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St. Patrick’s Day and your bagpipe…

The picture above was the City of Quebec St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2014.  Lots of red fingers!  Brutally cold, windy, and dry as a bone.  Note – our PM was playing poly bagpipes…

Sharing from Ron Bowen @ The Bagpipe Place  —  St. Patrick’s Day is everyone’s favorite day in March. Parades and Pubs dominate with music and fun for all. It’s also the most difficult day of the year for bagpipes. Pipers stand for extended periods of time in near freezing temperatures, pick up their pipes at a moment’s notice, and play a parade. We then bounce from pub to pub playing pipes and enjoying festivities. It’s only a day or two later that we discover that our bagpipe didn’t make it through in one piece. The blowpipe, stocks, and drones all take a beating.

Why do bagpipes crack? It’s all about moisture and temperature.

Bagpipes generally crack as a result of warm, moist air being introduced too quickly into the internal bores by the player’s breath. In contrast, the outside of the instrument remains relatively dry and cold. The internal bores expand causing considerable stress along the outside surfaces of the various pieces. That stress, if too great, will cause the wood to crack.

Let’s look at North America and our cold dry winters. Most homes are kept at around 20° C (70° F) and about 35% humidity. When you play your bagpipe, your breath is about 35° C (95° F) and the moisture content is at 95%. You can see where this is going.

St. Patrick’s Day aside for just a moment, most pipers want to blame the maker and the wood when they experience a crack with a new bagpipe. Chances are that they haven’t paid attention to the “science” presented above.

It’s no secret that bagpipes are generally happier in Scotland, where the relative humidity is very stable and ranges between 75% and 85% just about all year long. January and February are generally the coldest months in Scotland, with the average low around 0° C (32 °F). July and August are normally the warmest months in Scotland, with temperatures that average around 20 – 25 °C (70 – 80° F) . Compare that to the highs and lows in your state or province. Quite the shock, eh?

Your wood bagpipe is safe from cracks when it is stress-free. That means the temperature and moisture content is consistent throughout the wood, inside and out.

Here’s where I tell you that there is no certain way to prevent your wood bagpipe from cracking if playing in cold weather. If you play it in these cold dry conditions, you’re risking a crack. The only way to avoid this is to play a polypenco (delrin) bagpipe on the day. Most don’t. They take their chances. Some are lucky. Some are not.



drummers are more intelligent…

According to a collection of studies, drummers are super smart, due to a variety of factors relating to being in the rhythm section.

The news comes courtesy of Polymic, who have compiled a series of reports from Oxford and Harvard universities to name a few. What they found was that that dude at the back of the band isn’t the head scratcher that you might think he is, in fact he is more likely to be the smartest of them all.

For example, researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet found that drummers who kept a tighter rhythm also scored better on a 60-question intelligence test. This is a reflection of better problem solving skills, which creates a positive impact on those around them.

If that wasn’t enough, other studies added that rhythmic music actually makes people smarter. A University of Washington study showed better results from participants who undertook rhythmic light and sound therapy. Additionally research from the University of Texas tested the same process on children with ADD, finding that it not only had the same effect as Ritalin, but their IQ’s actually went up.

Going further than simple intelligence, Oxford University found that drummers produced a “natural high” when playing together, which heightened both pain and happiness thresholds. On top of this, at Harvard, they discovered that drummers who missed a beat were actually tapping into the rhythm of the earth, which moves in waves rather than like a clock.

So there you go, drummers are not only smarter than everybody ever, but they are also at one with the earth and happier than you are.

Time to take up some lessons.



make music…

Stealing a little APPLE (Marin Scorsese) mantra…

You can’t do your work according to the people’s values. I’m not talking about ‘following your dream,’ either. I never like the inspirational value of this phrase. Dreaming is a way of trivializing the process, the obsession which carries you through the failure as well as the successes which could be harder to get through.

If you’re dreaming, you’re sleeping. It’s important and imperative to always be awake to your feelings, your possibilities, your ambitions. But you also know this, for your work, for your passions, every day is a re-dedication.

