SHU Adds Bagpipers to Band

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University’s band has welcomed two bagpipers to its group of musicians this year. Both have several years’ experience, so all they needed to join the band was a tartan pattern for their kilts. 

Deb Chute, associate director of creative services, went to work designing the perfect University tartan. The result of her work is a plaid pattern that reflects the nature of the University’s founding and represents diversity and complexity working in unison. Each “sett,” or intersection of lines, includes a cross that comprises three lines representing the Holy Trinity. Each of the three lines are woven from six threads, an homage to 1963, the year of SHU’s founding. The tartan’s primary color, red, represents the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is the common thread that connects everyone at the University. Grey and white are the secondary and tertiary colors. 

Once Chute created the design, it was recorded with the Scottish Register of Tartans in Edinburg, Scotland, the official bookkeepers of tartans. The pattern was then sent to the House of Edgar in Perth, Scotland, so the fabric could be woven in its facility, Isle Mill. 

Tartan merchandise will be available at the SHU bookstore and online at College Tartan Apparel. Items include bowties, ties, mugs, cashmere scarves, tumblers and more. 

Bagpipers Shane McLaughlin and Anthony Frawley are excited to be the first to sport the University’s official tartan. 

McLaughlin, whose heritage is Irish, started playing the bagpipes five years ago. “I always loved listening to the bagpipes, and I like playing them a lot” said the 18-year old freshman from Staten Island, N.Y. When he had an opportunity to join the fife and drum corps at his high school, Xaverian in Brooklyn, he took advantage of it. “I figured I probably wouldn’t get another chance to join,” he said.

Learning the new instrument wasn’t too difficult for McLauglin, who is studying for a degree in physical therapy. He said he just kept practicing. He’s now learning some modern tunes like “Wake Me Up” by Avicii and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. 

Frawley, like McLaughlin, started playing the bagpipes at his high school, Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, N.J. The 18-year-old freshman from Point Pleasant, N.J., majoring in exercise science and physical therapy, was awed by one of his high school’s traditions, in which the school’s bagpipe band would lead seniors through the hallway on their last day of school every year. “That looked like something I wanted to be part of,” he said. Frawley also felt playing the bagpipes allowed him to pay tribute to his grandparents, who are Irish. 

Learning the bagpipes wasn’t difficult for Frawley either, as he has mastered the instrument’s nine notes. He said he enjoys playing, even when his mother requests his talents at parties and other gatherings. He was accustomed to playing traditional tunes on the bagpipes, but since practicing at SHU, he has learned and enjoyed more upbeat songs. 

Keith Johnston, director of bands, said that when Frawley and McLaughlin auditioned for the SHU Band, they wore their full bagpipe regalia. “It was exceptionally cool,” he said. Johnston, who is Scottish, said he’s excited about the bagpipers and SHU’s tartan. 

Johnston told Frawley and McLaughlin they have to be flexible as the program grows and they’re integrated into the band. He said they will begin playing at events during the spring semester, including commencement, and he will have them on the football field with the marching band next fall. In the meantime, they practice on campus every Monday with an instructor.

Moreover, a beginners’ bagpipe program started in the spring semester, with the hope of expanding the group of students who play. Students who are interested in playing will get the opportunity to test out the instrument. “We’ve already had high school recruits who want to join the bagpipe program as freshmen next year and a SHU staff member has already joined our beginners’ bagpipe class,” Johnston said.

For more information on the beginners’ bagpipe program, contact Keith Johnston at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

PHOTO: Sacred Heart University bagpipers Shane McLaughlin and Anthony Frawley – photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek


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