PP Ed’s Blog: Successful End to Florida Academy

Well what a week that was. Small but perfectly formed, the 2019 Florida P&D Academy went like a breeze and Jacksonville proved a perfect location. Plans are already underway for 2020.

We might change the date, moving it back a week to butt on to the North East Florida Highland Games. The school could then prove attractive to those competing there and wishing to brush up on their skills beforehand.

Until then a huge thank you to organiser Chris McKeown and all the students. They worked so hard.



Drumming instructor Graham Brown was a fund of stories and told us of the time his mother Gail joined Shotts back in the early 70s.

A good player, P/M Tom MacAllister wanted her in but in those unenlightened times thought he’d better ask the all male band first.

Drumming tutor Graham Brown with prizewinning drummers Jon (from Glasgow!) and Mike

At a subsequent meeting there were those for and against. It was in the balance until Leading Drummer Alex Duthart intervened. 

‘Is that the Canadian lassie?,’ says Alex.
‘Yes,’ says Tom.
‘Is she a good player?’
‘She’s better than me.’
‘Well there’s your answer.’


Regular tutor Donald McBride couldn’t make the school. He’s had a major operation on his hand ligaments.

On his way south to start a holiday with his wife Jeannie, he caught up with us on the last day of the school. Pleased to report he’s well on the mend and may be back playing soon.

Instructor Matt Pantaleoni and students

Apropos the recent ‘to oil or not to oil’ debate….Albert, one of our students, sported his full ivory Lawries, 1920s or thereabouts I would guess.

They are a lovely set and both looked and sounded the part. Remarkable given that they had very recently been submerged in water for five days after storms flooded his parents’ basement.

Did the natural oils in the blackwood offer built in protection?

Albert second left with instructor Barry Donaldson and other students Sally, Walt, Linda and Lisa

Organiser Chris is a veteran of the second Gulf War and spent eight years in the US Marine Corps. He is now a captain in the Jacksonville Fire Department.

He admits to having been profoundly affected by his time in the desert where he commanded an armed troop carrier. Similarly, in his new career when he has to attend many tragic accidents and incidents.

Myself with organiser Chris, and students Laura, Dan and Doug

Playing his pipes and enjoying his time with the JFD band offers him a release from painful memories. It’s not the first time someone has told me this. Playing pipes is such a whole mind and body experience we shouldn’t be surprised.


Congratulations to Laura, Joe, Sally, Jon and Mike, winners of our Most Promising Student Awards. Thanks to sponsors Pipe Dreams and Graham Brown Percussion for the prizes.


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