Andrew Hopkins: Put Your Mind To It

I've always enjoyed the unique sound of the bagpipes. At 54 years old, I finally have the passion to want to learn to play an instrument.

Over the years, my favorite part of the local holiday parades has always been the music from the local piping band that marched in them. I wanted to be a part of that and not just be an observer. One day, I would like to march with our local band in the different holiday parades. Also, I would like to play for church and spread some "joy" to others.

Before I started, I thought I was too old to learn how to play any instrument let alone the bagpipes. I also thought I did not have the talent to do it well. But I want to show my daughters that at any age, you can do anything as long as you have goals and put your mind to it.

I am about a year into learning, so I'm still on the chanter. At the very beginning, as I was learning, I thought about quitting. The chanter just felt very awkward, and I wasn't able to blow recognizable notes with any consistency.

I certainly have a lot of struggles. Rhythm, embellishments, and avoiding crossing noises are constant challenges just to name a few.

I first learned about the Dojo through my piping teacher. He recommended that I subscribe to it to help me through these learning stages. It only took two weeks from when my instructor first mentioned it for me to sign up. Most of my weekly meetings with him would involve the exercises from the Tutor Workbook, "The Bagpipe as an Extension of Your Self."

I have found it so helpful with all the resources, classes, and tutorials. The instructors at the Dojo have all been very friendly and helpful as well. The feedback I get from them has helped me to progress through the many struggles I have encountered.

The Dojo is a place where I can always go to work on any specific difficulty I am having. I have really benefitted from the step-by-step format from the Tutor Workbook which has given me the confidence to keep going.

The Dojo has certainly made me feel more confident in my playing. Before, I was very nervous to play in front of anybody because of how terrible my playing sounded. But, it's so much better now. I have enjoyed the "journey" from where I was to where I am now.

I'm trying to learn as much as I can about transitioning from the chanter to the pipes. I have started watching the video tutorials through the Dojo and they have certainly helped to ease the anxiety I have about moving on to the pipes. The way the Dojo breaks down the tunes into smaller segments to play and then builds on that is so helpful.

I'm amazed at what I can do now versus when I first started! I know my brain must be making new pathways because some of these finger techniques I could not do starting out, but now I can.

The Dojo has helped bring more joy in my life for sure! It makes me happy that I can actually play some tunes and that I'm able to spread some joy to others with my playing. I certainly have more confidence in my playing and yes, I am proud of what I have accomplished so far with the help of the Dojo!

Since joining the Dojo, I have made some new friends from the local pipe band too, which has been great!

Andrew Hopkins, South Carolina, USA

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