You can never have too many bagpipers is the way Pipe Major Craig Brooks sees it, and so the Hobart musician has teamed up with a couple of South Haven firefighters to found the Celtic Society of Indiana Pipes & Drums.
The new group meets from 6 to 7:30 p.m. every Sunday at the South Haven Fire Department, 398 W. 700 North, Valparaiso, and also practices at Brooks' Hobart home.
Keith Austin said he approached Brooks after hearing him play "Amazing Grace" on the pipes in memory of a fellow firefighter, Eric Considine, who died in a blaze at his home this spring. "I had heard about Craig and I went up to this piper and asked if he knew him," Austin said.
"Craig said 'you're talking to him,' and I told him I wanted to start a new pipes and drum corps," Austin said. "We started talking and the rest is history."
There is no charge to join. Beginners are asked to purchase their own practice supplies. "We will teach traditional Scottish and Irish music and will provide professional instruction," Brooks added.
"All you need is a love for pipes and drums and a willingness to learn," said Brooks, who welcomes novices. "We will pipe mostly in the Northwest Indiana area and will perform for first responders and military men and women as well as other community events. We are actively raising funds and are open to sponsors."
Brooks is a two-time graduate of of the North American Academy of Piping, a graduate of Ohio Scottish Arts School, and has been tutored by two world champion pipers.
Another charter member of the Celtic Society of Indiana Pipes & Drums is Steve Zilai, a Portage resident and a South Haven Fire Department captain who formed the Local 556 Hammond Fire Department Pipes and Drums, now known as the Band of Brothers.
"Craig and I played together for a couple years before Craig left the band," Zilai said of the Band of Brothers, to which he still belongs.
Zilai and Austin "talked a lot about starting a band and this year, when we went to the (annual) Fire Department Instructors Conference, it was decided we would. Keith got to play with all of us pipers and drummers from all over the country," Zilai said.
"When we got back (from Indianapolis) we started to think about names," Zilai added. I wanted to start a band in the area to honor fallen heroes from the military, fire, EMS and police."
The band has chosen the "Brooke" family tartan, a rare weave from Ireland, for its uniform.
"We are calling for all pipers and drummers or anyone who wants to learn to come to a meeting," added Brooks, who can be reached at (219) 614-7371.