EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – You see them at special events, whether it’d be walking in the Thanksgiving parade or paying tribute at memorial services, a group of El Paso firefighters started a bag piping band.
“El Paso Firefighters Pipes and Drums” started back in 2015 and El Paso Firefighters Pipes and Drums pipe major, Andy Olivarez, has been part of the band since the very beginning.
“When we first started, a lot of people – we’d go play somewhere and people would come up to us and go ‘you know what I’ve never heard bagpipes in person’ and its kind of hard to think about but I guess a lot of people never heard it.”
The band is made up of volunteers that are current, retired, or family of the El Paso firefighters. Olivarez said that you don’t need to know how to play drums or bagpipes, as long as you’re willing to learn they will teach you how to play the instrument.
The four reed instrument is challenging, “People don’t realize how in shape you have to be because not only sometimes we play, you have to march. It’s like chewing gum, walking, and tapping your belly and tapping your head. It’s everything put together.”
Olivarez said, he does not want to scare anyone away from this feel-rewarding instrument. He feels the reward whenever families request fire department honors for their loved ones during funeral services.
“Afterwards the chief would receive an email ‘you know what, the service was beautiful the bag pipes just made it that much more special’… it makes us feel good that we actually payed back what we owed to people that served.”
The El Paso Fire department aren’t the only ones with a bagpiping band, the El Paso Police Department and U.S. Border Patrol also have their own band. Sometimes all three bagpiping bands come together and help each other to play at certain events or services.
You can see more of the El Paso Firefighters Pipes and Drums through their Instagram @epfirepipesndrums or through Facebook @El Paso Firefighters Pipes and Drums.