Young Pipers Now Performing

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 12:09 p.m. April 11, 2014

Bagpiping is in Kyle and Cameron Fotopoulos’ genes.

A boy and a girl playing bagpipes
Kyle Fotopoulos and Rachel Gordon perform at Headquarters

Their uncle – Constable Hector MacDonald, of  52 Division, is a North American champion – and he and his siblings, including his sister -- Detective Janice MacDonald of the  Divisional Policing Support Unit – are of Scottish descent.

The young boys are members of the recently formed  Ryan Russell Memorial Pipe Band which has the support of the Toronto Police Service, the Toronto Police Association and the Russell family.

The band made its first public appearance on April 7 at the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week kickoff at police headquarters, with four pipers including Rachel Gordon and Deirdre Godsell, acknowledging victims of crime with a rendition ofAmazing Grace.

“This was fun,” said 12-year-old Kyle Fotopoulos, who also plays the saxophone. “I really enjoy being among other kids and playing music.”

The brothers have been playing bagpipes for the past four years.

“They were in a private class,” said their dad, Sergeant George Fotopoulos, who has been with the Emergency Task Force for the last 17 of his 25 years with the Service. “Me and my wife (Detective Janice MacDonald) were really happy when the band was formed in Ryan’s name. The boys are having a great time in the band and I think it’s important for their development to be part of a group like this.”

Russell was an ardent supporter of the Toronto Police Pipe Band.

Two of Russell’s closest friends, Parking Enforcement officer Thomas Munroe and civilian member Scott Greenaway, are members.

Russell succumbed to injuries after being struck by a snowplow stolen at a downtown intersection in January 2012.

Two men in TPS uniform on a staircase with two boys and two girls
Chief Bill Blair with Cameron and Kyle Fotopoulos, Deirdre Godsell, Rachel Gordon and Sergeant Brian Urkosky

For his funeral, Munroe wrote a song – Sgt. Ryan Russell, You Are In Our Hearts Forever – that Ian Macdonald – a cousin of Toronto Police Pipe Band leader Sgt. Brian Urkosky of 43 Division – played at the service.

Urkosky started the new youth pipe band to honour Russell’s memory and help young people become proficient in Highland bagpipe and snare, tenor and bass drum players.

Ranging in age from seven to 16, the young people practice from 1-3 p.m. on Sundays at the Toronto Police College.

“About 12 of the 33 members of group had no bagpiping experience prior to entering the program, and about 30 per cent are children of members of the Service,” Urkosky said. “They have been very enthusiastic and very keen to learn.”

The young people are exposed to professional musical instruction in an inclusive and fun environment with pipe movements on the practice chanter and bagpipes along with drumming techniques on the practice pad and drums, leadership training, team-building skills and community service engagement.

They will also performAmazing Grace at next month’s Ontario Police Memorial and take part in their first competition in Georgetown in June.

The band, which is the first of its kind in the province, is holding a golf fundraiser on June 1 at The Royal Ashburn Golf Club, 995 Myrtle Rd. West in Ashburn.

Funds from the event will be used to buy uniforms and equipment for the youth.

Individuals interested in taking part can contact Detective Janice MacDonald at 416-808-0129 or Janice.MacDonald@torontopolice.on.ca or Janet Pollock at 905-626-1911 or 905-668-9174. She can also be reached at jan@northstarindustries.ca.

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