The Early Years
Way back in 1966, when I was 11 years old, my parents and I were members of the Scottish Society of Santa Barbara. It was a big society for a (then) small town. The Walter B. Truman Bagpipe Band was loosely associated with the society. I had been playing classical piano for five years and performed occasionally at the society meetings. The band leadership must have liked my piano style because they approached my parents and offered free piping lessons if I would consider joining the band.
It was an easy choice. Within a year I had the cool uniform and was marching in the 1967 Christmas parade in Santa Barbara. The fun just kept coming and that band was a big part of my teenage years. We played Burns Suppers, parades, every kind of gig imaginable. I competed once at the Santa Monica Highland Games (now the Costa Mesa Games). THAT was exciting.
Two Decades Later
College, marriage, and family sidelined me for nearly 20 years. Living in Santa Maria during the 90’s I found that a very accomplished piper, John Partanen was living nearby. We made contact, formed the Central Coast Pipes and Drums, and he began coaching me for competition. In 2002, at the age of 47 I stepped in front of a judge for the first time in 33 years. I won the Western United States Grade 4 championship that year, and Grade 3 in 2003 and 2004. In 2003 I joined the Monterey Bay Pipe Band. Under Pipe Major MIchele d’Avenas, we were in top form and were the first-place band in the Western US. I was winning as a Grade 2 soloist during 2005 when divorce distracted me and I restricted myself to pipe band contests and gigs.
San Francisco Bay Area Years
I moved from Santa Maria to the San Francisco Bay area in 2006 and joined the San Francisco Irish Pipers. I resumed competing as a soloist and won quite a few medals. I decided to begin performing full-time in 2007, finally retiring from pipe bands and the contest field in January 2012 to devote myself completely to performing.
In 2018, I made contact with the Silicon Valley Pipe Band through my dear friend Gloria Cardenas. Led by Pipe Major Adam Blaine, it has many illustrious members such as Erik Leiken, Robby Boyd, and Michael French. I couldn’t resist. I am now in the grade 3 band and back in solo contests after an absence of almost 9 years, and having the time of my life. Such a joy!
What a great life…
Piping has been a wonderful career. It has given me the time to return to college and finally get a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and a Sustainable Enterprise MBA from Dominican University of California. I live in the East Bay and am founding a non-profit to promote sustainable/regenerative living. Playing for a living sure beats working!
I offer private instruction in bagpiping and am usually accepting new students. Most of my students stay with me for quite a while. Many join pipe bands. I has been very satisfying to pass along this unusual and arcane form of musical expression.