Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers vice president Kent Evans enjoys the excitement of marching around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Kent Evans, vice president and senior pipe major for the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers, jokes that he and other band members have completed more laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway than some of the drivers.
That could well be true, as the Franklin Township resident has marched in the band since 1990. After 27 years with the pipers, he’s performed Colts games, traveled the nation to play at events such as the Daytona 500, and even performed for elementary school children. Yet, he still has a fondness for the Speedway.
“My favorite venue is the track,” Evans said. “It feels like home, we’re there so much and spend so much time out there. You get this feeling when you go to the track, all of this history, time and the people that have been there over the years. We say when it rains at the track, we shine. We’re there for entertaining the crowds in between racing and qualifications.”
Evans grew up in Speedway, so he was familiar with the track and knew of the Gordon Pipers, which will celebrate its 55th anniversary next year.
“The band has been around,” Evans said. “Now we’re a fixture at the track. One of our ex-members had a saying, ‘world famous, internationally known.’ People know us from the 500. People recognize us.”
While he had always been attracted to the sound of the bagpipes, it wasn’t until 1990 that he found the time to learn to play. He joined the Gordon Pipers that year.
“At first, I was scared and apprehensive,” he said. “We have to memorize our music. We don’t have sheet music in front of us. there are usually mistakes. You have to learn how to cover it up so it doesn’t sound so bad.”
It took him approximately five years to learn to play the instrument fluently. Since then, he’s gone from being a novice piper to teaching others how to play. He estimates that he spends 30 to 40 percent of the time at practices teaching, and teaches outside of practices.
Evans works full time as a biology teacher for Franklin Central and will retire at the end of this month. He also teaches drivers ed. He and his wife, Debra, reside in Franklin Township and have three children.
The Gordon Pipers does 55 to 60 performances per year as a group, and even more individually. Most of its performances are on the Northside of Indianapolis, where they participate in things such as the upcoming Carmel July 4th Parade. For St. Patrick’s Day, the band had 18 performances in just the one day. Evans said he’s had opportunities to participate in so many memorable events and for many famous people, including then-governor Mike Pence or Olivia Newton John. The group plays for the Indy Honor Flight. They perform before the Colts games. Some of his high school students remember him from performing at their elementary school.
“At times it drags, but when you see the light that most people have, it changes your attitude,” Evans said. “Some kids are into it. There are still a few people that cringe. That’s how it is. Some people like things, some people don’t.”
The Gordon Pipers will bring up to 40 members of its band to performances For the Indy 500, they are usually joined by their “sister band” from Canada, which brings an extra 10 to 15 people. Evans said he looks forward to the 500 Parade every year, with the crowds of people watching as they continue the annual tradition.
“One of my first experiences, our founder, before he passed on, he took us around after we came out of the fourth turn; we went right down the middle of the pit,” Evans said. “There were all these people in the pit. The thing about bagpipes, people realize you’re there and get out of your way. It’s like parting of the sea. People scramble to get out of the way. There’s a lot of applause. We have band members who dance and they’ll do that at the track. That’s always a good time.”