History of the Band
In 1973, a group of pipers who were former members of the Clan ná Gael Pipe Band, met to form a new Irish pipe band. They included Pete Murphy, Tom Canty, Jack Taylor, Jim Coll, Jim McPhillips and Joe Mathews. They were to be sponsored by the Philadelphia Emerald Society, a local organization of Irish-American police and firefighters. As the band grew, it became more active, participating in local parades and festivals. The band has marched in the Philadelphia and Wilmington St. Patrick's Day parades since the band's founding. In the 1980s, the band moved to the Commodore Barry Club (The Irish Center) where it has been practicing weekly ever since. Long-time band President, Jim McPhillips, was instrumental in the move. McPhillips, a piper, retired from piping in the late 1990s. He was a valued band member and is a great friend of the band. Since the 1980s, the band has competed in the eastern USA and has travelled to Ireland three times to participate in the All-Ireland Pipe Band Championships. Band Pipe Majors have included Tom Canty, Phil Townsend, Brian Widelitz, Joe Tobin, Rich Hall and currently John Collins. The band is focused on growth and improvement and we hope to have years of continued success.
Pipe Major: John Collins joined the band in August 1995. His teachers include Pipe Major Joe Tobin, Rich Hall, Philip Townsend and Dan Emery. He took over as Pipe Major in January 2011 after having served as Pipe Sergeant for several years.
Pipe Major Emeritus & President: Joseph Tobin has been a member of the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band since 1981. This long-time Pipe Major retired from the position in 2008. He is currently the Emerald Band President and a competition piper in the band. As Pipe Major, Joe led the band at the All-Ireland Pipe Band Championships three times, and served as Pipe Major at numerous competitions and parades over the years. He has competed both as an individual piper and bandsman for almost 24 years, at the Grade 3 and Grade 4 levels. His instructors included Casey Jones, member of the USAF Pipe Band; Phillip Townsend, former Pipe Major of Washington Memorial Pipe Band; Brian Widelitz, former Pipe Major; and Murray Henderson, world-class piper.
Instructor: Brian Widelitz began piping in 1972 in Portland, OR. His first teacher was a street musician. Bitten by the bug, Brian secured a position as an apprentice bagpipe maker in the shop of Hugh MacPherson, Ltd. in Edinburgh, Scotland. While in Edinburgh, Brian took lessons with P/M George Stoddart. Returning to the States, Brian first joined the MacGregor Pipe Band in Bucks County, PA, playing with them for a number of years. He was asked to join the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band in 1979, taking over as Pipe Major in 1980. Brian’s tenure as P/M led to more competition, finishing in the Top 10 in Grade 4 contests on the east coast a number of times. After the birth of his son, he stepped down as Pipe Major, but continued to play with Emerald until 1990, when he joined the Lehigh Valley Pipe Band in their run up to Grade 2. In 1994, Brian was asked to form and run LVPB’s Grade 4 band. After the breakup of the LVPB, Brian joined the Cameron Highlanders of Philadelphia Pipe Band, becoming Pipe Major in 1999. From then until 2004, Brian built Cameron into one of the preeminent pipe bands in the eastern U.S., taking the Grade 4 band to a 4th place finish at the 2002 North American Pipe Band Championships in Maxville, Ontario. In 2003, Cameron was upgraded to Grade 3 and began by sweeping the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship with two 1st places in Piping, 1st in Drumming and 1st in Ensemble. At the end of 2004, Brian left Cameron in order to pursue more of a solo career. Aside from his various tenures as Pipe Major of a number of bands, Brian has had a 25 year history of solo competition, retiring at the top of Amateur Grade 1. In that time he had the privilege of studying with Murray Henderson, one of the world’s greatest pipers, Scot Walker, P/M Iain Morrison, Jimmy MacIntosh, MBE, and many others. In 2012, Brian was asked to join the Emerald Pipe Band in their performance with the Chieftains at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. As in all Celtic art, he has come full circle and rejoined Emerald as a playing member and instructor.