September 09, 2009

Credit piping

I owe a lot to piping. In fact, I would say that almost all of the best things in my life are due, in some way, to the fact that I decided to take up the instrument at age 11. If you’ve played a long time with any kind of commitment, I’d guess that you too owe a lot to piping.

I’m thinking this now because today’s my fourteenth wedding anniversary. More on that later.

I had truly dreadful grades in high school. I was bored by every subject but English, and always did my homework at school because I was so busy practicing or playing with the band. But it was piping that got me into Macalester College, because it had a piping program and they thought I’d help it (little did they know). Macalester is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the United States (according to a recent New York Times’ survey), and they still support a very good Grade 3 band.

And Macalester had (and maybe still has) a program with the University of Stirling, so, despite my now mediocre grades, they thought – because I was a piper – that I deserved to spend my third year there “studying.” Somehow I did okay there, but most of my time was committed to playing with Polkemmet, getting lessons from truly great people, and practicing all. the. time.

After that I spent more time in Scotland, and it was there I met Julie Wilson, daughter of Martin, longtime piper with the Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. Julie played with Craigmount High School and then the Grade 2 Deeside Ladies while she was at Aberdeen University studying to become the neuroscientist she is. Credit piping.

Because of piping, I managed to be accepted as an immigrant to Canada, because piper-friends pulled for me in ways I’ll never be able to re-pay. And my first job in Toronto was through, yes, a piper in the band I joined here. Credit piping.

Then piping got me my first “career” job because a real publisher was so impressed that I worked to publish and edit a piping and drumming magazine just because I liked it, so he hired me. And that led to my next career direction. The eye of my current boss – whose father was from Uist – was caught by the reference to bagpipes on my CV. Credit piping.

After 14 years of marriage and 25 years of being together, Julie and I have much to show for it, most prized of all is the cheeky and brilliant (takes after J.) Annabel, fount of delight. The three of us understand, I think, just how serendipitous piping has been to our lives.

I’m often asked why on earth I do all this pipes|drums / Piper & Drummer / blogpipe stuff, especially when I don’t pocket a penny from it. First answer is because I enjoy it, and as long as many others enjoy it, I’ll keep doing it. The other answer is that, in some ways, it’s a debt of gratitude for all of the above, repaid word-by-word.


  1. Nicely stated. I would expect that many “lifers” can draw similar lines from piping to the good things & people in our lives. I know that to be very true for me. Congratulations on the anniversary. May you all live long and happily.

  2. Andrew,

    I understand what you are saying as my life has followed a very similar path albeit we both have pursued careers in piping and of course piping helped us get those jobs. However when applying for jobs after University and also while trying to get a job a few years ago I was always questioned about my hobby and I believe it had a negative impact on whether I got the job. They were too concerned that my hobby would interfer with the job. A piper who used to play in the band told me a similar story when he was job hunting and decided to leave it off his CV, he then got a job!!

    Alastair Dunn

  3. Andrew, = Wow, that’s such a great inspirational story. I love the way you turn something that’s brought untold ‘good things’ into your life, into something you can give out to other people, (and into the bargain, put up with the hassle and criticism as well as all the other side). I know information on CVs etc can invite attention, or make prospective bosses turn the other way, but I must say, if a boss didn’t like my piping related activities, I’d be only too glad to turn in some other direction. Their loss, imho. Long may all the good things that have come into your life through piping routes, flourish and grow, and here’s hoping everything you give out so freely, comes back a thousand-fold.

  4. Andrew

    I thoroughly enjoy the service that provides and would not be able to stay in touch with piping if it wasn’t around.

    You have certainly given back an enormous amount, for which, many thousands are grateful.

    I have had mixed experiences regarding piping – huge highs and other experiences.

    I last played and won in 2004 and not a day goes by without recognising the contribution piping, my cherished pipe band and all the people who will have a lasting effect on me.


  5. Andrew,
    I can relate to your experience as mine are very similar, ie meeting wife, having family who are involved in one form or another.
    I had an interesting run in with an old college mate at the Ohio games. He is one of the few that I cared to keep in touch with after graduation. I then told him that all of my current circle of friends are in piping, bands and highland dancing and the like. He immedeiately said that is was sort of like a big family. How precpetive of him to say the least.
    John Recknagel

  6. My father spent the better part of his younger life as a concert violinist, in and out of various orchestras. He always would say that he never experienced a group of musicians quite like the piping community, calling it a “musical fraternity”. And still to this day is openly jealous of all the fun, friendships and connections I’ve encounter over the years. SMacN

  7. Great post. A sarcastic thought occured to me when I was reading it though:

    In accounting credits are used to represent increases in liabilities, equity and income and Decreases in assets and expenses.

    So credit piping would represent a decrease in the asset that is a persons piping, and your post says that a wife and job result in a credit to piping…. so one could conclude that that wives and jobs decrease a persons piping (time that is).

  8. Well Andrew, I guess my story is similar. I wouldn’t have ended up in St. Louis if I hadn’t played the pipes. My life has certainly taken a huge change in direction since I first came over and met you and the rest of the Meeting of the Waters/ Inveraan band. Graduate school, medical school, the US Army “overseas travel” with the Army all because of playing the pipes. Happy anniversary to You and Jools!!



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