Enumclaw High sophomore marches to bagpipe victory

Sam Horn and Northwest Junior Pipe Band compete at world championships in Scotland

Sam Horn and Northwest Junior Pipe Band compete at world championships in Scotland

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Since he was a toddler, Enumclaw High sophomore Sam Horn could hear bagpipes calling him.

“We would take him to parades and he would wait, and wait and wait for the bagpipes and then rush out to see them,” said his mother Jody Horn. “He would just go crazy. He was enamored with the bagpipes.”

Bob and Jody Horn would buy their young son CDs of bagpipe music to encourage his passion.

By chance, at a church in Denver, Sam Horn, then a sixth-grade student, met a man who invited him to learn to play the bagpipes. Already a music student on baritone and tuba, Horn started on the chanter, the pipe on which the melody is played, and was a quick study and moved to the bagpipe.

The family moved to Enumclaw and found a pipe band here. Horn started with the Keith Highlanders and recently switched to the Shoreline-based Northwest Junior Pipe Band, a move that took him to Scotland in August to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships.

“We were the only youth pipe band in the United States to go to the Worlds,” Horn said. And the first, he added, from Washington state since the 1960s - 1969 to be specific.

“It was fun, but it was really hard work,” he said.

In addition to twice-a-day practices, there were four sets of competition for the two-week long trip.

The first day of competition, Horn was ready to pack his bags and bagpipe and head home. The band, in its traditional, civilian-style Scottish uniforms with MacKenzie tartan kilts, performed on a sloppy field in a North Berwick downpour. The competition, smaller than the Scottish Highland Games in Enumclaw where the band qualified, placed seventh of 11 in Novice Juvenile March Medley and fifth out of seven in Juvenile Medley Selection.

The second competition was bigger and better. The Northwest Junior Pipe Band captured top honors out of 24 bands at the Perth Highland Games.

That was followed by two rounds at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow. Horn’s group was ranked third after the qualifying round and finished fifth out of 23 bands in the Novice Juvenile division.

The trip concluded at the Crieff Highland Games where the Northwest Junior Pipe Band placed first out of 14 bands in Grade 4 competition.

In all, said Jody Horn, who made the trip too, their band was among 200 others for a total of 8,000 pipers and drummers.

“The bagpipe’s different from any other instrument you will every play,” said Horn, who also is a member of the Enumclaw High marching band, as he explains how the end of the chanter has a valve that closes to keep the air he blows into the bag. Horn can then control that air, which stays enclosed in the bag, with the squeeze of his arm.

Horn and his bagpipes, along with younger brother Thomas, who plays the drums, are fixtures around the Plateau.

“My first gig on the bagpipes was at a talent show at my middle school,” the elder Horn said. Since then he’s played at a number of venues including parades, benefits, funerals, community gatherings and weddings. His talents were sold to a bidder for $300 at last year’s Arts Alive! fundraising auction.

Horn is also finding an added bonus to playing an instrument not common to most music programs - college scholarships.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.