Peck of Pipers Practicing for Perfection Perk Up Sundays in Park

Every Sunday morning, Woodley Park in Van Nuys is filled with the shrill cry of bagpipes. Joggers stop to listen. Small birds scatter.

The City of Los Angeles Highlanders bagpipe band is holding weekly practice. Twenty men and women from around the city gather to rehearse on pipe and drum.

"We're struggling along to get everything perfect," said Jim Coyne, the band's leader.

The Irish-born, Scottish-raised Coyne founded the Highlanders two years ago. Coyne, 53, lives in Van Nuys and works, appropriately enough, as a respiratory therapist. He has been playing the pipes since age 15 and teaches the instrument part time.

Although he has tried fervently to bring attention to the bagpipes, Coyne allows that the Scottish instrument is not all that popular in these parts.

"Here in California, the weather is so nice and there's skiing and surfing," he said. "Back home they can't do any of that so they play the bagpipes."

However, Coyne has been able to attract enough players to keep the band going strong. Most are transplanted Irish, Scottish, English and Canadians who now live anywhere from Palmdale to Manhattan Beach.

The band is gearing up now for a summer of bagpipe competitions across the state.

In 1984, the band's first year, the Highlanders won the Southern California and Western States championships. That was in a novice category. This year the band will play against more experienced competition.

That is why you'll see them every Sunday morning at Woodley Park, practicing.

"We get a lot of people stopping by to listen," Coyne said. "It sounds great."

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