BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) — Stephen Holter was born and raised in Texas and came to the Youngstown area 15 years ago with his bagpipes in tow.
He is one of the area’s best and most well-known bagpipe players.
On a Friday night in February, Holter played the bagpipes to lead the Youngstown Fire Department’s honor guard in a ceremony to honor those who have died. Bagpipes are often part of police and fire ceremonies, which is a tradition rooted in history.
“Pipers historically would be in the front of the troops leading them into battle, or marching from Point A to Point B,” Holter said.
Recently at the Rust Belt Brewery in downtown Youngstown, Holter again donned his cap and kilt to play for the pub’s patrons.
“I absolutely love the pipes. I love pipe music. I enjoy the places that it has taken me,” Holter said.
He was introduced to the bagpipes as a young boy by his uncle’s family. He toyed with them in high school and then become focused in graduate school.
He is a full time sign language interpreter who married a Boardman girl, which is how he and his bagpipes ended up in the Mahoning Valley.
“It’s a very temperamental instrument. It is said that once you start working on the pipes, you should be playing about seven years before you go out in public,” Holter said.
In a back room before the firefighter ceremony, Holter explained what are known as the great Highland bagpipes. It’s his original set, which he has owned for 25 years. Brand new the set would be $1,200.
There are three pipes: Two tenors and a bass that are made of South African black wood. The double reeds inside are made of Spanish cane.
“And then inside here is a bag. Basically it’s a reservoir that holds the air so there’s a continuous sound as I am playing. When I take a breath, the sound continues,” Holter said.
In 2010, Holter played with a band that finished fourth in the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland.
He also plays at weddings and funerals and charges $175 per appearance.