Pipers, snare drummers, bass drummers, tenors, it’s the same for all of you, all of us.
Every note and beat is a first step, every measure is a test, every line is a lesson, every tune is a school.

So, let the learning continue.


working and playing together…

From: GM ARTS — While not specifically written for pipe and drum bands —  many of these points apply to who we are and what we do as pipers and drummers coming together…

Don’t let any of this put you off; none of this is rocket science, just common-sense. Remember, these aren’t rules, just ideas to think about. Maybe some will work for you and some won’t. Maybe some could if you tried them.

1. Be on a Winning Team

A band is about working and playing together, so being a good player is fine, but unless you’re so phenomenally brilliant that you’re in constant demand (sorry, but most of us are not), then it’s actually more important to know how to work in a team of people.

Some artists think its cool to be temperamental (half temper and half mental!), but you’re making your own life harder than it needs to be if you put up with these people in your band, or even worse, if you’re one yourself. Working in a good team can be fantastic (you know: the power of the team is greater than the sum of its individuals). You can get a real buzz when you pull off a successful gig together. In the band, it benefits you, as a band member, to leave space for others to grow, learn and make mistakes.


2. Know the People

Working with people outside the band is also important – know your agents, promoters, employers (the ones who pay you) and your customers (the ones you’re playing to). Find out what they want, and treat them as people. Understand that your average (non-musician) audience will notice more than your music alone.

In this order, your average audience will notice:

  1. Firstly, your presentation – how you do what you do
  2. You’re appearance – what you look like
  3. Lastly, your music – what you sound like

This is a very uncomfortable concept for many musos. The only way to make your music more noticeable is to be exceptionally brilliant, or exceptionally bad.

Don’t despair; performing music live is just a package deal. Don’t kid yourself either, that when you play people somehow switch onto a principle that your music is everything, and everything else is nothing.

More importantly music, like all art forms, is about giving. I think the way to enhance the perception of your music is to combine the above three elements into your performance. If you really like the music you play, you’ll find it easy to get into the feel of the songs, and that affects the way you look on stage, and allows you to present your music by giving something of yourself by expressing your feelings in a musical form, and making it real and credible experience for yourself and your audience.

This becomes a controversial topic when we stray into less credible musical territory. For example, if your entire audience pleads with you to play The Chicken Dance, would you play it? If not, why not? Would you be concerned about what other band members might think of you and how it might affect your credibility or reputation? Or is it your own pride telling you not to play anything musically trite? Are you above this sort of thing? Even if you never play The Chicken Dance it might be interesting for you to honestly answer some of these questions for yourself.

Then there’s the show-band field, where presentation and appearance is intentionally the main focus of the performance. Whether its a Grease revival or your own concept, it usually requires some theatrics and dressing up. This can be a genuine additional artistic outlet for those with acting and dramatic skills, although I think it can be a minefield for musicians who do not have this flair. It again raises questions of credibility and musical integrity.

For what its worth, I recently played 2 shows in a row with the same lineup of musos. The first night was a birthday party, all aged around mid forties. They wanted 70’s classics; rock, soul and a dash of blues, which we played. Next night we played at a wedding with ages from teenagers through to 60 year olds. It took us about set to figure it out, but they loved the old corny sing-along hits (like “Singin’ the Blues”, “Runaway”, “Personality” and so on).

Now in my view, what we played the first night had a fair amount of musical credibility, while the second night did not. Nevertheless, our audiences loved the band on both nights, and we will get repeat work out of both shows. I choose to have a great night every night, and enjoy whatever I play, and these 2 nights were no exception.


3. Practice, practice, practice!

Tedious, yes. Rewarding, yes. When I was a boy (get the violins ready!) learning my music was a challenge. My music teachers taught Beethoven and Mozart, because they believed this was the only real music. Even the cheapo guitars I practiced with were almost unplayable.

Today, every music magazine is packed with playing tips and ideas for every music style you could want. There are instructional videos, YouTube and a wealth of web resources and cheap guitars are excellent value and very playable.

