Regimental Band and Pipes collaboration brings “Echoes on the Ashley” to life at The Citadel

The Citadel's Regimental Band and Pipes.

Before cadets and students had yet returned to campus, Regimental Band Director Lt. Col. Timothy Smith was already planning for the upcoming school year. He knew he wanted to compose something original for the band when inspiration struck – The Citadel was getting ready to celebrate 100 years along the Ashley. Not only would it be an opportunity to commemorate this milestone, but it would also be a chance to bring the Regimental Band and Pipes together to create an original piece.

Regimental Pipe Band Director Jim Dillahey, ’01, had sent Smith a piping piece he thought would fit well with both bands, but upon hearing the suggested piece, Smith realized — he didn’t want to write someone else’s music, he wanted to write his own. From there, the creative process began.

“I wrote the main melody of this piece in just over a day and sent it over to Jim for his comments. He was teaching at a pipe camp in North Carolina during this, but by dinner time, he sent me back a recording and I immediately knew we had something special, “ said Smith. “I don’t know of many college or university music programs that could pull that off. I spent the next six weeks writing the pipe harmony parts and the accompaniment for the Regimental Band.”

For Dillahey, the collaboration process between the two bands was a significant moment.

“It has been an honor to work on this project with Tim, especially given the occasion for which it was written. To be a part of something that will last the test of time is very special,” said Dillahey.

According to Smith, this is the first time in Citadel history that the Regimental Band and Pipe Band have performed an original piece of music written specifically for them both. However, it’s not the first time both bands have collaborated to create something new.

“There is one other original piece that we’ve worked together on that we planned to premier in the spring of 2020 ahead of our intended trip to the Edinburgh Tattoo. It has not yet been performed,” said Smith.

Being part of this process and the Regimental Pipe Band was particularly important to one cadet. Pipe Major Mason Johnson joined the Pipe Band his knob year and, having no prior experience playing the bagpipes before coming to The Citadel, the journey to get where he is has been a tough but rewarding one.

“To me, being in the Pipe Band gives me a purpose more than just being part of the Corps. While learning the bagpipes is hard, once you learn how to play, it’s one of the most rewarding things to experience,” said Johnson. “To any potential cadet considering joining the Pipe Band — do it. It’s an experience that few universities offer. It forces you to learn something difficult but also teaches you how to push through the hard times in order to achieve what you want out of yourself. To me, it encompasses The Citadel experience.”

Members of the bands didn’t know about the new piece until they got back for the start of the fall semester. While the beginning of the learning process was hectic for them, once they started understanding the song better, it clicked.

“The rehearsal before the parade where we showcased the tune, we played through it and in that moment it all came together. It sounded amazing and at the end we all look up, and Col. Smith is smiling, Major Dillahey is smiling, and we’re all just standing there realizing: ‘This is what it’s supposed to sound like, and this is where all of our hard work has brought us.’ It was an incredible moment to share,” said Johnson.

Having the chance to be part of the celebration of a century here at The Citadel, a place that makes a lasting impact on those who attend, was a surreal experience for all involved. The effort put forth from the directors and cadets created a timeless reflection of The Citadel and a song that will be played for the next hundred years.

“I hoped to capture some of the spirit of The Citadel in this musical composition — from the wisps of fond memories all alumni have, through the dramatic changes the college has absorbed in the last century to reflect a limitless, unbridled future,” said Smith.

“Echoes on the Ashley” will also be performed at Marion Square, as the Class of 2026 marches to Marion Square to renew their cadet oath in front of The Citadel’s original campus.

Click here for more information on joining The Citadel’s Regimental Band and Pipes.

Watch both bands preform “Echoes on the Ashley” here.