Michael Breidenbach of Saint Paul is using his IMDA Educational Grant to help with the purchase of a new bagpipe. Mike first became interesting learning the bagpipes when he came to Macalester College as a student. The college has a strong connection to its Scottish heritage, including its famous pipe band. Mike had heard the pipes only a couple of times but he never forgot the sound. Mike decided to take advantage of the free lessons – “and see what would happen if I really practiced hard, as I had gotten away with getting by on my trombone and bass guitar.” As Mike tells us “It turns out a lot can be accomplished with some hard work.” He has gone on to become the Director of Piping at Macalester College, and serving in that role since 1999. Mike has significantly expanded the piping and drumming program at Macalester, growing the program from 4 students and about 10 community members to over 40 college students and over 50 community members today. He has also started the Minnesota Youth Pipe Band, with six active members from ages 9 to 14.
Mike has plans to lead the Macalester Pipe Band to the Scottish Pipe Band Championships in 2018 and also competes on the Ontario solo circuit.
Mike tells us that he feels that it is important to lead by example. Leadership means continuing as an active solo competitor and performer. That goal was the reason for his request for an IMDA Educational Grant. Mike requested help with the purchase of a new bagpipe. He had two reasons for the request. Mike tells us that it’s challenging to maintain on bagpipe for both solo performing and band performing. In addition, his current instrument was built before World War I and was made with ivory mounts. In the current political climate, Mike could run a very real risk if he took his instrument out of the country (to Canada or Scotland) to perform – the risk of having it confiscated when he tried to return home.
A fellow piper who recommended Mike for this award spoke enthusiastically about the influence that Mike has had on the bagpiping scene here in Minnesota, through his leadership at Macalester, his commitment to the youth pipe band and his involvement with the larger community. Mike has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra and with the Chieftains, as well as serving piper for the world premiere of the Pulitzer Prize winning opera “Silent Night.” And he is in demand as a solo performer for all manner of events in the community.
The Irish Music and Dance Association is delighted to help this dedicated musician continue to grow as a musician and as a teacher.