So practice, look, learn, listen, read, question, experiment. If you haven’t made ten mistakes today, you’re not trying hard enough!


4. Know the Tunes

There’s more to learning a tune than working out the chords, solos and lyrics. Know what the songs you play are about, and play something to enhance or create the right mood and tell the story.

You already have the tools at your disposal to create the mood, and make each song unique. Use your effects and techniques to advantage. Obvious effects are good for short periods; subtle effects are good for long periods.

Some examples of obvious effects and techniques are: using a loud echo repeat, a wah pedal, playing with lots of dive-bomb harmonics, or playing a continuous stream of notes without a pause. These can be very effective when used occasionally and briefly, otherwise they can become tiring to listen to. If you set your effects so you can only just tell they’re on, you can use them for a long time to add subtle textures to your music.


5. Don’t Blame

Don’t blame …
… your audience if they don’t dance
… your audience if they don’t applaud
… your employer if you don’t get booked again
… your agent if he can’t find the work you want
… other band members when things go wrong
… your engineer when you can’t hear yourself
… your equipment when it fails
… your partner when you’ve had a rough gig
… life in general

All of these and more will happen over and over again in your career, and guess what? Blaming makes every one of them worse for you. Every one of these situations is solvable with a positive and philosophical attitude. So use every disappointment as an opportunity to learn to relax (relax I said!, now!), and think calmly about how you can do things differently next song or show.


6. Choose the Right Songs

If your thing is originals, you can skip this one. If you’re playing listening music (piano bars, restaurants, etc) then some of this might apply. If you’re a dance band playing covers then every song you play should be:

  • well known by your intended audience
  • danceable (without too many tempo changes, avoid fast songs with slow passages)
  • playable (with your current instrument line up and individual abilities)

As much as you might like that track 3 instrumental on the latest Gordon and the Groovers CD, if it doesn’t meet all three criteria, then you could learn and play it for your own enjoyment in the privacy of your own rehearsal room. Perform it publicly, and it will just seem irrelevant and self-indulgent, and maybe you’ll start to resent that others don’t share your own excellent taste in music.

When deciding what material to do, and what key to play it in, the front person has the final say – they are the ones who have the main role of selling the song, and if they’re uncomfortable, it will show.

If any player has a rational strong objection to a song, then find another song. If any player has an irrational strong objection to a song, then find another player.


7. Have Fun

If you don’t enjoy playing, then don’t. Chances are that you do, and you can benefit from one of the best kept secrets in the industry – it’s OK to smile! Start practicing this with the corners of your mouth, and when you finally get the nerve, flash a bit of tooth! If you have fun, so will the people you’re playing to, then you feed off their energy, they feed off yours, … and a good time was had by all.

You might also like to think about why you like to play. It is because:
(a) You just like having fun with the band and enjoy the social occasion
(b) For artistic expression
(c) For your self-esteem (pride in your own ability to learn and play)

And the correct answer is … all of the above and more.

I think that if you play for many reasons, it means you are giving more, and in return you’ll get more enjoyment back from your music. If you are playing primarily for only one reason, or for the wrong reasons (maybe money) there’s a chance you could benefit by considering some of these ideas.


8. Mix While You Play

When you sing & play, listen to how what you’re doing fits into the total band sound. If you have the idea that you just play your own way, and it’s the sound engineer’s job to mix it into the overall song and make you sound good, then you’re short-changing yourself. For example, no sound engineer can mix over-played keyboards with over-played guitar.

Think about these things …

  • Am I leaving enough space in my playing for the others? That notes-per-second meter on Nigel Tufnel’s (Spinal Tap) guitar is a joke – trust me on this!
  • Is my stage volume making it hard for other players to hear themselves?
  • Are my stage tones clashing with anyone else?
  • Does what I’m playing contribute to the mood and meaning of the song?

Certainly, thinking about these things at first is distracting, and likely to make it harder for you to get into your own part. Just like practicing scales, though, it gets easier, until you can do it without even consciously thinking about it. That’s when you really start playing as a band! You will start to bounce off each other’s cues. Individuals can lead the band into places you’ve never been before, communicating with music alone!


