Camille Layt: Didn't See This Coming

I was hanging out at a pub with some mates, and pipe band wandered in making a delightful racket.

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 from the band whether they offered lessons. Turns out they did, and learners got a free beer every week if they showed up regularly... So I started learning on practice chanter the following month, and haven't looked back.

I always liked the sound of pipes, but when I actually started, I got into it purely for 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 global community of some of the most fun people I've ever met; a great social outlet through band; and a decade on, something that still offers new experiences and things to learn every single day.

At Dojo U, the people in this community are welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and completely non-judgmental. It's wonderful to be able to put yourself out there, playing live on the microphone to an expert half a world away, with new repertoire every week, and get such a constructive and supportive response from the tutors and 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 learning how to play almost a decade ago, I was not taught embellishments thoroughly (I was shown how to play functionally enough to be a decent parade and pub player, but I couldn't have told you the steps of an embellishment to save my life). I had zero confidence in tuning 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'.

After a few years now of empowering myself with Dojo's self-paced courses and getting feedback in daily classes, I can tune my pipes, plus my rhythm, fingerwork and timing have improved significantly.

The people I've met here and the knowledge and confidence I've gained since I started have changed my life for the better in ways I couldn't have imagined even a few years ago.

Dojo has undoubtedly improved my life. I'm a much more self-sufficient 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 share music and banter with both at and outside of classes – enrich my life significantly.

Camille L from Brisbane, Australia

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