Friday, September 28, 2012

Me? On the Radio? With my bagpipes?

One day I turned around to see a lady walking up to me.  I stopped playing wondering what she wanted - was I annoying her?  was she curious about who the heck I was? She introduced herself as Tanya Brown like I should know who she was - I didn't.  So she had to explain further.  She is Tanya Brown, morning DJ on FM 95.1 which is a Cummulus Radio station.  OK.  Now it was starting to make some sense.  We share a building with Cumulus radio but I didn't realize they had their actual studios right there.

Well, Tanya asked me who I was and what was I doing practicing every day.  I explained that I'm fairly new to the pipes, play with the Charleston Police Pipes and Drums and am practicing hard to get better and compete.  She asked me if I'd be interested in coming on their radio show and play something.  I told her I could get her a better piper than me but she told me they wanted me because I'm a girl.  I told her I could get her a better  girl piper than me but she said they wanted me because I'm outside practicing every day in my bare feet.  I told her I'd to it.  We exchanged phone numbers and agreed we'd talk soon.

Tanya called me later that week and asked me to play on Friday morning.  I told her that would be fine. Then she asked if I knew any top 40 songs on the bagpipes.  I must confess, I laughed- or rather, I guffawed.  The bagpipe has 9 notes and plays in one key AND  I don't know what any of the top 40 songs are much less know them.  But instead I heard myself saying "sure, I'll come up with something by Friday".  Fast forward through a mad google search for Top 40 songs, You-Tube videos to hear the songs, playing some of the songs on the chanter to figure out if it could be done and finally narrowing it down to "Moves Like Jagger". Then there was the hours of practice trying to get it down...and I was ready.

Friday morning arrived.  I was out in the parking lot tuning up at 7:30am!!! talking to my friend Shannon in Vegas who had gotten up early to log on and listen via the internet.  I called Tanya and told her I was outside and next thing I knew I was in the studio watching them during the advertisement and had them talk through what they would ask me and coach me through where to stand and what to do.  Then it was show time.  They asked me about how I got into piping (to embarrass my kids), did I play with a group, did I play for weddings etc etc. and then it was time for "Moves Like Jagger".  I blew up my bag, got through the first 2 measures and one of my tone enhancers fell out and a terrible squawking commenced-thankfully they were just cutting to a commercial and that was the end of my radio career.

The first text I got was from Annette, in Williamsburg.  It said "you're pathetic" and I responded with "yep, but you got up to listen to me" and she texted back "I had to listen to make sure you didn't make them call me on the air.  I had to know not to answer the phone".  Yep, it's working-they're embarrassed.  Stephen did tell me begrudgingly that I did a good job.

Here's the link for the broadcast.

The Life of a Parking Lot Piper

So, what is it like piping in the lot?

Well, there's the wild life like the 2 buzzards perched in a tree above me while I played- like they                     were waiting for someone to die listening to me play (or maybe they were hoping I'd run out of air and die).  There's also the times I could swear the cicadas start to get louder when I play - like they're trying to drown me out.  

Then there's the drive bys like the guy on a moped that about wiped out doing a triple take when he drove by or the African American man who stopped to ask me what I was playing and then told me he's heard of the bagpipes but never heard one.  There was a lady who works at the Convention Bureau who was driving around trying to figure out where the bagpipes were coming from because she didn't think she was hearing things and was glad to find out she wasn't crazy.  Several others have driven by a couple times and then parked and listened for a while.  A few have stopped and chatted.

When it's hot it's pretty miserable but when it's mild outside it is wonderful and looks something like this:

Then there was the radio gig I got by playing in the parking lot:


Thursday, September 27, 2012

What's In A Name

So, why 'Tweets for my Peeps' you may ask?  Well, it goes back to my new job-actually before that--to BAND CAMP!  Yes, I said band camp.  That is a subject for another post but just take my word for it - there is such a thing as bagpipe band camp.  At my first band camp I met a piper who is a cop in Florida.  He told me that he trains other cops and gets a regular lunch break every day so he goes under a tree somewhere and practices at lunch time.  Fast forward now to my new job in February which is 8:30am to 5pm most days with a regular lunch in the middle.  I also work off the hospital campus in some office space that the hospital IT department rents.  We share the office with a communications corporation that has several radio stations but thats another story for another post- keep reading because it's a good one.

Back to lunch time.  I worked up my courage one day to take my pipes out at lunch time.  I parked in the furthest corner of the parking lot and huddled behind my minivan and put my pipes together and started playing.  I felt pretty vulnerable and had a few people drive by with extremely puzzled expressions.  Sometimes people would stop me and say they thought they had been hearing bagpipes for several days but just didn't believe it.  People in my office (there's quite a few that I don't know-just recognize) still drive by without even looking at me like they are too embarrassed to be even be seen looking.  Oh well.  They are used to this weird Parking Lot Piper now.