9. Take Care of Your Body

I’ve heard ‘em all:
… “I play best when I’m wasted”
… “I’m always in the right mood after 3 scotches”
… “I need to smoke to get the high notes”

Yeah, maybe, … and maybe not.

I’m not a wowser (Australian term for one who expresses disapproval of others’ actions); I reckon just about anything in moderation is a good thing. My point here is that (recent science experiments aside) we have only one body in our lifetime, so its worth looking after.

If you’re serious about a music career, then you’ll need to be physically fit and have your head together. This is the only way I know to give an energetic and focused performance, and (I’ve said it before) the more you give …


10. Love and Trust Yourself

You don’t have to prove this to anyone except yourself. Just like being physically fit, this is about being mentally and emotionally fit. Know what you want to do now and in the future, and work towards your goals. Trust your own intuition and your own judgement.

Some people tell me I’m lucky because I get lots of opportunities. I tell them I make my own opportunities and I make my own luck. Think and talk about good things, and good things happen.

You can easily spot a pessimist; when things go wrong, they say “That’s typical for me!”, but when things go well they say it was just a fluke. This is just plain unhealthy. Be optimistic; treat every setback as temporary. Treat every success as typical.

You may have heard of the story of two guys at a bar with half a glass of beer: one sees a glass half full, the other sees a glass half empty. Remind yourself often of your skills and achievements – that’s your half a glass. The rest of the glass is for the new skills you’re going to learn, and the new things you’ll do. It looks different already, doesn’t it?



pipe band creed t-shirt…

The Wake and District pipe band CREED shirt were  available via — we sold over 175 shirts — raising over $1150.00  — THANK YOU to everyone who ordered one of these awesome shirts.

For those unaware For Our Fallen is our motto;
it is everything we stand for.

This was a LIMITED EDITION — black — short-sleeved — 100% cotton t-shirt — featuring our motto “for our fallen” emblazoned on the front — and a punisher style skull (with checkered glengarry) on the back with the first verse of our creed “Through howl of wind and showers of rain. We play for the living, the dead and the slain“.


Through howl of wind and showers of rain.
We play for the living, the dead and the slain.
Our tunes they are the sound of an angels swoon.
For our enemies the sound of their coming doom.
Be you married or buried our band sounds true.
Whenever we’re needed we’ll play there for you.



On Saturday, 05 May 2012 Wake & District members participated on the 7th Annual North Carolina Fallen Fire Fighters memorial service held at Nash Square in Raleigh, NC. As the ceremony was nearing its end – organizers became aware severe weather was about to roll through and expedited the conclusion of the services. As Wake & District pipers and drummers surrounded the memorial to play Amazing Grace — the sky fell a-flood and everything stood still for just a moment as Lee Wilson captured the above photo of band members at attention as the sound of TAPS resonated through the air. This image is powerful and speaks volumes to our program which honors those who sacrifice their lives to serve others; FOR OUR FALLEN is everything we stand for. Thank you to Lee Wilson who – as always – was there to capture such thunder – and to those who had such kind words to share:



surrounded by positive people…

When I was a teenager I was the primary target of an extremely persistent bully at my high school.  One day I came home in tears and wrote this on the whiteboard hanging on my bedroom wall:  “I hate bullies.  They make me feel like a loser.”

The next day, while I was at school, my grandmother erased what I wrote on the whiteboard and replaced it with this:  “An entire body of water the size of the Pacific Ocean can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship.  Similarly, all the negativity in the world can’t bring you down unless you allow it to get inside your head.”

And from that day forward I felt better.  I made a conscious decision to stop letting the bully get inside my head.  I changed my beliefs about his level of importance in my life.

It isn’t easy to remain positive when negativity surrounds you, but remember that you have full control over what you choose to believe.  You can effectively defend yourself against all kinds of negativity by adopting simple, yet powerful, beliefs that support a positive outlook in the face of seemingly negative circumstances.

