Bagpiper for “Fighting 69th” a fount of tradition
Story and photo by Spc. J. Princeville Lawrence, 42nd Infantry Division Public Affairs

NEW YORK Clear. Simple. Piercing. The sound of the bagpipe is unmistakable. It’s also a familiar sound for the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment: the sound of Joe Brady, the regimental pipe major, playing the Garryowen.

“I do a lot of bag piping, but one of my favorite roles is to be pipe major for the regiment. It’s steeped in tradition there, and I really think I’m contributing to some of the long-standing traditions there, whether that be the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, or a change of command ceremony, or a dinner.”

Joe Brady, regimental pipe major for the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, plays the bagpipe at change-of-command ceremony at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York, N.Y. Brady has played bagpipe for the regiment for 22 years at parades, ceremonies, and dinners.
Brady has been working with the regiment for more than 22 years, playing the 69th’s regimental tune, the Garryowen, an ancient tune befitting the its instrument. “It’s an ancient instrument,” Brady said of the bagpipe. “It’s one tube, one column, with holes in it, and by covering up those holes I can make nine notes.”

“I simply blow into the bag. I blow and squeeze so the air goes out of the stocks,” Brady said. “You’ve got the three pieces that go over my shoulders, those are called the drones. That provides that constant hum sound in the back.”

Brady, who learned the bagpipes from his father, said the very sound of the bagpipes is enough to reach the hearts of even the toughest of men. “I will admit that at times I can anticipate that as soon as I hear a bagpipe it’s gonna bring forth the tears,” Brady said. “It’s an instrument that can stretch that emotional spectrum.

“Sometimes, even if I don’t know the deceased, you might see the children or the grandchildren of the deceased, and you recognize, even looking at you, that they see a bagpipe and you know they’re going to react to it,” said Brady, who estimates he plays at least a hundred events a year, between weddings, funerals, festivals and military engagements. “It doesn’t bother me so much because I recognize that music is important at these types of things.”

Brady said has seen a lot of weddings and funerals over his years, and he’s seen a lot of change of command ceremonies too. “I’ve had to pleasure of working with so many commanding officers,” Brady said. “And I’ve maintained relationships with most of them.”

For the Soldiers he plays for, it’s a boon to have Joe Brady play his bagpipe, an honor, even. “He comes to our events voluntarily,” said Lt. Col. John Andonie, who was in charge of the “Fighting 69th” for two years. “This man could easily perform at national level events and get paid big bucks for it, but he comes and volunteers to support us. He brings so much life and color to our ceremonies.”

Brady, however, insists the privilege is his. “I just want to honor the troops,” he said, “and I’m fortunate that I’m able to contribute as a bagpiper. I didn’t have to go to combat, and I very much respect those that have. Again, it’s humbling when they want pictures with me. It should be the other way around. My playing at the 69th makes me feel good.”