I love teaching people how to play our great instrument.  I teach a lot of adults.  I don’t have to make them do anything because they just have a yearning to play.  Occasionally, however, I get a call from a parent who says their child wants to play the bagpipe. When I get these calls, I think back to when I taught piano. Usually, when the parent called, it was – more often than not – because THEY wanted their child to play the piano. The child didn’t necessary have an interest though there were some who did.

That’s not an ideal scenario. That’s why, at this point, I refuse to teach a kid against his will. However, I’ve found that most kids I’ve taught to play the bagpipe sincerely wanted to learn the instrument.  Often, this comes as a surprise to the parent, who usually knows nothing about the instrument but wants to help their child succeed in his/her goals, nonetheless.

The problem is that they are still kids and need to be guided. That’s my job, but I also want to do two things for the family:

  1. I want to teach their child how to play AND
  2. I want the parents to get a return on their financial investment

In order for these things to happen, I need the parent to take an active role in the process.  So, what does that mean?

  1. The child needs a daily appointment to practice, no exceptions.  The bagpipe takes a lot of air and playing every day creates the strength needed to play this instrument.
  2. If the child is young, the parent should sit in the room while he/she practices, which makes the child feels secure.
  3. The parent needs to make the child understand that they are obligated to practice.  “You asked for bagpipe lessons, I am paying for it, so you need to do your part and practice”.
  4. The child needs to understand that the “honeymoon” is over after 30 days followed by the struggle, which comes at about 60 days.  After that, we’re on our way.
  5. The commitment to the project should be one year at a time.  Why?  Because if the parent follows my advice above, I will have their kid playing a bagpipe in 12 months.  The child also learns the value of a commitment if a time period is attached. 

I can definitely have someone playing in a year provided that there is proper parental support.  The truth is that all of these things that we’re talking about can be applied to any endeavor.  Everything I learned about life I learned playing the bagpipe!  The processes are the same.

Gary Guth