Those Who Can, Teach

November 5, 2010 on 6:09 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Photographs, Solo Piping, Stories, Tips | 4 Comments

The world’s population is roughly 6,697,254,041. Of those people, I figure, based on what I know, what I’ve read and what I sense to be true (so we’re talking science here) there’s about 100,000 of us Great Highland Bagpipers (GHBs).

And what’s that percentage? GHBs represent about 0.0014931492726393354 of the world’s population. More or less.

Should pipers feel vulnerable? I think I really refer to the pipe and not the piper so, I put it this way: is the playing of the GHB an at-risk art form?

I’m not sure. In a way, I guess, the GHB is extremely vulnerable: the music is very loud and in-your-face. It usually takes patience and thought to take in, understand and appreciate — all rare commodities in our modern, urban, short attention-spanned world. Oh yeah, and not many people play the GHB.

Bagpipe music is not pop music. It never will be. It’s a genre of folk music that survives in the twenty-first century world thanks to passionate pipers [and competitions – note to self: blog this subject]. Sure there are a few parts of the world where the GHB will always find a welcome home and a place to be heard, like, say, the north of Scotland, but a continued and thriving global GHB depends on passionate pipers, particularly those who teach.

I used to teach a lot. Teaching bagpipes kept a little money in my pocket through my late teens and well into my twenties. I had the time, interest (and need for cash) that provided the push that saw me teach scores of pipers. It takes time and real energy to devote quality teaching time to an aspiring piper. Today I wish I had more of it. But we all do what we can and most of us contribute to the art form the best way we’re able.

Passing on what we know to other pipers is vital for a continued and vibrant art form, one that the GHB represents.

Hats off to those of us who devote time and energy to teaching, to creating a new generation of GHBers. If you can, teach.

For me, yep, I’ve always kept the group teaching, the workshops, going but can say today I have only one pupil.

Well, it’s a start.

And for a look at what triggered today’s homily, here’s one of my prize pupils, Jenny Hazzard of Woodbridge, Ontario and Edinburgh – one of the best pipers anywhere. I stumbled on this photo today.

Here’s Jenny playing one of her first tunes on the pipes, performed in the basement of my parent’s house on Coppermill Drive, Toronto:

She’s hardly changed a bit! Go Jenny!



  1. Is that spinning wheel for her to convert her hair into gold for payment? 😉 And what are the odds of someone randomly landing a world-class piper as a teacher from day one?

    Comment by aberthoff — November 5, 2010 #

  2. I think that spinning wheel may still be there amongst the 100s of clocks! Jenny was lucky – but then, so was I. M.

    Comment by Michael Grey — November 6, 2010 #

  3. I was lucky enough to start my teaching at the Gaelic College, with great mentors! Little did I know that I would eventually be teaching as a profession, and as a hobby. Watching students progress is the best part of (both) my teaching jobs.

    Comment by theacampbell — November 6, 2010 #

  4. Agree, Thea. Happy days at the GC! Tapadh leat, M

    Comment by Michael Grey — November 7, 2010 #

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