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James Coldren

James Coldren photo

James Coldren and Ceol Sean

My first contact with James Coldren goes back to the early 1990's when I was just beginning the pipes. Paul Hinson, a piper friend of mine, had referred me to James as a source of hard-to-find tune settings. Over the next few years, I contacted James several times to get tune settings and information about out-of-print collections.

In October of 2000, Ceol Sean produced its first CD (which was the G.F. Ross Collection), and in February of 2001, a second CD (the David Glen Collection) was released. Shortly after the David Glen Collection was released, I sent copies of these two CD's to James Coldren, just to see what he thought of the idea of pipe tune collections on CD.

A few days after receiving the CD's, James called me. He was very enthusiastic about the idea, and proposed a working relationship between Ceol Sean and the Bagpipe Music Museum whereby Ceol Sean would produce CD's using pipe tune collections supplied by the Museum. Over the next several weeks, James and I began to work out a plan, and in early May of 2001, I travelled to Maryland to spend a weekend at the Bagpipe Music Museum. James and I spent that weekend identifying over a dozen collections to be put on CD. We also agreed on a working relationship whereby a percentage of Ceol Sean's sales would be given to the Bagpipe Music Museum in exchange for access to the Museum's tune collections. (Our working agreement was "sealed" with a handshake, and we never did formalize it with any type of contract.)

Over the next several years, we continued our working relationship, and James and the Bagpipe Music Museum provided us source material for well over thirty collections. More about James, his life, and his contributions to piping is presented below in his obituary prepared by his son, Chip Coldren.

Steve Scaife, Ceol Sean

The Life of James Coldren

James Raymond 'Jim' Coldren, the founder and proprietor of Bagpipe Music Museum and the first Bagpipe Music Index, died on June 11, 2011, aged 86. Born on August 4, 1924, in Evanston, Illinois, to Raymond Beecher Coldren and Marie Harris Coldren, Jim Joldren grew up and attended public schools in Evanston, Illinois. Jim attended Evanston Township High School, where he wrestled and played trombone in the marching band. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force upon graduation from High School, serving most of his time with the chemical air corps as a toxic gas handler in the Philippines.

Upon returning from the war, Jim enrolled in the engineering program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. There he met his first wife, Patricia Ann Hoopes, a journalism major at Northwestern University. They married in 1950. After graduating from Northwestern University, Jim began his professional career as an engineer.

In his adult life, Jim developed an interest in bagpiping. He was a member of the Thistle Gildry Pipe Band in New York City, playing alongside the eventual United States Attorney-General William Barr, serving mostly as a bass and tenor drummer. His interest grew and he became more involved in the business aspects of piping.

Coldren established the Pipers Supply Company; published the first complete index of bagpipe tunes, called the Bagpipe Music Index; sponsored a recital by Donald MacLeod; published The New York Sessions, a recording of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod's tunes; and published the fourth book of in the Donald MacLeod Collection of tunes.

Years later, while living in southern New Jersey with his second wife, Virginia W. Kelly, he joined the First Highland Watch Pipe Band of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. In his retirement there, he amassed one of the world's largest collections of sets of bagpipes, printed pipe music, and recorded pipe music, which eventually became the Bagpipe Music Museum. The museum was home to more than 100 sets of pipes from many different countries and cultures.

He established a formal setting for the Museum in Oella, Maryland. The museum displayed the bagpipes and encouraged hands-on access to them, so pipers and museum visitors could play the different sets, explore their differences, and expand their knowledge about the instrument. The museum was also open to local bands and dance troupes, and there Jim hosted occasional piping and drumming jam-sessions. He enjoyed an international reputation as a leading scholar of the bagpipe, and piping and drumming music.

In 2008 Jim Coldren moved to West Branch, Michigan, where he lived near his daughter P.J. until his death. For as long has he could, he enjoyed his music, his children, his cigars and his cocktails.

submitted by James R. "Chip" Coldren, Jr.

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