The Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming school was founded in 1980 and is supported by an annual grant from The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Tuition and certified courses are available to all ages, regardless of musical experience and ability.
The school places great emphasis on standards in both the theory of music and practical playing and appoints an external examiner annually to monitor and report on the performances of the students undertaking school examinations.
The programme within the school is divided into eight grades for theory of music and practical playing and students are examined separately in these. Failure to satisfy in one aspect does not hinder progress in another. Normally, however students are not permitted to carry a differential between theory and practice of more than two grades.
The history of piping and drumming is also included as an integral part of the course. The practical playing programme incorporates piobaireachd and bass and tenor drumming. Classes in Highland Dancing leading to National Awards at competition standard are also on offer. Certificated courses for Drum-Majors include instruction in the Theory of Music and may be used to prepare those interested for SQA level 2 standard.
Drummers from flute, accordion and other types of bands, who wish to improve their basic skills and knowledge, are particularly welcome to enrol.
Students and tutors of the school have attained awards in solo competitions in both piping and drumming at the highest level and others have led bands to world titles. The school caters for all abilities, however, and many come, not to gain competitive honours, but to become themselves qualified teachers in the piping and drumming field or just to enjoy the experience of being able to play with a degree of confidence.
Whilst offering tuition for beginners, the school also proves courses for instructors and master classes for solo players in piobaireachd and canntaireachdm, piping for dancing, Breton and Irish Music, Bass and Tenor Drumming, Percussion including kit, hand drumming and bodhran. The standard of accreditation in piping, drumming and music theory is equivalent and comparable to that provided by other colleges of music and music boards.
The School also offers help for pipers and drummers wanting to use their knowledge and skills to gain recognition in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Skills Section. Preparation is also provided for PDQB (SQA) examinations up to level 4 on request. Minimum entrance standard for this is Grade 8 Theory and Practical. From September 2009 onwards students may be prepared for GCSE Performance Skills Levels 1 & 2. Level 3 is currently in preparation and carries UCAS points. A number of students have also gone on to achieve GCE in music with a traditional instrument and some have completed a degree or higher degree in music at university.
The school currently operates from two permanent centres in Northern Ireland, namely, Laurelhill Community College, Lisburn and Portora Royal School, Enniskillen. A third centre is planned for Donegal. All classes take place on Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m till 12:30 p.m, but classes are held at other days and times by arrangement.