Camille Layt: Didn't See This Coming

I was at a pub with some mates, and a pipe band wandered in and played a set, and I just thought, 'Wow, I'd love to learn how to do that'. With a bit of Dutch courage in the system, I got up the nerve to ask an authoritative looking fellow whether they offered lessons. He told me they did, that they were free, and that learners got a free beer every week if they showed up without missing any. I started the following week and haven't looked back.

I always liked the sound of pipes, but when I actually started, it was purely the novelty – it was a phase of my life where I was trying new things; I'm a classically trained soprano and at the time I was tired of my choir, so I was looking for a new musical outlet. Piping turned out to be just that, and much, much more – a heck of a challenge; a fantastic, fun global community of some of the best people I've ever met; a great social outlet through band; and a decade on, something that still offers new experiences every day.

The people in this community are welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and completely non-judgmental – it's wonderful to be able to put yourself out there on mic with new repertoire and get such a supportive response from others who take a turn too. It's also wonderful to learn in an environment with no hidden agenda like trying to get your band or comp tunes ready as quickly as possible. I've made some close friends here that I catch up with regularly (on a daily basis in some cases) outside classes, and I'd love to meet in person one day. The Dojo community is one of the main reasons I love being a member here.

When I first started, I was not taught embellishments correctly (I couldn't have told you the steps of anything other than a gracenote. I had zero confidence in tuning or knowing how to tune my chanter or my own drones. I thought tuning was too hard and there was no point trying, that it was something 'those talented, obsessive type pipers learn to do'. I was also told that I learned at too old an age to ever be any good at competition, so I never tried until I met Andy Fusco and he encouraged me to give it a go.

I can tune my pipes, my fingerwork and timing has improved significantly, and having access to so much excellent course material and regular classes to reinforce those principles has given me so much more confidence in my knowledge and abilities. The people I've met and the knowledge and confidence I've gained since then have changed my life for the better in ways I couldn't have imagined when I considered putting them down for good.

Dojo has undoubtedly improved my life. I'm a much more confident piper; thanks to the work I've done here I've been promoted to pipe sergeant in my band; I've learned and continue to learn so much about the instrument, music, and its history; and the people I've met and continue to have fun with at daily classes – and sharing music and banter with outside of classes – enrich my life significantly.

Camille L from Brisbane, Australia

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