Principal of the Northern Winter School in Lohheide, P/M Ronnie Bromhead, has written to the Editor about the origins and ethos of his successful enterprise. The school runs from November 10 -17….
‘I thought it was about time something happened in the north of Germany and I had played with the idea for quite some time. I asked Craig Munro of Wallace Bagpipes and Jim Semple [RSPBA Adjudicator and ex-Strathclyde Police PB] for their opinion and they encouraged me to go for it.
‘The comment I hear again and again from the instructors is that the atmosphere at Lohheide is very relaxed and the approach from the students is also very mature, in that the students are never late to bed. For a youth hostel the food can only be described excellent and there is also excellent service and choice. The school is orientated towards the student’s wishes, i.e. I ask them what they would like to see for the next school, suggestions are welcomed. Evening classes are also well attended, almost 100%. Piobaireachd is/was very popular last year
‘I have asked the students who want to take PDQB exams to let me know per email and at what level. The first school only had 17 participants and I was really sweating. The second got 27 and now we are 41 with two more students who are trying to get time off work to attend. So the word is getting out just how good the school is. Incidentally in the first year my Northern Winter School Facebook site got 7,500 clicks (not likes) in one week.
‘The reason I chose November was because I wanted to avoid clashing with the other schools. I must say we have a teaching team that is absolutely unbeatable. Looking at the achievements of the instructors there are 11-12 times World Pipe Band Champions, a double Gold Medallist, bagpipe makers, reeds makers, judges, composers. What a flag to be able to wave!
‘You said something at Brüggen at the very first winter school there in 2007 and it stuck with me. It was along the lines of that the ethos was to take piping to those that could not afford regular instruction. That explains my prices. I want it to succeed way beyond a few years. I get different rewards from doing this.’
The Editor comments: Isn’t Germany doing well for teaching? There are now four healthy schools on the go there and over time this must bring about a significant improvement in playing standards. I believe it has already done so.
It is now fully ten years since we started the school at Brüggen in Germany over near the Dutch border and when that had run its course we decamped to an excellent facility at Homburg in Saarland. Both these schools, I am pleased to say, are still going strong, the first with the assistance of the Piping Centre and the second under the expert guidance of Principal John Wilson and his team from the College of Piping.
In addition the Bagpipe Association of Germany has its own summer school over two weeks at Breuberg Castle south-east of Frankfurt where this summer one of the teachers was Anna Kummerlöw winner of this year’s Braemar Gold Medal (following in the footsteps of her compatriot Martin Kessler). In addition to the above there are many weekend workshops that take place throughout the year and don’t forget the Austrian Piping Society’s School of Piping & Drumming just over the border.
Germany is a huge country with a population of 82 million or so. There is room for all of these schools. They are not mutually exclusive. There is no need for them to rival one another. To succeed they only have to provide the students with what they want: top quality tuition in comfortable surroundings. Congratulations to Ronnie for making a success of his Northern Winter School. I am sure it will go from strength to strength.
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