Pipes & Drums

History of the Program

Bagpipe music has been a part of local Athena culture since the community was founded. Many of the early settlers were of Scottish descent and prior to WWI there was a very active Caledonian Society in the area. This group held an annual picnic featuring piping and dancing in the grove next to Wildhorse Creek.  The last of the original Athena pipers, Allie Bell, passed away in the 1950s.

McEwen High School was constructed in 1949 on land donated by the family of Andrew McEwen, a native of Invernesshire who had settled in Athena during the 1870s. The band program at McEwen High School wanted to re-introduce elements of the community’s Scottish heritage and so a Highland dance group was established in 1955 that performed the Highland Fling with the all girl pep band at performances. The popularity of this dance routine was the seed that eventually led to the creation of the pipe band. The Highland Lassies were established as a club in 1958 and the first set of bagpipes were purchased the following year. Over the next several years, Director John Hansen purchased three additional sets of bagpipes and one girl from each high school grade was elected to play them. No instructors were available who really understood the bagpipes, so progress was slow. The school’s first student piper, Janet Johnson, accompanied the dancers upon the bagpipe in 1960.

Band director Steve Pyle arrived in 1968 and greatly expanded the pipe band. Fourteen additional sets of pipes were purchased, along with percussion equipment.   In 1980, the first male members joined the group.

Steve Pyle retired in 2000 and the current director is Rob McIntyre. The group averages between 16 and 20 members and performs in conjunction with the 50 member strong Weston McEwen Band.
Over the years, the group has performed in both England and Scotland, at the Statue of Liberty, at the Lincoln Memorial and twice in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
Highland Lassies, 1959 1st Piper year with dancers
Pipers 1964 WM Band 1991
The Lincon Memorial 2009 tour
Marching with Morrisona Acadamy
Crieff, Scotland 2005
2005 tour Band
Spokaue Lilac festival
Portland Trailblazers game 2003
Stirling Castle Scotland