October 26, 2021

Teachers on Teaching: learnings from the pandemic with four of the world’s top instructors – Part 1

The last 18 months of pandemic mayhem have been the greatest upheaval in world piping and drumming since at least World War II. In all but a few parts of the world, our competitive art for most purposes shut down, players only able to work at their skills on their own locked down at home.

Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about learning, so we thought we’d gather four of the world’s most prominent and successful instructors to share their thoughts in a three-part video panel interview.

The winner of both the A-Grade March (2007) and Strathspey & Reel (2003) at the Argyllshire Gathering and the 2007 Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting, among many other solo prizes, Margaret Dunn is one of the world’s most accomplished pipers. Along the way she has been a member of the Grade 1 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia and Cullen in her native country of Ireland. For most of the last two decades, she has been a full-time piping instructor with the National Piping Centre and the director of that organization’s Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP), and during the pandemic oversaw its expansion to online events and an even wider international reach. Margaret Dunn joined us from her home in Glasgow.

Nick Hudson is a native of Pittsburgh and learned much of his piping from the late greats Alasdair Gillies and James McIntosh. For the last several years, he has been a full-time piping instructor at St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston, where he plays a significant role in the school’s renowned teaching program. Among Hudson’s solo successes are the B-Grade Strathspey & Reel at the 2016 Argyllshire Gathering, the B-Grade Strathspey & Reel at the 2016 Northern Meeting, and the 2015 Piobaireachd Society (Canada) Gold Medal for Piobaireachd at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario. He’s a member of the Grade 1 St. Thomas Alumni, and has been a piper with the Grade 1 Toronto Police. Nick Hudson connected by video from Houston.

One of the most accomplished pipers in history, Jim McGillivray in his solo career won both Highland Society of London Gold Medals (Inverness 1985, Oban 1991), the Clasp at the Northern Meeting (1987), the MSR at the 1986 Glenfiddich Championships, and just about every top-level prize there is to win in North America, many several times over. The author of best-selling instructional books Rhythmic Fingerwork and Piobaireachd Fingerwork and many other teaching products, McGillivray has been the director of the highly successful piping and drumming teaching program at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario, for most of the last 30 years, and operates McGillivray Piping and Pipetunes.ca. Jim McGillivray is sought after for private instruction, and currently works with some of the world’s top competing pipers, and dialed in from his home in Aurora.

Mick O’Neill is one of the world’s top pipe band snare drummers and drumming instructors. He has been the lead-drummer of the Grade 1 Police Scotland Fife with Pipe-Major Douglas Murray for the last decade, and remains lead-drummer with recently appointed Pipe-Major David Wilton. O’Neill is at least as well-known as a teacher. As a full-time drumming instructor with the prestigious George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, he has been instrumental in the school’s remarkable consistency at educating young pipers and drummers and producing world-beating Juvenile and Novice bands. Renowned for both his knack for creating a superior ensemble effect and his congenial and popular style with his corps and his students, Mick O’Neill joined the panel from his home in Bo’ness, Scotland.

All are world-class musicians, and their students have the benefit of learning from the best. We have separated the discussion into three parts, looking at the past 18 months, the present and what might be in store for the future, each part with an eye to passing along what they’ve learned to teachers around the world who will learn from their shared experiences.



CLASP amateur piping expands to include solo Grade 4 and Grade 5 pipers worldwide (video)
April 8, 2021

10 Questions With . . . Margaret Houlihan
March 31, 2006

Police Scotland Fife appoint David Wilton pipe-major
July 17, 2021

Police Scotland Fife appoint David Wilton pipe-major
July 17, 2021

George Watson’s step aboard Queen Mary
February 13, 2018

15th annual pipes|drums New Year’s Honours
December 31, 2016

Murray takes over Police Scotland Fife
July 4, 2013

Video: Nick Hudson and “The Mad Hornpipe” by Bert Barron
October 29, 2018

Five favourite performances: Nick Hudson
March 24, 2018

Inverness day 2: Johnston wins Clasp; Hudson takes B MSR
September 2, 2016

Oban: Ian K: Gold; Liddell: Sr.; Hudson: Silver
August 24, 2016





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