10 Bagpipe Performance Goals for the New Year

Happy Hogmanay! The start of another year is upon us. As you reflect on the things that have influenced your bagpiping over the last ten years, you can begin the year by setting musical goals as part of your New Year’s resolutions. A good way to guide yourself through your next year-long ritual of bagpipe performance and competition.

But the Highland games and events that provide the venues for much of our performance activity are not immune to the economic turmoil of the last couple of years. The ones that do remain struggle and some are on a slippery slope toward extinction. As musicians who derive much of our performance opportunities from these events, we can all do a small part over the coming year to make sure this aspect of our art remains as healthy as it can be. This year, take the time to work through the items on this list and insure that there will always be places to play and hear good piping and drumming.

1. Support your local Highland games. Make the smaller or your local bagpiping events a part of your seasonal calendar. They need you as much as you need them. Make it a family affair and bring friends. Do what you can to make them a regular fixture on your schedule.

2. Expand your horizons. Travel to a distant Highland games you’ve known about but have never attended. Whether you go to play or not, the experience alone will teach you things. Introduce yourself to other competitors or the folks running the event.

3. Share your experience. Attend enough competitions and you will formulate for yourself certain things that you like or dislike, and things that work or don’t work. Share these ideas and make helpful suggestions to games organizers. Write letters or send emails. After all, you are on the receiving end of things and without feedback, games folks won’t ever know whether they’ve done something well. Don’t be negative. Be constructive and give a “pat on the back” where it is warranted.

4. Contribute. Tough economic times or no, piping and drumming events still need the goodwill of others in the form of financial contributions. Pick one (or two) you feel are worth it and write a check. Buy raffle tickets and otherwise do things such as buy programs and patronize the vendors.

5. Volunteer. Sometimes time is more valuable than dollars. Make yourself useful and volunteer at an event where playing might not be feasible, or forego playing at an event and volunteer instead. Your help and experience as a competitor will go a long way toward keeping an event running the way it should be run.

6. Perform for free. Come again? Yes, volunteer your musical skills at a local Scottish or Irish function or other local affair and put yourself and your bagpipes out there as self-promotion for you and the art. Sometimes people don’t know they like something until they encounter it. Tell folks where they might find more.

7. Be an advocate. More than that: Be evangelical. Your enthusiasm for bagpipes easily rubs off on others. Share it. Spread it around. Sell the idea of attending a games or festival. Expose as many as you can to piping competitions and performances.

8. Create and run a bagpipe recital and/or workshop. Let’s face it, the world at large might have a passing interest in hearing a notable piper perform, but they are few in number against the enthusiast players around you who would jump at the chance. The idea that players can learn a few things in a seminar or workshop makes the experience that much sweeter. Build a team of like-minded folks. Align your event with a local games or relevant business to build awareness and promotion.

9. Be a better musician. Improve yourself. Seek further education and work on perfecting your craft. Being a better bagpipe player means a more rewarding experience for you and your audience. In the process, the impression and regard folks have about Highland bagpipers in general just might improve. You do the art no justice if you don’t give it your all.

10. Teach. Teaching is the best way to reach a lot of people in a short time. Much like being an advocate, you get a chance to spread your enthusiasm by imparting your experience and perhaps inspiring others to take up the bagpipe. Do this in a general way in a special class or seminar type session at your local school or community college. Find the right outlet and do your best to pass on the art.

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