Local Soldier pipes his way to band championships
July 21, 2011
By Iben Merrild
HEIDELBERG, Germany-- Second Lt. Pascal Reber, Executive Officer of Company B, 24th Millitary Intelligence Battalion located on Patton Barracks in Heidelberg is set to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, Aug. 13.
Reber, who is originally from Switzerland, moved to the Unites States in 1991 as part of a student exchange program where he lived in Leoti, Kansas.
He remained in Kansas to attend college and in 1993, he took up bagpiping.
“It was a childhood dream but growing up in Switzerland at the time, finding a teacher was close to impossible, so one of the first things I did when I went to the states 20 years ago was try to find a bagpipe teacher, and I actually ended up in a town that had a pipe band,” Reber said.
He joined the U.S. Army after becoming an American citizen two years ago. “I always wanted to serve in the United States armed forces,” he said.
“There is a tremendous history of association between the pipes and the military,” Reber explained.
“Pretty much every single tune in the bagpipe repertoire has been composed for a famous battle or a famous person usually related to the military,” he said.
Prior to joining the Army, Reber played a lot of gigs for the Army, the Marine Corps and the Air Force.
“The response was usually very, very positive. I think it is because the pipes are such a marshal instrument. It has that connection with the military,” Reber said.
Reber has also performed at weddings, funerals, church services, patriotic events, parades, birthdays and other events regularly.
Bagpiping takes a serious commitment and Reber practices one hour every day, usually during lunchtime.
“It is actually an instrument that requires lots of maintenance and requires lots of playing,” he said, calling it “a very jealous instrument.”
It can easily take 15 minutes to tune it in order to get the sound right.
Reber, who mainly plays the Great Highland pipe, is currently a grade two piper according to the U.S. Piping Association, explained that all bagpipers start out as grade five and gradually progress to grade one as they win different contests.
Not only is it a time consuming hobby, it is also expensive.
“The pipes range from about $800 all the way to $8,000 for a full set and on top of that you have the kilt,” he said.
Reber, who has more or less every outfit there is to have, said “you probably spend about $30,000.”
For Reber, who joined U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg in November 2010, bagpiping plays a very important part in his life. “My wife is a piper, too. That is how we met. We joined the same pipe band within three weeks of each other,” he said.
Reber has even spent time widening his knowledge on the subject, by spending a year in Aberdeen, Scotland, doing research on the Gordon Highlanders.
The world championship in Glasgow, which includes 230 bands from 12 nations, will be Reber’s first, however, he is not new to bagpipe competitions having won many awards especially in solo piping.
“I haven’t competed in competitions since joining the army, as far as solo competitions are concerned, which is one thing I really miss,” he said.
At the upcoming competition, however, he along with approximately 50 other bagpipers and drummers across different grades, will represent the local Heidelberg District Pipes and Drums, all in proper attire wearing red, green and yellow McFie kilts.
For more information visit www.bydandpiper.com.