Craig Sherman: Beyond My Wildest Dreams

When I was 12 years old I wanted to learn to play an instrument. My uncle had just begun learning to play the bagpipes in the newly formed Niagara Country Sheriff's Department Pipes and Drums. So I asked my mom if I could learn to play. She said yes, and the rest is history.

I really wanted to play with a band and have fun. I also wanted to be the best bagpiper I could be. I had no idea about competition, or grades or anything like that in the bagpipe world.

I wanted to learn to play an instrument, plus I like to stand out in a crowd and do something different. I watched the town's St. Patrick's Day parade and I watched the band go past and I was hooked.

It took me awhile to get on bagpipes due to family and financial problems. My band asked me to leave until I got my pipes, and I was fortunate to have a new bagpiper from Niagara Falls, Canada take me under his wing to teach me. However, because he himself was new to bagpiping, he was unable to show me the details on instrument maintenance, tuning, calibration, etc. I then began to play with the Niagara Regional Pipe Band in Canada. Unfortunately, I did not perform in a solo bagpiping competition in Hamilton, Ontario, so I was asked to leave the band and my instructor moved on too. So I did not have any personal instruction until I found Piper's Dojo.

I've had limiting beliefs. I could not figure out why I could not play for more than 5 minutes at a time and that playing was rather frustrating and difficult for me.

After I joined the United States Marine Corps in 1999, I stopped playing the bagpipes for a little while. It was not until I was stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola that I began trying to play again. Sadly, with no instruction and no understanding of bagpipe maintenance, I lost heart again and put them away in 2002 and did not really start to play again until 2007.

I purchased Jim McGillivray's videos, "Pipes Up" and "Pipes Ready" and began to learn from them. However, it was not until I saw an ad on YouTube about the Dojo that I decided to give it a try. Once I began learning more and more about bagpipe maintenance, I was hooked. I have been a member on and off for a number of years now. I love it.

The Dojo Community is great because of all the encouragement you get from other pipers, especially during the 100-Day Challenge. It is great to be able to Skype with Andy and ask questions, or ask a question in a live class. Finally, the feedback I get from the staff has helped me out significantly.

Since I started the Dojo, I have completed several courses which has made my playing a lot more enjoyable. I am now Grade 4 player who is an officer in the Savannah Pipe Band, and I compete in several solo events throughout the year. I have won 2 events and have finished in the top 5 in most of my others. I am hoping that someday I will reach at least Grade 3.

Before Dojo I was only playing for 5 minutes before I had to cork my bass drone or all my drones because I was winded. Now I can play for almost an hour straight and love every minute of it. I play my bagpipes more often, and it is something I look forward to on a daily basis.

Without Dojo, I would still be struggling to tune my pipes correctly. However, following the Dojo's simple steps, tuning has never been easier. Due to the Dojo's method, I now try and learn a new tune weekly and have been gradually learning piobaireachd too.

One of the things the Dojo staff have been telling me is about how my finger technique is not even and that I need to slow down the movements and make sure everything is played evenly. By following their advice, I have been awarded second place in the last three of my competitions.

Bagpiping has become a lot more fun for me. I feel confident as a player and due to that confidence, I now play more memorials, weddings, funerals, and other events. I have had the opportunity to play on stage during the 2021 St. Patrick's Day Opening Day Festivities in Savannah Georgia.

I even played a solo on a live stage for an AC/DC cover band! I was asked to do more shows with them when they come back to Savannah. I have also had the opportunity to play for several high school graduations.

So you can say that the Dojo has helped my bagpiping career beyond my wildest dreams.

Craig Sherman, Nevada, USA

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Bagpipes and the United States Military

From its origin in Scottish clans and culture, the Great Highland Bagpipe has long been associated with the military.

Especially in more recent history, the Highland Regiments of the British Armed Forces, and some of the Lowland Regiments as well, have had bagpipers since their first formation.

The United States Armed Forces has historically had a very close relationship with the British – so the spread of the bagpipes was inevitable.