Ron Lopez attributes his love of bagpipe music to his genetics. “My father’s heritage is Spanish, but I’ve always been drawn to my grandmother’s culture. She was a Wallace, so, for me, playing a Great Highland bagpipe is in my DNA,” he said. “For some reason, I’ve always been attracted to Scottish and Irish music. It just got into my soul.”
Lopez, 77, is the oldest bagpipe player in the Boise Highlanders. Established in 1961, the non-profit volunteer organization is the oldest and largest bagpipe band in Idaho with 35 active members, including pipers, dancers, and drummers.
Before becoming the band’s manager, Lopez served 40 years as the pipe major. “We’ve passed that job on to a talented young man who’s doing great. As far as I know, I’m the oldest active piper in Idaho,” he said.
He still plays the first set of Great Highland bagpipes he bought in 1961. “They’re old and beat up like me, but they still sound great.”
The Highlanders are invited to perform year-round at community events. To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Lopez and other members form teams of four and fan out throughout the Treasure Valley to play 15-minute gigs.
“Every year, we get requests to play at 30 to 40 places,” said Lopez. “We go to as many as possible.”
Besides for St. Patrick’s Day, the group also performs for the Treasure Valley Highland Games in September, the Trailing of the Sheep in the Wood River Valley in October, and the Robbie Burns Night in January. They also perform in parades, at concerts, and other events.
In Oregon, they are regular performers at Chief Joseph Days, Global Village, and the Athena Caledonian Games.
As a member of the City of Boise Police Pipes and Drums, Lopez performs at other community events, including Boise State University’s graduation ceremonies.
The Highlanders welcome new and beginning pipers, drummers, and dancers and teach lessons. Prior musical experience
is not necessary.
“We have members from grade school to senior citizens,” said Lopez. “They range from beginners to award-winning competitors.”
Lopez’s daughter, Sara Aycock, and her 13-year-old twin sons, Davin and Meric, share his passion for their Scottish heritage.
“Sara is our tenor drummer, and Davin and Meric started taking lessons when they were 9. They joined the band this past summer. With them and others, the future of the Highlanders looks good.”