The BC Pipers’ Association and indeed the world was saddened to hear of Skyes passing on Sunday, November 20, 2022. The BCPA family would like to extend our sympathies to Skyes family and friends at this time.
When we heard the news we reached out to some of Skyes closest piping friends for some personal stories about Skye, and we are sharing some of these today. Skye impacted so many people and organizations in such a massive way, that it is impossible to measure his legacy fully. However those of us that knew Skye know that he left a huge and wonderful legacy that has the foundation to last for many generations to come.
Skye was one of a kind, driven, visionary, musician, leader, father, husband, but most of all a friend to everyone who he met. Skye just had that way about him, a big smile, a kind of chuckle, and a big hello – every, single time. We can picture Skye driving his Golf Cart around the games, getting things done and just enjoying everyone’s company.
You will be missed sir, thank you for all you have done for our music and tradition. You will live on in our memories and your legacy is everlasting.
David Hilder, BC Pipers’ Association
Skye Richendrfer, the accomplished piper, organizer, and elected official, died on November 20, 2022, at the age of 64, following a struggle with leukemia that was diagnosed only in July 2022.
A native of Bellingham, Washington, he was known by most today as the Executive Director of the visionary Celtic Arts Foundation in Mount Vernon in his home state. In 2008, the organization merged with the Mastery of Scottish Arts, also of the Pacific Northwest, to form a much larger registered not-for-profit organization. The Mastery of Scottish Arts held a highly successful concert and piping, drumming and Celtic arts school for many years.
Under his watch and through his expertise in funding projects, the organization built the Littlefield Celtic Center in 2015, a full-time teaching and live music facility in a state-of-the-art dedicated building that he helped to organize funding to build. Richendrfer ran the annual Celtic Arts Foundation workshops and concerts, attracting some of the greatest exponents of the art as instructors.
He received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1980 from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he ran the liberal arts institution’s piping and drumming teaching program and led the school’s pipe band. He’d go on to study non-profit leadership at Seattle University.
Richendrfer successfully ran for mayor of Mount Vernon and served in the role for eight years in the 2000s, before committing himself full time to furthering the Celtic arts.
For his government and volunteer service, he received the Distinguished Citizen Award from Macalester College in 2015.
After graduating from college, Richendrfer returned to the Pacific Northwest and was a long-serving piper with the Grade 1 Simon Fraser University Pipe Band throughout the 1980s. He had considerable success in open/professional solo competitions on the British Columbia Pipers Association’s circuit.
He was a frequent contributor to pipes|drums, most recently in 2020 in a feature article that took readers through his experience with hearing loss, encouraging diagnosis and treatment.
A statement to his friends from Skye Richendrfer’s family read: “Please know that you all were his light. As a pure extrovert, Skye was never happier than when he was sharing a laugh or a vision (or a rant) with his friends. We ask that you remember him this way. He would have liked that.”
Our sympathies go out to Skye Richendrfer’s family and many friends at this sad time.
“When I heard that Skye Richendrfer had passed away suddenly, I had the same reaction as many of you – shock and sadness. I had known Skye as a friend and colleague for most of my life.
Skye joined the SFU Pipe Band in its early years – about 40 years ago. I remember it so well because we were going through a promising period of attracting some good, young players. Skye was certainly one of them. Skye was also a professional piobaireachd player and really loved the big music. He was a fan of P/M Donald MacLeod and took lessons from Jimmy McMillan here in Vancouver. That ticked a lot of boxes in my mind.
The early years in the band were fun and Skye always made them a lot more fun. We were improving rapidly and really enjoying the path we were on. We had this crazy activity we did in the band after successful band performances in those days, which was kind of a “Marine Corps Sound Off”. Skye played the roll of the Drill Sergeant, so he did the “Sound Off” and the rest of us yelled the Reply. It was hilarious or at least we thought so. We always glanced around to make sure no one was watching us do this hard-to-explain and semi-embarrassing activity.
Skye went on to be the mayor of Mt. Vernon, WA. As part of his campaign the SFU Pipe Band came down and played at his rally. We had never done anything like that before, but Skye said it helped with his elections. Skye served as mayor for eight years.
Skye loved his family, a good rousing chat, a debate on the latest political issues, visits with people and the bagpipes. He truly loved the pipes and everything about them – the music, the tone but mostly the people.
Skye built piping programs and encouraged so many people to become a part of the journey. While he still played his MacDougall’s often, in the latter years he got so much enjoyment out of playing
his Scottish Small Pipes. He told me that learning to play the Small Pipes was great for his piping career as it allowed him to play much more in his 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Skye would hold “Small Pipe Sessions”, actually hundreds of them and pipers from all areas had so much fun participating. I can’t remember the number of times I watched or participated in a Skye-led Small Pipe session but there were many. It is
hard to describe the expression on Skye’s face during those times but “Pure Joy” is as close as I can come.
Skye’s enthusiasm and love for the pipes was infectious. What great times we had with our selfless friend!
