Three Minutes on a Park Bench With Marcus Tardif

For only nine notes, his instrument is surprisingly hard to learn.

Marcus Tardif of the Dunedin Pipe Band. Photo courtesy of Megan Garren (http://sublimeintuition.com).
Marcus Tardif of the Dunedin Pipe Band. Photo courtesy of Megan Garren (http://sublimeintuition.com).
With a name like Marcus Tardif of Dunedin, you can't help but conjure visions of kilts and bagpipes.

In this case (should there be another Marcus Tardif of Dunedin) you'd be correct.

We recently caught up with Marcus, who together with an intensely dedicated group of people, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dunedin Pipe Band this year.

Patch: Can you give me a quick introduction to the leaders of the Dunedin Pipe Band?

Marcus: The Dunedin Pipe Band is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity that is governed by our Executive Committee: Iain Donaldson, Pipe Major and Dunedin’s Scottish Programs Director; Mark Deal, president; Gary Smith, vice president; Carl Doyle, treasurer; Susan Elftman, secretary; Jamie Everett and Dan Eaton, members-at-large; and me, the band manager.

P: How did you get started with the band?

M: As with most of us ‘kids’ who grew up in Dunedin, I learned through the school system and eventually moved into the adult band, which is the Dunedin Pipe Band. When I was coming up through Dunedin schools, bagpipes were taught at the middle and high schools. I always thought it was the coolest instrument. All of my friends at the time were playing, and I really wanted to be a part of that experience.

Bagpipes can make the most annoying, awful, terrible noises with inexperience. But for those that have listened to good bagpiping, it can give you the chills and be very inspirational. As my dad Pete Tardif pointed out just the other day when he came in our shop, Lothian Kilt Rentals & Bagpipe Supplies, his favorite tune of all time is Highland Cathedral, and every time it’s played, he gets goosebumps.

Iain Donaldson, the current Director of Scottish Programs for Dunedin, is now teaching bagpipes in five local elementary schools, in addition to the high school, middle school, and adult programs. 

P: What instrument do you play? Pipes or drums?

M: I’ve been playing pipes for just about 20 years now. I am currently the Pipe Sergeant in our Grade 3 band and the pipe instructor for our Grade 4 band. I competed with the snare drum a few years back for the couple of seasons. It gave me an entirely different perspective that ultimately made me a better piper.

P: Is there anything special happening for the 50th?

M: It’s quite the accomplishment. It’s rare to find a pipe band lasting more than 15–20 years, but our founders, and all of the program directors and band leaders throughout the years, have done a wonderful job keeping our organization focused, strong, and competitive.

To commemorate 50 amazing years, the band launched the all-new http://www.DunedinPipeBand.com. This new site allows us to more easily share photos, videos, news posts, and upcoming DPB events with everyone.

The band is also having a 50th anniversary uniform makeover. Pipe Major Iain Donaldson designed a brand new tartan based on our prior Elliot tartan that brightens it up quite a bit. The new kilts will still be the blue that everyone has come to love, but it will be a much brighter, modern version of the tartan. We’ll be releasing the name of the new tartan and showing it off for the first time at the Dunedin Highland Games on April 5. The band will also have all new DPB custom sporrans, cap badges, and other uniform accessories.

We’ve got 50th Anniversary t-shirts designed by Megan Garren available for sale at Lothian Kilt Rentals & Bagpipe Supplies and online.

The band also purchased our new set of Andante drums that the Dunedin community made possible through their generous donations over the last year and a half. We’ll be debuting all of this at Dunedin Highland Games in April and then heading up to the North American Pipe Band Championships in Maxville, Ontario (August 2014). It's going to be a tremendous year!

P: What's the one thing people think they know about the bagpipe but that isn't actually true?

M: That’s a great question! In our current culture where instant gratification rules our lives, non-pipers and even new bagpipe learners tend to think that, while learning the bagpipe is difficult, it should only take a few years to become proficient.

 This couldn’t be further from the truth. Realistically, learners take up to a year or more just to learn the notes by playing on a practice chanter before they ever begin on a set of bagpipes. It seems like such a simple instrument; it only has 9 notes!! But bagpipes are different than any other woodwind instrument because they actually have 4 different reeds that are played simultaneously (3 ‘drones’ and one ‘chanter’ reed that plays the melody) and bagpipes require blowing into the bag and squeezing with your arm. So you’ve got melodic fingering to master, pipe bag manipulation to master, and muscles that you didn’t even know existed need to strengthened.

P: Are you originally from Dunedin?

