JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md., –
The keening, melancholic sounds of a bagpipe are carried through the wind of the Potomac River at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, District of Columbia.
Gold tassels of the bagpipes tangle in the strong breeze, a man in a U.S. Air Force Airman battle uniform slowly paces the grassy riverbank, the water gently lapping at the rocks. In the distance across the river, the skyline of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia can be seen.
“It’s a one of a kind sound,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Tianello, U.S. Air Force Band Ceremonial Brass Band bagpiper. “A griping sound of enticing melodies on top an ever constant soothing drone. It’s a sound no other instrument has.”
Tianello’s role as the Air Force’s bagpiper is a solitary one as he is the only one with the official job title.
He added that there are bagpipers in different units and branches but none in the official capacity that he has.
Tianello explained his role in the Ceremonial Brass band is to honor the veterans of the Air Force at Arlington National Cemetery and to be there for their families and friends attending the funeral.
“By far it’s the most inspirational thing that I do,” added Tianello.
Pipe bands in the American military formed after World War II, after military personnel witnessed the pipes and drums of the British and Commonwealth forces.
Tech. Sgt. Julia Cuevas, U.S. Air Force Band Singing Sergeants ensemble alto vocalist and founder of Celtic Aire, describes the bagpipes as the sound of Scotland and the sound of a strong heritage.
The U.S. Air Force pipe band was formed in 1950, playing across the country at many notable occasions, including President John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963 at the request of Mrs. Kennedy. It was officially disbanded in 1970.
Tianello now carries on the long tradition and heritage of bagpiping for the Air Force.
The Air Force went four decades without a bagpiper until Tianello joined the band in 2013. Before he joined he was a member of various pipe bands, including Feadan Or and City of Rochester pipe bands.
In addition to his role in the Ceremonial Brass band, Tianello also performs with Celtic Aire, the premier Celtic and folk ensemble of the Air Force Band.
“The sound of bagpipes are a signal of ceremony and reflection to the masses,” said Master Sgt. Emily Wellington, U.S. Air Force Band alto vocalist and Celtic Aire violinist. “They are inherently an instrument that draws attention and so is true whenever we are able to feature him in one of our performances.”