Highland Arts Camp/School of Scottish Arts

The Beginning

In 1965, Miss Sally Southerland, a Highland dance teacher in Charlotte, Ludovic Grant-Alexander, the director of The Citadel Pipe Band in Charleston and the developers of Invershiel, a replica of a Scottish Highlands village at the foot of Grandfather Mountain met to draw up plans for a summer school where students could learn dancing, piping and Scottish history and culture from outstanding teachers.  At the time, there were ample opportunities for aspiring dancers and pipers to get instruction in the northern states, but few opportunities in North Carolina.  The Highland Arts Camp opened in June 1966 with 20 campers on the campus of Lees-MacRae College in Banner Elk.SSA Band

Piping Instructors

Ludovic Grant-Alexander was the piping instructor the first year. In 1967, a college student filled in when Grant-Alexander could not be there.   Matt Forsyth of Dunedin, FL was the piping instructor in 1968 and 1970.  The camp did not operate in 1969.  P/M MacRae of Toronto, Canada was piping instructor from 1971 to 1972.  P/M Greg Murdoch, also of Toronto, was piping instructor from 1973 through 1981.  By 1982, most piping students were attending the nearby North American Academy of Piping so piping was no longer offered at the School of Scottish Arts.

Drumming Instructors

Drumming instruction was added to the school by 1974 with Eddie Asten and David Wonsey teaching snare and Beth Frink teaching bass and tenor.  Jon Quigg was the snare instructor in 1980 and Tim Gladden and Tommy Kee were snare instructors in 1982.


Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming

The Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming was founded in 1979 by Albert McMullin.  During Albert’s tenure as director, it was held at his alma mater, Guilford College in Greensboro from 1979 – 1983 and at Davidson College from 1984 – 1987.  The first two instructors were Jimmy McIntosh and Alex Duthart.  As the school grew, additional instructors were added.  These included:  piping – Murray Henderson, Jimmy MacGregor and Scot McAulay; drumming – Tom Kee, Bert Barr, Drew Duthart and Jim Kilpatrick.  McIntosh taught each year. Duthart taught until his untimely death in November 1986.

Albert had several motivating factors for starting the school. It was a way to spend time with his piping and drumming friends who had drifted apart after high school and college.  It was a unique opportunity for two of the leading piping and drumming teachers in the world to offer quality instruction in the South. The school became a reality after McMullin attended the Laurel Valley School of Piping and Dancing in Pennsylvania in 1978 where McIntosh was the piping instructor. There, McIntosh and McMullin developed a friendship and the idea of starting their own school was too good to ignore.Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming 1979

                                               Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming – 1979

From the very beginning, classes were kept small.  The maximum number of students was 16 per instructor, with no more than four students per time period twice a day.  The individualized instruction attracted prominent pipers and drummers, including future Gold Medalists and judges Mike Cusack, Donald MacPhee and Mike Rogers; future judges Charlie Cablish, Hugh Cameron, Maureen Connor, Jerry Finegan, Amy Garson, June Hanley, Tom Kee, Peter Kent, Calum MacDonald, Joyce McIntosh, Albert McMullin, Bobby Minnear, Chip Reardon, Patrick Regan, Nancy Tunnicliffe and Jon Quigg.  These students set a very high learning and musical standard for all who attended.

In 1988, the school merged with the Balmoral School of Piping at Edinboro University in Edinboro, PA. The summer sessions, now under the direction of George Balderose, continued in the Carolinas through 1991, meeting at Davidson College, Old Dominion University in Virginia, and at Converse College in SC.