M: I am. I was raised on Scotland Street just two blocks from Downtown Dunedin. I attended Dunedin Elementary, Middle, and High schools. I went away to college at the University of Florida, got my first job in Orlando, and lived in Atlanta for seven years. Moving away from Dunedin allows you to truly appreciate everything that Dunedin has to offer.

My wife and I would come back to visit my family, and we both couldn’t stop talking about how nice it was. Then, on one Florida trip, we borrowed my parents’ convertible and were on our way back from Caddy’s on St. Pete Beach after a Florida basketball game. We were driving along Edgewater with the sun beaming down and the water just a smooth as glass. We looked at each other and realized this place is where we belong. So within six months, we sold our house in Atlanta and moved back to Dunedin.

P: I hear a lot that Dunedin is a close-knit place, that people love living here. Agree? Why do you think that is?

M: Absolutely agree. ‘Loving it’ is an understatement. Put simply, we all live where people come to vacation. Based on that philosophy, we are on vacation every day! I really do believe that.

In our bagpiping and drumming world, we have the opportunity to bring so many different guests to Dunedin from across the globe. Every single one of them immediately recognizes why Dunedin is so great—our unique Scottish culture that is so prominent in the community, our wonderful Dunedin residents, the weather, the amazing downtown with great restaurants, bars, and shops, and our beaches. Our community leaders do a great job keeping that small-town feel while promoting local business, which really helps tourism thrive. 

P: Who is the funniest person in the band?

M: Ha. They’ll probably kill me for mentioning this. We have the three Tims in the band affectionately known as ‘OMG’. Tim ‘O’strander is our Grade 4 band midsection leader, Tim ‘M’archand is our Grade 3 midsection leader, and Tim ‘G’arren is our Grade 4 drum sergeant. I’ll keep the details within the band, but without a doubt, when any of the three are around, a good time will be had by all.

P: What's #3 on your bucket list?
M: I only have one item on my bucket list at the moment, and I’m sure I’m not the only person in the band that feels the same. I want to win a world pipe band championship. Every few years, we head over to Glasgow, Scotland, for the World Pipe Band Championships. Hundreds of bands come from all over the world to compete. The Dunedin Pipe Band has yet to win a championship, but we’ve definitely come close (the closest was 1998 when we came in 2nd). It is the ultimate prize for a pipe band and something a lot of us dream about every night.

Under the direction of Pipe Major Iain Donaldson, we will undoubtedly win a world championship. The question now is how soon? The travel cost to take the band to Scotland climbs each and every year. To give you some perspective, our trip in 2012 cost the band just over $120,000 to bring 50 members over to Scotland for a week and a half. Plane tickets are just about double what they were only five years ago.

We spend hundreds of hours fundraising every year for this very reason. All money donated to the Dunedin Pipe Band is tax deductible. We can’t thank everyone enough!

To get the latest on events, follow the band on Facebook or on their new site. All shows (save the pub crawl) are family friendly.

Next performances include:
2/22 – Jacksonville Highland Games
3/9, 1:30pm – Concert in Pioneer Park (Downtown Dunedin)
3/16, 4pm – St. Patrick’s Day parade in Anna Maria Island
3/17 – St. Patrick’s Festivities at Flanagan’s in Dunedin and O’keefe’s in
4/4, 6pm – Dunedin Highland Games band march through Downtown Dunedin
4/5 – Dunedin Highland Games, Highlander Park, Dunedin
5/3, 7pm – Concert in Pioneer Park followed by a band pub crawl
5/24 – Greenville Highland Games, Greenville, SC
6/15 – Georgetown Highland Games, Georgetown, Ontario
8/2 – North American Pipe Band Championships, Maxville, Ontario

If you'd like to hire the band you can contact Marcus directly at marcustardif@gmail.com.

"Three Minutes on a Park Bench With..." is a feature that lets you peek inside the lives of people who share your patch of Earth, whether its your street, your town or state. They may be firefighters, moms, bagpipers or brewmasters, but they all have one thing in common—passion. They love what they do and where they do it. Actual park bench is not required so if you know a great person for this space drop us a line at kathleen@patch.com.  
Kevin Carney February 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Three Minutes on a Park Bench... Excellent article and video. On the Dunedin Pipe Band. I always get a Good 'feeling' when I hear the bagpipes and drums playing. Coming from Irish ancestory, this is of special interest for me. Thank You for an Outstanding article.
Sharon Allworth February 16, 2014 at 08:37 PM
Great article. I was one of the original members of the Dunedin Pipe Band and went to school with Peter Tardif, Marcus's dad. I also went to the UF. I am so glad the band is doing so well. Dunedin is a special place and I get to visit at least once a year as my dad (now almost 90) still lives there. Sharon Jones Allworth (I still have my pipes, still play them and have notations in my music from Matt Forsyth!)


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