I started properly playing pipes at the age of nine when I was sent to Gordon Walker at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. My father, Stuart, had made a few attempts to teach me the scale and some other basics from about the age of 6 or 7, but I wasn't too keen to listen at that age. I kept going for lessons with Gordon after he left the piping centre and saw him regularly up until a few years ago. When I was about 17 I started receiving tuition from Donald MacPherson, an absolute piping legend, after my dad gave me his slot at Donald's on a Monday night. I continued seeing both Donald and Gordon until Donald became too ill to teach. These two men along with my dad had the biggest impact on my piping in my early years.
I graduated from the the RCS Scottish Music course, where I had the opportunity to meet musicians from different backgrounds and play music with. On the course at the RCS I received tuition from Allan MacDonald, Chris Armstrong, Finlay MacDonald and Stuart Samson. I think I managed to take something away from lessons with all of these pipers and they helped to open avenues in my own playing that I would never have thought of.
I now work as a musician, free-lance teacher and piping tutor for Falkirk Council schools a few days a week.
Well playing and teaching music is my job, but it's also how I chill out and have fun. Music is always exciting - it doesn't matter if you're playing something new or something you've played 1000 times. It's also great at bringing back memories and can be really emotional and powerful. One of my favourite things in music just now is composition. This is something that's still really new to me and is something that I was never really encouraged to do - not that I was discouraged at all.
I grew up in a house where there was pipes being played every day, so it wasn't really a question of if I would play, it was more of when I would play. I love drones. I could listen to a nice set of pipes all day and just get lost in the sound of the drones. I don't know why. I love the feeling you get when your pipes are going so well that you never want to stop playing them, or the days where you play your pipes and they are so good that it almost seems harder to put the drones out of tune than in tune! But as we all know with the pipes - if you don't look after them they can make your life hell! I actually really love the chase and the struggle of getting the pipes going as well. I weirdly really love the days where you spend hours trying to find the perfect chanter reed and you have every chanter reed on earth scattered all over the floor and bits of tape on the walls and stray bits of hemp stuck to your socks and you've not played any more than 4 bars of a tune in 3 hours… Well, maybe its more of a love/hate thing. But you know that if your pipes sound nice, then it's because you've worked really hard on them.
I would love to write a few tunes that catch on and become quite popular. I think it would be really cool to hear other musicians playing tunes that I have written and are enjoying playing something that I have created. I would also really like to record a few albums. I have plans in place to record this year which I'm really excited about, so keep an eye out for that!
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