This is Alice.  She was wearing her Girl Scout paraphernalia on the 100th (?) anniversary of the Girl Scouts

OK, that explains the parking lot part but what about 'Tweets' and 'Peeps'.  I work in an office with about 10 other people in the room.  We are all working on the same project and sit at our computers and  chat all day about what we're working on - well, all of us except for Alice.  Alice manages to talk to herself about every click of the mouse she is doing and makes it sound so dramatic.  We laughed at her behind her back but never said anything until one day she mentioned that her daughter had something about tweeting and Alice didn't know what that was.  In trying to explain tweeting to Alice I finally realized -that is what Alice does all day - she tweets out loud.  When we gave her that visual she understood and so now we all comment on our verbal tweets.  It has been pointed out to me that I am almost as bad as Alice in the tweeting department.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

So, What Is Practice Like

As I started playing the chanter I began going to the Charleston Police Pipe and Drum Corp practice.  It turns out there are 5 levels of expertise in bands and pipe players.  Grade I is the best and Grade V is the novice.  At the time we just had a Grade IV band and they graciously let me sit in and practice with them.  After Grade IV practice was over we would go out for Grade VI practice- beer and french fries.

Band practice consists of anywhere from 3-15 members and we sit around the table with our chanters.  It looks something like this:

We have 2 chiropractors, a doctor, a nurse practitioner, several police officers, some high school and junior high kids, some engineers.  The pipers practice together on chanters sitting around the table and then we get out our pipes.  The drummers practice in another room rat-tat-tatting on their little practice pads.  If we're gearing up for a competition the drummers and pipers will practice together each practice.  We practice at the Citadel's pipe room.

You Want Happy Birthday on the Pipes?

Tonight, while practicing at dusk with the mosquitos munching at my ankles in front of my garage I turned around to find a woman walking towards me - it's happened before.  She didn't act like she wanted me to keep playing to the end but instead wanted me to wrap up the section I was on.  Thinking that perhaps this was a neighbor coming to ask me to stop I stopped.  She told me she was visiting some neighbors across the street and she LOVES bagpipes AND it was her husband's birthday, could I play happy birthday over there for him?  I told her I'd be happy to-just let me wash my face and brush my teeth before coming over.  Picturing that I'd stand outside the fence and play, I walked over and found a huge privacy fence.  I couldn't tell where anyone was so I knocked on the door.  She came to the door and led me through the house while puzzled people looked at me.  In the back yard she points and says, "there he is".  Meanwhile 2 big beasts of dogs were jumping all over me...until I started playing.  Not being sure what to do I struck up my pipes and  played 'Happy Birthday'.  The dogs began howling and cowling away from me (thank goodness they didn't decide to attack the beast).  When I was done it was AWKWARD to say the least so I said Happy Birthday and walked back through the house to bewildered looks of people in the house who didn't know what had just happened so I laughed and said, "someone ordered a bag-pipe-o-gram" and started to leave.  As I was about to leave a man stopped me and told me that he has bagpipes hanging on his wall that were given to him (who has bagpipes given to them?  I'd love a gift like that!) in the 60s and he wants to know if they are worth anything.  Hmmm.  I guess I was the most expert person there on the subject of bagpipes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First Attempts

When my pipes arrived my brother, Alan, and his family (ChingLien, Tevah and Rinah) were visiting from Taiwan.  I had fun-not so sure about them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No, really!! Why the bagpipes?

OK, so I was middle aged, with almost grown kids and bored but WHY the bagpipes (why not a convertible or tattoo you may ask?  Well, the convertible could still happen and the tattoo-well the story behind that is a little like the story behind why the pipes).  My oldest, Annette, was in college at the time.  She was on the soccer team at Covenant College which has a strong Scottish tradition.  The pipers would come to the boy's soccer games but never stay for the girl's games.  In a phone call she relayed how frustrating that was to her...and that decided it for me.  If that wasn't enough to seal the deal then her reaction to my suggestion of "why don't I learn to play the pipes and I could come to your games and play for you?"was enough to decide me. Her reaction was horror and embarrassment- "oh Mom, NOOOOOOO!  That would be so embarrassing!"  DONE-I was a piper.

However, if Annette had known how long it would take me to be able to actually play the bagpipes she wouldn't have sweated it.  I became Facebook friends of many of the girls on the soccer team and they were all in favor of me playing for them.  However, when I went to the games I was never confident enough or willing to steal the spot light (or so I told myself) from the girls and they never actually brought it up at the games so I never did actually play.

This was Annette's last soccer game at Covenant and I actually had my pipes with me but...I was a chicken and Annette was relieved.

To the Right, Quick, March...Let's Begin

I love to tell stories and I love to play the bagpipes so why not combine the two-I have some stories to tell.

I've played the piano for 40+ years
      ...the flute for 35+ years
          ...the recorders for, eh(shrug), 10-40 years (depending on whether you              start counting in elementary with the obligatory recorder music classes)
             ...I've dabbled in the guitar, harmonica, Indian bamboo flute and even a little oboe

About 4 years ago I decided I was bored and wanted something to carry me through my midlife crisis years.  Going from flute to recorder was a simple enough transition so going to the pipes seemed like a logical transition.  While toying with this decision Kent and I encountered some pipers down town one evening.  I talked him in to ambling over to speak with them.  Now that I know these guys I realize what a sucker I was for John's glib tongue - "it's easy", he says... "just buy a chanter and come to band practice"... "we'll teach you what you need to know"... "just look at our website and call us"..."you'll catch on quickly"... "no! It's not expensive" (actually he didn't say that last part).

...And so it began.

I bought a chanter (see below) and THE Sandy Jones beginner book

I looked on the Charleston Police Pipes and Drums website

I called Jim Dillahey

I started lessons (in January of '08)

I came to band practice

I thought I'd be able to play the pipes in no time...