There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference.
The little difference is attitude.
The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.
―W. Clement Stone

Below you will find 15 such beliefs that have helped free me from the grips of negativity.  I have these beliefs written down in my journal, and I review them on a regular basis, as needed, just to keep them fresh in my mind.  I hope you will join me by adopting them into your own belief system as well…

  1. What other people say about me is their problem, not mine. – Don’t take other people’s negativity personally.  Most negative people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with.  What they say and do is a projection of their own reality.  Even when a situation seems personal – even if someone insults you directly – it oftentimes has nothing to do with you.  What others say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.
  2. I am free to be ME. – Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?  Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to everyone else and what they want.  Stop living for other people and their opinions.  Be true to yourself.  You are the only person in charge of your life.  The only question is: What do you want to do with the rest of it?
  3. Life isn’t perfect, but it sure is great. – Our goal shouldn’t be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life in radical amazement.  To get up every morning and take and good look around in a way that takes nothing for granted.  Everything is extraordinary.  Every day is a gift.  Never treat life casually.  To be spiritual in any way is to be amazed in every way.
  4. It’s okay to have down days. – Expecting life to be wonderful all the time is wanting to swim in an ocean in which waves only rise up and never come crashing down.  However, when you recognize that the rising and crashing waves are part of the exact same ocean, you are able to let go and be at peace with the reality of these ups and downs.  It becomes clear that life’s ups require life’s downs.
  5. Even when I’m struggling, I have so much to be grateful for. – What if you awoke today with only the things you were thankful for yesterday?  We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but of appreciating everything we do have.  Stress thrives when your worry list is longer than your gratitude list.  Happiness thrives when your gratitude list is longer than your worry list.  So find something to be thankful for right now.
  6. Every experience is just another important lesson. – Disappointments and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to success.  So don’t let a hard lesson harden your heart.  When things go wrong, learn what you can and then push the tragedies and mistakes aside.  Remember, life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes.  We must fail in order to know, and hurt in order to grow.  Good things often fall apart so better things can fall together in their place.
  7. Not everything is meant to stay. – Change can be terrifying, yet all positive growth and healing requires change.  Sometimes you have to find the good in goodbye.  Because the past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.  Be strong when everything seems to be going wrong, keep taking small steps, and eventually you will find what you’re looking for.  Learn to trust the journey, even when you do not understand it.
  8. Being wrong is the first step to being right. – Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.  To be creative and productive in life, you must first lose your fear of being wrong.  And remember, a fear like this can only survive inside you if you let it live there.
  9. I do not need to hold on to what’s holding me back. – You are not what has happened to you; you are what you choose to become.  It’s time to break the beliefs and routines that have been holding you back.  Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer grows you.  Listen to your intuition, not your ego.  When you stop chasing the wrong beliefs, you give the right ideas a chance to catch you.  
  10. My happiness today is simply the result of my thinking. – Happiness starts with you – not with your relationships, not with your job, not with your money, but WITH YOU.  It is not always easy to find happiness in ourselves, but it is always impossible to find it elsewhere.  Regardless of the situation you face, your attitude is your choice.  Remember, you can’t have a positive life with a negative attitude.  When negativity controls your thoughts, it limits your behavior, actions, and opportunities.  If you realized how powerful your thoughts were, you would try your best to never think another negative thought again.
  11. Who I spend quality time with matters. – Surround yourself with people who lift you higher – those who see the great potential in you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.
  12. Drama and judgments are a waste of perfect happiness. – Make a promise to yourself.  Promise to stop the drama before it begins, to breathe deeply and peacefully, and to love others and yourself without conditions.  Promise to laugh at your own mistakes, and to realize that no one is perfect; we are all humanFeelings of self-worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible.  
  13. Most people are judging me far less than it seems. – The truth is, while you’re busy worrying about what others think of you, they’re busy worrying about what you think of them.  Crazy?  Yes, but true.  The good news is this knowledge instantly frees you to let loose and do more of what YOU want.  And while doing so, you’ll also liberate others to do the same.
  14. I can make the world a happier place. – Do your best to help one person every day in some small way.  By becoming the answer to someone’s prayer, we often find the answers to our own.  When the people around us are happier, it’s a lot easier to smile.
  15. The work is worth it. – Lose the expectation that everything in life should be easy.  It rarely is.  In fact, there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  Enjoy the challenge of your achievements.  See the value in your efforts and be patient with yourself.  And realize that patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your dreams.  It’s knowing deep down that the work is well worth it in the end.


