As with anything in life, piping is about constant development and change. Even those not seeking to become the best of the best find themselves expanding their piping knowledge. Ultimately, it is this fact of life which brings about changes such as these four new initiatives within my teaching program.
The City of Bloomington has a small but growing piping community. Locally, the Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums has an actively practicing unit here in Bloomington, and the Bloomington Pipers’ Society is a homegrown organization designed to support the piping community by providing a venue for fellowship and performance which is not always focused on pipe bands. At the moment, I am the only piper giving private instructions to students in the city. Some of these students are not members of any of the regional bands, and others have not yet joined the Bloomington Pipers’ Society. This gives them precious little opportunity to hear other pipers, which makes their experience in playing the instrument just their weekly sessions with me.
In an effort to change that reality, I am beginning to roll out a new series of programs for my students to get them together with other pipers, as well as performing in public. There are four new programs: The annual recital, required Bloomington Pipers’ Society membership, competition requirements, and new group lessons for active students.
Starting in 2017, an annual recital will be hosted by my studio with an eye to a public audience, to provide my students with the opportunity to hear each other perform, and to get in front of an audience. I will also participate in this recital. The object of the recital will be to give the local community a performance showcasing the various stages of learning on the Great Highland Bagpipe. Ultimately, my teaching activities are geared at the local community, so my students are primarily within easy driving distance of Bloomington.
More details will be coming regarding the timing and lineup of performers for this recital, but I can confirm it will occur later in the calendar year in November or December.
Bloomington Pipers’ Society Membership
The Bloomington Pipers’ Society meetings have grown to become important events in the broader piping community in Bloomington. The Society’s meetings have featured various types of bagpipers – from Scottish to Hungarian, as well as Scottish snare drum, and Scottish Highland Dancing. These meetings give pipers and piping enthusiasts in the area an opportunity to come out for an evening of music, where they can socialize with other pipers and hear some great music. Moving forward, my students will be required to be members of this organization, and to attend most of its meetings as well.
At BPS meetings, students will have the opportunity to hear other pipers of various ability levels perform music, to hear the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe (piobaireachd), and to perform themselves on whatever material they have been working on. BPS membership also brings along with it an added perk – lessons discounts with me.
The bread and butter of the Scottish piping world has been competition for much of the past two hundred years. Starting as competitions within the ranks of the Scottish regiments of the British military, solo and band competitions expanded to the civilian world in the late 19th century. Since then, solo competitions have become a space for individuals to develop their skills in the art of playing the Great Highland Bagpipes, and band contests have become international cultural events attended by bands from California to Malaysia.
My students will now be required as part of their tuition to participate in competitions in the local region. We have 11 solo bagpipe competitions within a six hour drive of Bloomington, 5 of which are within three hours. Competitive levels range from chanter beginners to multi-decade advanced veterans, so there is a good fit for any player.
I have been teaching bagpipes in Bloomington for 3 years now, and with a piping community which is as relatively small as Bloomington is, I have found that musical isolation can be a problem for students. Starting this year, mandatory group lessons will be introduced to bring all students in my studio together to get to know each other, support each other, and to learn skills which cannot be gained in individual settings. These lessons will fill in for one week’s regular private lesson.
Note: Individual at the center of the featured image is Siddharth Bhaskar, who plays Uilleann pipes and is not a student of mine.