Jay Moffett is a lot of things. A long-time local artist, with a personal palate as eye-catching as his work, you can see his signature mutton chops coming from a mile away.
Oh, and he’s a licensed embalmer and undertaker.
But, the Columbus native and East High School graduate has been one thing for longer than anything else:
The big man banging the big-ass bass drum pounding the pavement of a parade or the walls of a pub near you.
Moffett is the quartermaster for Capital City Pipes and Drums, the organized kilted mass of musicians you see all over town this time of year. While the group is celebrating a half-century of traditional Irish and Scottish music, Moffett is in his 20th year, joining as a fresh-faced 20-year-old back in 1994. Fascinated by the sounds of his homeland(s) – his Grandma Murphy married a Scot – he tracked down the group in those pre-Internet days via the phonebook, joining as a novice bagpiper before strapping on the giant bass drum that’s been his voice in the band for the last two decades.
“I always thought was a very interesting sound,” he said. “It was just a stirring thing.”
Moffett still remembers one of his first parades with the band, specifically recalling one of his favorite traditions, when the band hangs around after the city’s annual downtown parade, and files into the Veterans Memorial by the hundreds, creating some sort of raucous Scottish-Irish Skull Session.
“The sound in that Hall, it’s so LOUD,” he said. “Especially for a bass drummer, because you’re standing pretty much right in the middle of it. It really does make the hair on the back of your stand up.”
Short of a 14-year-old piper, Moffett was the youngest member of the group back when he joined in 1994, and today is one of the outfit’s leaders, although he laughs when admitting that the title of quartermaster was bestowed upon because he likely was “the only one with a decent enough basement to have room for all the [kilts and gear].”
Still, he serves an important function. Today, he falls somewhere in the middle of the age spectrum, but feels compelled to keep the tradition going for many more years to come.
“It’s a lifelong kind of a commitment and love that’s for sure,” he said. “I plan to keep playing for as long as I can keep the drum up. Maybe I’ll get some wheels or kickstand for it or something.”
If you don’t catch Capital City Pipes and Drums anywhere this St. Patrick’s Day, you’re probably not doing it right. You’ll hear the pipes-a-callin’ March 15 at the following locations: Dublin St Patrick’s Day Parade/Dublin Brazenhead (1 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.), The Pub at Polaris (4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m.,), and Grandview Brazenhead (between 4 and 5 p.m.). For more, visitwww.capitalcitypipesanddrums.com.