Bagpipes in Nevada

In 1869, Journalist Alf Doten noted that Virginia City's annual celebration of Robert Burns, Scotland's Poet Laureate, included "a highland piper in costume." Scottish dance competitions at Nevada's nineteenth-century Highland games would have also required the presence of a piper.

Similar anecdotal references to pipers occur throughout Nevada history. For example, Don McBride, eventual owner of the Comstock's Bucket of Blood Saloon, played pipes in Virginia City as a child in the 1930s. These isolated expressions of Scottish heritage emerged from the immigrant population.

In 1961, John "Scotty" Sneddon, award-winning piper and World War I veteran of the Highland regiments, formed the Sierra Highlanders Pipe Band in northern Nevada. It was the state's first pipe band and continues as one of the oldest on the West Coast. The band was initially intended as a police auxiliary organization, but insufficient recruits caused the Sierra Highlanders to open membership to the entire community. After performing for dozens of parades, the band began competing at Highland games in 1976. It subsequently won many competitions, performed at hundreds of venues, and published a CD of its music. In 2005, the Sierra Highlanders became Nevada's first representative at the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow, Scotland.

Beginning in the last decades of the twentieth century, other Nevada-based pipe bands organized, but most disbanded. Desert Skye Pipes and Drums of southern Nevada formed in 1999 and continues to promote pipe music in competitions and performances. Members wear the official Nevada State Tartan, adopted by legislation passed in 2001. Another pipe band organized in the late 1990s in affiliation with Reno area firefighters, but it subsequently dropped its association and is now known as the Reno and District Pipe Band.

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