Ermis first picked up the bagpipes at the age of thirteen after having open heart surgery. His surgeon told him that to strengthen his chest,
he should take up a wind instrument. At the time, he was part of the air cadets, had an interest in Scottish military history and immediately thought of the bagpipes. This didn’t please his very Italian mother who
would have much rather he taken up the more Italian accordion to the loud Scottish bagpipes! His first teacher was in the Royal Canadian Air Force Pipe Band and as Ermis would recount, drilled him on the basics for over a year before he was even allowed to pick up the pipes.
Around the age of fifteen, the first band he joined was the Sons of Scotland
under Pipe Major Allan Quinn. Piper Cindy Ritchie says she saw a shy fellow
hanging around in the parking lot holding a pipe box. She yelled, “Hey kid, you
here for the pipe band?” He said yes, so she grabbed him by the arm and
dragged him into his first band practice. Cindy recalls that at that time, his
interest in pipe bands seemed to be mainly focused on having fun. As a
young teenager he didn’t always come to practice knowing the tunes and
didn’t take it too seriously. However, he was so entertaining and funny, he
kept the other teenagers interested when there were so many other things
they may have preferred doing. After all, bagpipes weren’t considered to be
very cool at that age. Who would have known this was the beginning of
lifelong friendships that would last almost 50 years?...
Thank you to Tracey Ford and Will Ridley for writing this story!