Press Release

Drumming twins to swap one Dundee for another

Published on 28 August 2020

Identical twins Brianna and Shanna McDonald will next month swap West Dundee, Illinois, for the west end of Dundee, Scotland, when they begin identical degrees at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

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Pic of Brianna and Shanna McDonald

Identical twins Brianna and Shanna McDonald will next month swap West Dundee, Illinois, for the west end of Dundee, Scotland, when they begin identical degrees at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

The sisters already share a love of Scotland having visited the country several times to take part in the World Pipe Band Championships and World Irish Dancing Championships. They will continue both pursuits after they take up their places on the Graphic Design course at DJCAD, part of the University of Dundee.

The 20-year-olds’ father, Shawn, has recently moved to the Highland village of Plockton for work and it was his expat bagpipe instructor who suggested that Brianna and Shanna might consider studying in his hometown.

“Brianna and I are drummers but our Dad is a piper and his instructor, Adrian Melvin, is from Dundee originally and his family still live in the city,” explained Shanna. “When we were in the senior year of High School we started looking for somewhere to study and he recommended Dundee as he knew the art college was very good. The more we thought about it, the better a fit it seemed. The degree was what we wanted to do, the campus looked great and it allowed us to pursue our passion for pipe bands.

“We’ve visited Scotland three times before and we all love it. My parents have talked about moving there when they retire and our dad will be working there for a while. We are looking forward to starting our degrees and getting immersed in the Scottish culture. This isn’t just about the experience of studying abroad, which is great in itself, but also connecting with our heritage and becoming part of the pipe band scene in Scotland.”

West Dundee, a suburb of Chicago, was established in 1835 and named two years later when settlers held a lottery to determine who would name the village. A resident called Alexander Gardiner won and named it in honour of his Scottish hometown, with the two now being sister cities.  

Given their red hair, surname and interest in pipe bands and Irish dancing, it is unsurprising that Brianna and Shanna are also of Celtic heritage. Their great grandmother came from Glasgow and going back further they know of ancestors from both Scotland and Ireland.

They have already joined the grade one Glasgow Police Pipe Band, recognised as one of the best in the world, and have held online rehearsals with their new bandmates over the past few months. Given the distances they have already covered in order to pursue their passion, the sisters are not fazed by the prospect of travelling through to the west coast from Dundee for live rehearsals.

“Our house is a three-hour drive away from where our current band is in Michigan so the journey to Glasgow for practice won’t bother us,” said Brianna. “There are a lot of really good bands in and around Dundee but we have been at grade two for a few years and we really want to push ourselves onto the next level.

“Over the summer there are four or five major championships in addition to the Worlds, and it is very hard to make it over for all of them due to the costs involved so we are very excited that we will be able to compete in all the circuit competitions now.”

The girls’ elder brother Ian is also an accomplished drummer while their mother Lynn became involved in the pipe band scene by proxy as she has taxied her family to practice and competitions. Eventually she was persuaded to take up bass drum and complete the family band.

Brianna and Shanna have been awarded the top level of Global Excellence Scholarship on the basis of reflecting the University’s values and making a difference to people’s lives through their extracurricular work.

They will travel to Scotland next week and quarantine with their father in the Highlands before moving to their student accommodation in Dundee in time for the new academic year in October.

Enquiries

Grant Hill

Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768

G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk