SCHOOLS | Playing bagpipes is senior’s passion

South Kitsap
South Kitsap's Kieran Prince, who graduates Tuesday, enjoys playing bagpipes just as much as soccer.
— image credit: File Photo

As his lips rest against the instrument, the sounds emitted might conjure images of a red, white and blue flag draped over a casket.

But for South Kitsap’s Kieran Prince, who is among the expected 586 seniors graduating Tuesday at Tacoma Dome, the sounds of bagpipes are anything but solemn.

“Probably my biggest passion is music,” Prince said. “It has been the biggest constant in my life.”

Prince credits his mother, Fiona, for introducing him to the instrument when he was 8 years old. His mother, who was fond of bagpipes as a youth in Scotland, drove him to Tacoma weekly to train under Jack Montgomery, who has been involved with the Clan Gordon Pipe Band since its inception in 1955.

“We just walked in and he just asked me if I knew how to play scale,” said Prince, who wears the traditional long socks and kilt when he performs.

He has played since meeting Montgomery. Prince said most of his performances have been upbeat. His first major one came in 2007 when he was among a sea of people from throughout the region who marched on the new eastbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Since then, Prince has performed at one wake and several other events ranging from a Veterans Day parade to weddings.

While Prince does not expect to make a career out of music — he does not rule out the possibility, either — he hopes to play the bagpipes as a secondary profession.

Prince’s other passion also has a feverish following in Europe. His interest in soccer does not stem from his mother, though. Prince’s father, Lawrence, coached him as a youth and cultivated his interest in the sport. At the high school, his classmates probably better know Prince for his standout play in the midfield, where he has played since he was a freshman.

But excelling on the field was no different for Prince than hitting chords on the bagpipe. It required dedication and perseverance.

“I would always try out for these select teams and not make it,” said Prince, who eventually played for both Harbor and WestSound FC.

After being cut again in 2009, Prince sensed a crossroad: quit or improve. The former never was an option. He spent countless hours in the yard, just himself and the round, checkered ball working on hand-eye coordination and fine-tuning other areas.

“It was pretty much dribbling around my backyard every night,” Prince said. “You might say I was obsessed with it.”

He became part of a deep, talented freshman class that entered South following its 2009 state championship. But for as much good fortune as the Wolves encountered that season, such as avoiding a Bellarmine Prep squad that defeated them twice in the regular season, South’s luck was anything but great during Prince’s four seasons. Along with injuries, the Wolves found out arguably the state’s best player, Diego de la Cruz, would not be able to play as a senior in 2012 because his club team prohibited their athletes from competing on high-school teams. Instead of making the state tournament, South finished with a 6-6-4 record. In addition to that, Prince played for three different coaches with the Wolves.

“That’s been a crazy ride,” he said.

While he acknowledges it has been challenging at times, Prince said he has enjoyed the experience. The highlight came April 30 when South defeated Bellarmine 2-1 to earn their first victory against the Lions since 1987.

“That’s something I’m going to remember forever,” Prince said. “We had to win that game to go to the playoffs. It couldn’t have gone any better.”The Wolves, who went 3-0-1 to close out the regular season and earn a playoff spot, saw their season end with a 3-0 setback May 11 against Mount Rainier in the West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament.

He does not anticipate that being his final match. Prince hopes to play next season at Tacoma Community College. As far as picking a major before or after he transfers to a four-year university, Prince does not anticipate one related to athletics or music.

“I would love to be a journalist,” said Prince, who maintained a 3.5 grade-point average at South. “I could picture myself writing for National Geographic.”

That relevation does not surprise South boys soccer coach Cory Vartanian, who praised Prince’s “well-rounded” upbringing.

“He knows like 13 different instruments, plays soccer and is a brilliant student with a phenomenal work ethic,” he said. “He’s got an amazing heart. I can’t say enough about him. I’m hoping my son can be as smart and artistic as him.”

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