Erik De Jong: Connected While Afar

I heard a piper at a funeral once. The sound of the pipes in real life moved me in a way I had not experienced before and I decided there and then I wanted to learn. I had heard bagpipes in recordings before, but it's not the same.

I just love the intense sound, there's nothing quite like it. Plus I love Celtic music in general.

After having played in a successful G4 competition band for a few years (we won almost everything we competed in) I got fed up with the pipe-scene in my country and with the band not wanting to play up. I got the opportunity to join a G3 band, but they were too far away.

Together with some personal stuff at the time I ended up just not touching my pipes (or even the practice chanter) anymore for over 4 whole years. I was just done and had other things going on in my life.

Looking back I would say the biggest hurdles were:

1. Finding a good bag / airtightness in general. Without having good guidance and a good bag I was often fighting the thing more than anything else. I have had so many different bags over the years and only recently have found one that ticks all the boxes for me.

2. Poor band tutoring. I have had to relearn a lot of stuff on my own. Many grade 4 bands do not teach you any kind of phrasing either, and when you try to improve this yourself you end up sticking out from the rest.

I always felt like I would not be able to play the more fun tunes at speed with enough accuracy. At this point I feel like I am getting on the older side and everything takes more effort to learn. Not that I am giving up though, I know I am still improving.

The moment I actually decided to join Dojo U was after I had stopped playing for years and decided to see if I could pick it up again. I moved country, and there is not much of a pipe scene here, so I knew I would be on my own. The membership seemed like a good way to stay engaged.

It's great because there are pipers from all over the world and at many different levels. It feels like there's always a setting where you fit in to learn more. Everyone is very motivating towards each other as well.

Without the Dojo I probably wouldn't have got back into piping in the first place. I think it has given me a lot of understanding of what to be aiming for and how to get there.

And which things to really not accept in my playing. Like rebuild a throw on D that is played correctly, but also how to go about doing that. I feel like for every hurdle I encounter in growing as a piper, there is some resource dedicated to just that hurdle at the Dojo, which is awesome.

I've gone from feeling like I was running a marathon while playing to feeling very comfortable and happy with the bag under my arm and just enjoying making music.

Playing the pipes is my escape from everything else going on in my life, and the Dojo gave me the motivation and the means to pick them up again after not having played for years.

Currently I take private lessons from a top player, but having this massive resource of information on anything piping related is so valuable to me, because my motivation never drops because of feeling stuck. The next step is always right there at my fingertips.

It's also making me feel connected to the piping world even though I am physically quite far removed from other pipers.

I recently played some tunes together with the folk band I have loved ever since I was little kid, at the end of a gig they played in my home town (they have been around for decades).

It was amazing to play and then have a massive crowd cheering and clapping afterwards.

Stuff like that is just surreal to me.

Erik De Jong, Thalwil, Switzerland

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