You cannot talk about Skye’s life without mentioning the Celtic Arts Foundation for which he was the driving force. For years they have put on the famous Winter School, Summer Highland Games, MSA Concerts at Benaroya Hall and hundreds of events in their beautiful Littlefield Celtic Centre in Mt. Vernon, WA. I had the privilege of playing there several times and always enjoyed it immensely. As I told Skye, the
bagpipes really sound superb in the hall HE built.
Here in the British Columbia Pipers’ Association, we sure appreciated the amazing things Skye did to promote piping in our part of the world and beyond.
Skye’s journey reminds us all that life is precious and short. We need to do the things that we love to do and are important to each of us.
Skye did this well….very well. I will never forget Skye Richendrfer.”
“It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Skye Richendrfer, a momentous loss for the piping community in the Pacific Northwest. Rare is the individual who contributes so much with no expectation of anything in return.
I first met Skye more than 40 years ago on the competition circuit, he with Simon Fraser, myself with the City of Victoria. He was a fierce competitor but a gentleman off and on the field. Skye went on to become Mayor of Mt. Vernon but still found time to organize and run their very successful Highland Games.
His passion for music and skills for organization led him to develop the Celtic Arts Foundation. He had a vision and a singular determination. I don’t think that any of us could quite comprehend where this would lead until some of the very best in the world started showing up to teach and perform. This connection has been a major factor in my rebirth into music, particularly bellows instruments.
He kept workshops going through the pandemic over zoom and this was an enormous help to so many during a period of intense isolation. He was tireless in his efforts to just make things happen. We met monthly with a small group to share tunes on small pipes over zoom, something that we all came to look forward to.
Skye had a quick wit and never missed an opportunity to share it (often at my expense I). When I received the news I was moved to tears. I just lost a family member. My brother by choice. I am convinced that the legacy of CAF will continue, but it will never be quite the same. Skye was the heart and soul that brought it to life.
Miss you Brother ….”
“Skye had all the qualities of a remarkable human being, so very rare in one man. Wisdom, enthusiasm, compassion, generosity, vision, and of course such passion for Celtic Arts.
When I first met Skye in 2007 he was a piper and student at the Mastery of Scottish Arts at Seabeck. At the last live Winter School he not only played Highland pipes but also smallpipes and whistle, such was his love and dedication for all Celtic Music.
Always one to lead from the front, he leaves an outstanding legacy through the Celtic Arts Foundation that will be an everlasting memorial to his wonderful, but far too short life. He was at his happiest with his treasured MacDougall pipes on his shoulder playing his favourite 6/8 marches. Skye, a gentleman and true friend.
I am very proud to have known you, and will miss you greatly.
Heartfelt sympathy to Sally, Family, and to all the CAF team.”
“Skye Richendrfer was a force, whose passion for all things Scottish spread to all corners of the world. His wit, his determination, his perseverance, his caring and thoughtfulness endeared him to all who were privileged to know him.
The task that he took on so enthusiastically to create the Celtic Arts Foundation brought so much pleasure to those of us who love Celtic Music in all its forms.
I considered him a great friend and always enjoyed working with him on the Skagit Valley Highland Games and all the other various activities that were connected to the BCPA circuit of Highland Games.
Skye was the first one to show confidence in my ability to manage the piping, drumming and pipe bands at a Highland Games as the Skagit Valley Highland Games was the first time I was able to be Chief Steward. Having that opportunity and being respected for the job I did enabled me to continue with the title I now am so honoured to hold as BCPA Chief Steward.
Skye will be sorely missed by so many, including me.”
Lynn Bullis, BC Pipers’ Association, Chief Steward
“Skye left us far too soon, that is plain and simple. My heart goes out to his entire family at this point.
However, it gives us a small moment to try to reflect on all of the amazing things he accomplished. He had a never say never attitude that built the CAF into a major Celtic Music establishment and filling that gap will be difficult for the next “group of people” that try to do so.
I have known Skye for about 35 years since competing against him at the Worlds and sparring jokes for many years after when our band managed to sneak the first-place title that day in 1987. Skye never let me forget that, but always in a fun-loving respectful way.
His love for all things Celtic music (combined with a small cocktail) was astonishing and the folks he helped to promote world wide is a very long list.
We also talked several times about the CAF 501c3 as I run one here in Halifax with the help of my family and he was always gracious with time and ideas to help me navigate some of those areas.
He understood the political scene as well and was huge in helping the entire staff of the CAF winter school with their work visas. He just seemed to be everywhere all the time doing what was next to be done. I always loved when he had to miss one of my classes at school so I could give him hell the next time, always knowing jokingly that Skye missed class that time or any other time so that the school ran better for the other 100-ish people there.
Friend, a devoted family man, a tireless worker for the cause he believed in. The world has lost a true giant in the Celtic Music World and I can only hope he is at peace and hearing some fine music in this next step of his journey.”