It was September 15th 2016, and Gregory McCormick was on his way to his doctor’s office. A long-time correctional officer at BC’s Mountain Institution, Gregory needed to ask his doctor for help dealing with PTSD, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it to his doctor’s office that day. An attacking German shepherd knocked him off his bike, and before he had a chance to collect himself, a five-ton truck ran over his left arm, breaking both forearm bones and crushing his hand in the process. Only after 15 months of rehab and surgeries was Gregory able to return to work, and he ascribes his successful recovery to an unexpected source: The CSC Community Pipe and Drum Band.
But first, let’s back up.
Prior to joining the band, Gregory had played bagpipes in high school but adult life came calling, and that was that. After his accident however, he found himself struggling through rehab: “I struggled with being motivated to continue with rehab and some days to even get out of bed.”
Luckily, a Correctional Officer (CX) colleague recommended he check out the band, and slowly but surely, things started returning to normal for Gregory: “When I started practicing with the band I found myself with some purpose,” he says. “The band gave me […] goals, comradery, and feeling of self-worth that I had lost after my accident.”
With meaningful support and an indomitable will, Gregory was able to return to work in January 2018, having harnessed his renewed sense of purpose into meaningful action.
Since then Gregory has been elected pipe Major, and has decided to concentrate his efforts on improving relations with the community of Agassiz, where Mountain Institution is located, on behalf of correctional staff: “I […] found that all the news was negative and it had created a terrible perception of whom we are and the good work our members do. Since being elected Pipe major in June my goal has been to engage the community in a positive way.”
That effort has materialized itself through a variety of public events: From the Canada Day Parade in Abbotsford BC, to the opening ceremonies of the Abbotsford International Show, to the national Peace Officers Memorial Service on Parliament Hill, the band continues to increase its local and national profile. The band’s interest in connecting to the community goes beyond high-profile events, and they find themselves regularly performing at local restaurants and pubs, schools, nursing homes and the local fire hall, among others.
When asked what he would say to other CXs interested in joining the band but are unsure, Gregory says: “Our job can be thankless and some find that it isn’t overly rewarding. Being part of the band is very rewarding. It can be a very positive thing for some that may use music like I do to help cope with stressors we all face.”
If you or anyone you know in the Abbotsford, BC community are interested in joining the band, you’re in luck, because the band is always looking for new players. They practice on Thursday evenings at Matsqui Institution, and folks are encouraged to attend rehearsals to gauge whether they would be interested in joining. The Band has active presences on social media, both on Facebook (link) and on Twitter (link), or you can email Gregory directly at Gregory.McCormick@csc-scc.gc.ca.
Right now, the Band has 12 amount of members, which consist of:
Gregory McCormick: a COII at Mountain Institution, (Piper)
Doug Holloway: a COI at Kent Institution, (Drummer)
Doug Brew: a CM at Kwi. (Piper)
Dale McGregor: an IT specialist at Mountain Institution (Piper)
Steve Gallagher: a retired CSC teacher (Piper)
Todd Brown: a Chaplin at Matsqui Institution (Piper)
Marcus Range: a community volunteer (Piper)
Scott Fergusson: a community Volunteer (Piper)
Cassie Fergusson: a community Volunteer (Drummer)
Cameron Fergusson: a community Volunteer (Drummer)
Ken Nice: a community Volunteer (Drummer)
Chris Symes: a community volunteer (Drummer)
Two students are also community volunteers learning to play the pipes.
On behalf of CSC, we wish the band continued success and we hope to see more of them as time goes on!