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.