Drumming is in Magherafelt teenager’s blood

Calum Smyth (Quinn Memorial Pipe Band) pictured receiving his trophy from Nigel Hodgen (Andante Drums) at the annual Andante sponsored World Solo Drumming event at Glasgow Caledonian University on Saturday 21st October.  Photo by Peter Hazzard.
Calum Smyth (Quinn Memorial Pipe Band) pictured receiving his trophy from Nigel Hodgen (Andante Drums) at the annual Andante sponsored World Solo Drumming event at Glasgow Caledonian University on Saturday 21st October. Photo by Peter Hazzard.

A Magherafelt teenager who has been drumming since he was eight, has won the solo World tenor championships in Scotland.

Eighteen-year-old Calum Smyth comes from a family of pipe band enthusiasts and is mentored by dad Gary, who has won many prizes over the years and is affectionately known as the ‘King of Grade Three.’

His father was a member of the World champion grade one Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Lisburn back in the 1990’s.

Younger brother Ewan is following in his footsteps showing his form by coming second in the open grade All Ireland bass drumming contest at the tender age of 15.

As well as his dad he has a granda, uncle and cousin involved in the pipe band scene, so drumming is in the blood. Calum started at the age of eight when he won the tenor European solo championship in Belfast.

He joined Ballybriest Pipe Band, Cookstown, in 2013, and came third in the World solos in the same year.

Practicing with his father in the garage for hours on end, he has won the All Ireland solo tenor drumming twice; was second in the Worlds in 2015 and finally won the competition at Glasgow Caledonian University last month.

“The competition is always stiff,” he said. “There were Grade A1 drummers taking part from Scotland and Canada so it wasn’t easy.”

He said in drumming it is important to have a steady nerve and show that you’re confident to the judges.

Now a member of Quinn Memorial Pipe Band, Killygullib, he says he would like to get his Grade One tenor drumming.

Calum is currently studying sport and science exercise at the Ulster University Jordanstown, and combines drumming practice with rugby training for Rainey Old Boys’ Club.

The student has busy Tuesday and Thursday nights - several hours of rugby training followed by drumming practice with his father.

Most week days he travels by early morning bus to Belfast to university and then back home to Magherafelt again in the afternoon.

Sundays are often taken up making up scores for competition drum tunes with his father.

Calum takes his rugby seriously - he’s a tighthead prop - and has been part of the Ulster Schools U18 and U19 squads, although he has been hampered by injury most of this year. His aim is to get into Rainey Old Boys’ first team and compete all over Ireland.

While he admits it won’t be easy, he’s very determined to make it on to the squad. It’s been a dream since his school days at Sperrin Integrated College in Magherafelt.