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Allure of the pipes captures family

Family members will perform during Saturday's Highland Games
by: John Klicker, Stephanie Bancroft, center, and her husband Mark, right, and their son Garrett, 11, play bagpipes, the tenor drum and the side drum on Friday, July 7. The family is excited to attend the Portland Highland Games at Mt. Hood Community College on Saturday, July 15.

Bagpipes are a magical instrument.

You can disagree, of course. You can side with bagpipe detractors - and there are many - who say the instrument sounds as sweet as a yowling cat.

Or, you can open your heart to the lure of the pipes. Get used to the volume (and the occasional screeching cat sound) and you might just fall in love.

Stephanie Bancroft did.

The Troutdale mother of four fell for the pipes a few years ago, after hearing the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Pipe Band.

She liked them so much, she signed up for lessons.

These days, Bancroft and her husband Mark - a Gresham firefighter who plays the tenor drum - play Scottish tunes at firefighter funerals, festivals and bars with the non-competitive Tualatin Valley band.

As a drummer, Mark has it easy. He can practice anytime he wants, flourishing his fuzzy-ended mallets and tapping away with abandon.

Stephanie, on the other hand, has gotten used to annoying others. The neighbors put up with it. Her teenaged daughters run away from it.

'I really enjoy them, but the rest of the family doesn't,' Stephanie says of her bagpipes.

Actually, there is one family member who enjoys mom's music.

'At least one of them thinks we're cool,' Stephanie says, nodding to her youngest child, 11-year-old Garrett.

Garrett doesn't mind Stephanie's practice sessions. In fact, as a soon-to-be full-fledged member of the esteemed Sir James McDonald Pipe Band, this youngster takes Scottish music very seriously.

When he first heard his mom and dad's band, Garrett thought he wanted to play the bagpipes, but his heart had other ideas.

'I liked the bagpipes so much, but then I heard the drums, and I knew that's what I wanted to play,' Garrett says.

He was only 9 at the time, but Stephanie saw her son's potential. She signed Garrett up with the instructors in the Sir James McDonald Pipe Band and watched him blossom.

'He's a natural,' Stephanie says.

Now that he's 11, Garrett will join the award-winning competition band this fall as a side (snare) drummer. He can't wait to start competing.

'My dream is to play in a highly qualified band and go around the world,' Garrett says.

The Sir James McDonald Pipe Band is an excellent place to nurture that dream.

The band includes about 30 pipers and drummers ages 11 to 18, and has won prizes throughout the world, including a recent first-place at the June 6 Highland Games in Bellingham, Wash.

The Sir James McDonald Pipe Band is the featured band at the upcoming Portland Highland Games.

Jeff Brewer, director and co-founder of the band, says competing at the Portland Highland Games is exciting for the youth band.

'As the only competitive youth bagpipe band between Seattle and San Francisco, it is an honor to compete in front of our home crowd before we head to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships.'

The Bancroft family wouldn't miss the local Highland Games.

'Last year was awesome,' Stephanie says. 'It is $20 to get in, but it is totally worth the admission.'