Yesterday, I received an email from a student asking me to give her a call. When I got her on the line, she told me that she had lost her confidence and interest in playing the pipes. This was a sudden change from her usually enthusiastic and cheerful nature.
Here’s a little background info: This student is a flight attendant. She has the worst schedule that you can imagine when it comes to practicing any instrument, including ours. She has been with me for about 4 years. She has figured out how to make it work. She’s been a great student and she works hard!!
I asked her why she had lost her bagpipe mojo. She told me that about 2 weeks ago, after our last lesson, she stopped into a “bagpipe/kilt” shop in her local area. She had her pipes in the car. As her conversation with the owner progressed, she was encouraged to pull her pipes out and play a few tunes. In turn, this “professional” told her he believed she didn’t have what it takes to be a piper.
I beg to disagree! This woman can read and develop her own music, can do routine maintenance, and can play a long list of tunes by memory on the bagpipe. She may not have Grade 1 technique; however, he doesn’t either, as is evidenced by his YouTube videos.
While the majority of pipe majors/bagpipe instructors don’t teach adults, usually because they think they don’t have any potential, I specialize in teaching these individuals and I am confident that this particular student has progressed greatly in her years of study. No one works harder than she does!
I think it is totally unprofessional for any bagpiper/pipe major/storekeeper to disparage any person who shows an interest in our instrument, ESPECIALLY when it’s someone else’s student. Your technique might be great if you started playing the pipes as a kid. However, the majority of my students don’t start lessons until after their 40th birthday. This woman was over 60 years old when she took her first lesson and she’s done an amazing job of learning the instrument.
As bagpipe professionals, we need to make everyone feel welcome to our community. As a result of this encounter, that didn’t happen and, essentially, this man ruined my student’s confidence and her drive to be an accomplished player. Be assured, however, that she will never give this man/his store any business from this point on and she’ll tell everyone she knows to stay away from him as well. I’ll do the same and will be sure to spread the word.