By Jeff Williams, MSG(R), Army SOF
I submit that I am a ‘nobody’ in piping or drumming. However, I think that there needs to be some serious consideration given to the fees people are charging for piping and drumming instruction.
In my humble opinion, there is a lot of ego in piping. Perhaps too much ego and this is making competent instruction impossible to obtain for the average individual.
Piping is not a hobby or passion for the average person, and that is a shame. Luckily I have had a life long passion – from the day I first heard the pipes. I then had a passion to learn. Unfortunately my parents could not afford tuition, and even if they could afford it, truly competent instruction was unavailable.
Perhaps these two facts may have actually saved me from greater fingering issues today. It is a genuine shame that in the land which prides itself on having the pipes as its national instrument – Scotland – that you cannot provide your own people, regardless of their financial condition, with creditable piping tuition! It is mind blowing really.
It is also a shame that those who have never marched one step of a 2/4 march at a major competition believe themselves to be fair with their students when they command £40 or even £30 an hour for a piping lesson!
As a sergeant major of mine once said, ‘Just because you can read doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be singing karaoke!’
I am no open or professional piper, but I would extend my sergeant major’s thought and say, does being a Grade 2 or B Grade, perhaps even a Grade 1 or A Grade piper, mean that you are worth £30 to £45 for one hour of tuition?
Perhaps some professional, critical re-thinking, some introspection and policing within our ranks is what is needed to tame the ego and to ensure the highest quality of instruction is available to all who aspire to learn our beloved instrument, be that in school or in private.
When something such as piping and drumming tuition becomes so expensive that it is difficult for the average adult to be able to afford it, I think you have to ask the question, have we lost touch with reality?
Does the fact that there is more demand for piping than there are legitimate, competent tutors available, warrant exorbitant fees?
I am an average adult of 50 years of age, and receive a fair income after almost 23 years of military service and a disability pension for service injuries. Yet I am about to be pushed out of piping as a soloist. It is becoming simply too expensive.
On top of lesson fees, it costs me about £200 after lodgings, meals, travel, and entry (perhaps a bit more) each time I travel by car to a games to compete as a soloist.
I am a single individual with no children to have to worry about. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to pay school costs and the like, AND piping or drumming instruction fees in addition to day-to-day life expenses!
I wonder, has it always been proportionately this expensive? What does this tell us about the cost of piping today? What is going to be the future of piping if this continues?
Just some thoughts from an uneducated, simple man who is as passionate about the music as the next piper or drummer.
- Well, do tou agree with Jeff? What do you pay for your lessons? Let’s have your thoughts. Jeff’s bio reads: While I was attending boarding school in 1989 in New York I was fortunate to have taken my first lessons from George Kilgour, formerly Scots Guards. Shortly after my lessons with George, I ended up in the U.S. Special Operations which made it impossible to continue tuition. I was injured while in service and had to be retired in 2013. Before my retirement, doctors encouraged me to return to piping as part of my therapy and recovery. I returned to piping in 2011, Mr. Neil Clark also formerly Scots Guards, placed me back on the road to becoming a piper. Following my instruction and initial successes in piping with Neil, I have taken private lessons from P/M Iain Donaldson; P/M John Cairns among others. I am currently very fortunate to have a very senior level master piper for my instructor.
I am a current Grade 3 solo competitor and have been a member of the EUSPBA since 2012. While in the Army, I had the distinct honour of being the unofficial piper to the Commanders of U.S. Special Operations Command – Central (2002-2008) and United States Special Operations Command (2008-2013). I continue to receive requests to play for military commands, veteran’s organizations, service members, and their families. Piping continues to be a big part of my recovery from service connected injuries and a passion. I am the first of my family to be born in the U.S. and hope to become a competent piper one day and return to compete in my parent’s ancestral homelands of Scotland and Ireland.