Because I offer a free lesson consultation to new students so they can try me out, I was contacted by a prospective student in New Zealand a few weeks ago. After going back and forth on finding a time to meet, we met for about 40 minutes last week. This gentleman started playing the bagpipe at 8 years old, played for 12 years and dropped it at the age of the 20. Life got in the way! However, things had changed in his life and he had more free time, so he decided at age 35 to resurrect his bagpiping career.

I asked him “At 35 and being your second time around, what do you want to do with this?” His answer was swift and firm. “I want to play in a competition in December.” Wow, I thought. I asked him what he was going to play. He told me he wanted to play “Donald MacLean’s Fairwell to Oban”. I knew that tune, so he played it for me. After 15 years of not playing, it sounded pretty good to me. I told him that I thought that his sights might be set a little low and that he needed to play a Strathspey and Reel. Again, I asked him if he knew any. He told me that he hadn’t thought about a Strathspey and Reel since he quit playing. I asked him to try to play the Strathspey that came to mind and he did! He also played the reel!

I think that the hardest part to most of my students in playing the bagpipe is memorizing music. I asked this gentleman, what he did to memorize music. His answer was very profound: “I was determined to do it” he said. That got me to thinking. I can teach someone to sing the tune. I can teach them to sing the rhythm. I can give them the best training possible concerning technique. However, there is something to be said about determination.

It prompted me to think back on my own bagpipe career. After almost 50 years of playing the bagpipe, I play scores of tunes. I have always been able to quickly learn these tunes and keep them in my head. I wanted to be good at this so I guess that I was also determined to complete the task to become a bagpiper, which I always describe as “a person who can play a list of tunes by memory on the bagpipe.”

How determined are you to finish this task? When will you be “a bagpiper”?

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