robert entered the Ottawa branch of the PPBSO Knockout contest, winning second place the first and second year, and ultimately winning the grand prize trophy the third year. In his final year of competing Robert was successfully winning 1st prize awards in Grade 1 March, Strathspey&reel, Jig, and Piobaireachd at various contests including the North American Championship, Canadian Championship, and Provincial Championship.  Robert was never out of the top 5 that final season.    


After a number of years absent from the piping and drumming world and concentrating on school, career and family, Robert rejoined the Air Command Pipes and Drums in Ottawa which was then under the leadership of CWO Ian Ferguson.  During this time frame Robert was asked to setup a piping and drumming program by 832 Air Cadet Squadron in the nearby town of Rockland, and later he was again asked by 742 Squadron in Ottawa to be their piping instructor as well.  He still teaches at  both squadrons to this day and is something he really enjoys. Teaching enthusiastic players and developing the bands have become 2 passions in his life.

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