How did you get to be a bagpiper?
Family history. Both my mother and father’s families were from Scotland. It became natural. I took up the pipes. It is an honor to get out anywhere in the Columbus or Central Ohio area, especially the Highland games.
How did you get started?
I had some musical talent. I learned a few different other instruments along the way. Motivated by my heritage at about 3 or 4 years old I knew I wanted to play the bagpipes. I turned that energy into self-initiative. I am self-taught. I had a little bit of advice from some pipers in the Columbus area. I joined a few pipes and drums in the area. The Shamrock Club in Columbus was a good experience. I just ran with it. It became natural. Motivated by DNA I guess, but I have done well at it. I will be playing the pipes until I am an old old man.
Why volunteer at the Highland games?
One of the guys invited me. I came out. That was about 4 or 5 years ago. Of course, we all have been held up by COVID-19. That changed things a little bit. We are back here this year. I wouldn’t miss it. It is nice to talk to people. I just talked to a guy from Tennessee. He was interested in breathing/cardiovascular fitness. He wanted to talk to me about the bagpipes. You meet a lot of nice and interesting people with knowledge, skills, and abilities. It is a great place to be.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you think I should have asked you? If so, go ahead and answer that question.
Most people are gonna want to know what bag pipes are all about. You have two tenor drones and a bass drone, controlled by a bag (in the old days was a leather sheep skin bag). The drones are the sticks you see that go over the shoulder. Now things are made of synthetic materials and are improved, but the operation is still the same. When you see a bagpiper play, he blows in the bagpipe, expands the bag, the air creates movements and vibration in the bass drone and two tenor drones which is the organ sound. The additional amount of breath controls the chanter. The chanter has a reed in it (somewhat similar to an oboe). It vibrates to give you the high-pitched sound. There are 9 notes. No sharps, no flats. Movements similar to fiddle music. The whole time a piper is playing, there is a constant physical strain. You are always breathing and pressing on the bag, take in wind, controlling the chanter. Your whole body becomes involved. It is a very physical instrument. It is not acceptable and has not been a practice for the last 250 years, to sit down with a music stand and play a bagpipe and get the same effect. That is why it is so ingrained into our culture for the Scottish. We have used it in war, weddings, funerals, dancing, parties (ceilidh). I lot of people are moved by it.
What is a ceilidh?
It is a party environment where people are dancing and having fun. Almost like a square dance.
Sidebar: I wonder if Jim knew how excited I was to hear about the bagpipe? I found the explanation to be past interesting. Although the photojournalist in me was attempting to appear professional, the musician in me was jumping up and down on the inside.