Source: Marc and Angel #BeGreatful #NoBullies


world record kilt run…

Wake and District is partnering with the nOg Run Club to break the Guinness Book of World Record for most kilted runners.  The current record is held by The Duke of Richmond and his clan in Perth, Ontario.  This will be a short — 3 block jog as part of the St. Paddy’s Run Green event (a full blown 8k race).


It all happens Saturday, 07 March 2015 at 2:00 pm at Moore Square in Raleigh (NC). There will be an After Party St. Practice Day celebration.The kilt run is open to anyone who has a kilt!  Guinness defines a kilt as a plaid, knee length garment that buckles.  If your kilt does not have a buckle, please wear a belt!!

Runners in kilts will be recorded entering the “holding area” on Person St. at 1pm.  We need to make sure everyone is on video wearing their kilt to submit to Guinness. The kilt run will start at 2pm followed by the 8K at 2 pm.

Sport Kilt is our official kilt sponsor for the 2014 Kilt Run.  Please use code “WRKILTRUN15″ to receive 10% off your kilt. Please remember the kilt needs to be knee-length (or close to it).  Discount code expires on March 10, 2015.


We will be hosting the “after party”! Come early and enjoy live music in Moore Square from 11:30 until 2am.  Music will move into Tir na nOg in the evening. Bands includes: My 3 Kilts, Wake District Pipes and Drums, Nine Times Around, and Albannach

Additional information here.



On Thursday, 29 January 2015 Wake and District was once again honored to send a piper to participate at a promotional ceremony for the Raleigh Fire Department.  Congratulations to these newest leaders of the Raleigh Fire Department.   Photos from the event by Mike Legeros can be seen here.

The tradition of bagpipes played at fire department ceremonies in the United States goes back over one hundred fifty years. When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to this country, they brought many of their traditions with them. One of these was the bagpipe.  More traditionally recognized in larger cities like New York and Chicago, Wake and District has been proud to share this tradition with the Raleigh Fire Department since our formation in 2006.



enter the haggis…

Thank you to everyone who came out to Tir Na nOg Irish Pub last night in Raleigh to celebrate Burns Night; a brilliant evening indeed.  Christopher Stevens did an amazing address to the Haggis – while Head Chef Aaron Vaughen put together the best Burns dinner ever (and of course made a lovely the Haggis).   To Annie Nice and the the entire nOg staff, we love you for your kindness. To our family, friends and band members — your ongoing support is appreciated. Lastly, My Three Kilts — y’all are fab — thank you for bringing the noise and raising a cup in kind.

Some photos from the evening fair by band member Ashby Sprately can be see here.

And a collection of “selfies” courtesy of our Drum Major — Jason Lane — can be seen below.


share a cup of kindness…

Haggis, Scottish Dancers, the skirl of the pipes & drums  and MY 3 KILTS — all to celebrate Robert Burns Night at Tir Na nOg Irish Pub (drink, music, fun and good times).  Souvenir cups (pint glasses) of kindness will be available for $20 — and include free refills from a keg selection (all proceeds benefit the Wake and District Public Safety Pipes and Drums).

On Saturday, 24 January 2015 the party starts
at Tir Na nOg Irish Pub in Raleigh
with a call to the clans at 7:00 pm!

A Burns Supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns Night (Scots: Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year…

Burns suppers are most common in Scotland and Northern Ireland but occur wherever there are Burns Clubs, Scottish Societies, expatriate Scots, or aficionados of Burns’ poetry. There is a particularly strong tradition of them in NC where the Scots and Irish setteled.  More information HERE.


#My3Kilts #BurnsNight #PipeBand #CupOfKindness #TirNaNog