The United States Coast Guard Pipe Band

Saturday, December 17, 2011

US Coast Guard Pipe Band, marching at the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo By: USCG PAC Tom Sperduto

When you hear bag pipes at a parade, you usually assume the sound is coming from a military musical group, but the U.S. Coast Guard? Yes, since 2002, the US Coast Guard Pipe Band has been playing everything from swearing-in ceremonies to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City.

Article by Auxiliarist Steven White

Not only is the group the largest pipe band affiliated with any U.S. military service, it’s one of the biggest in the world with more than 100 members, over half of which are from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. If you haven’t had a chance to see the musicians in person, they’re amazing to watch. Plus, once you realize that only USCG active duty, reserve, auxiliary and retired personnel are allowed to join, you understand what an accomplishment it is for everyone involved.

Band members are not paid for their performances; many dig into their own pockets to make it to events. Ask them why they do it, and you’ll hear the same answer. They do it for the love and honor that comes from playing the pipes.

“It’s hard to put into words the pride I feel when I lead the group in performances,” said Pipe Major/Director M. L. Loudermilk, USCG Combat Veteran. “We are all extremely proud to be able to represent the Coast Guard and Auxiliary and are overwhelmed with the responses we receive when we perform for the public – from the tears of ‘Amazing Grace’ to the cheers of ‘Semper Paratus.’”

Many of us think that playing the pipes simply requires blowing into a bag, but Loudermilk explained that it takes much more.  “Frankly, the bagpipe is one of the hardest instruments to learn to play, and it takes around seven years to master,” said Loudermilk. “It is very physically demanding, yet at the same time, requires light, quick and nimble fingering.

Drum Major Andrew Anderson wearing the Coast Guard Tartan Kilt with the red Drum Major Sash, Drummers Sporran and the Pipe Band Baldric. Photo courtesy of USCG Auxiliary.

Members’ Tartans, the kilt-like uniforms worn during performances, carry great meaning. The Tartan displays several prominent colors.

Red symbolizes the courage and sacrifice of the men and woman of the Coast Guard and its predecessor service and their families, in war and peace for more than 200 years.

White represents the original ten Revenue Cutters commissioned by Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, in 1790. They were the Massachusetts, Scammel, Active, Eagle, Diligence, Argus, Vigilant, Virginia, South Carolina and the General Greene.

Blue symbolizes the seas and skies plied by cutters and aircraft of the Coast Guard as it carries out its missions to serve and protect.

Band members live throughout the country, which allows the band to play at many functions, dinners, military balls, commissioning ceremonies and much more. You may request the full band all the way down to a solo piper and drummer. Contact the pipe major at for more information.

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  1. Eugenia says:

    Will your group be performing in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012?

  2. Ralph Simmons says:

    Great photos. How about a sound track or a sound recording on the Internet?

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