Jacqueline Slattery: A Family Surprise

Lockdown arrived in March 2020, and life crashed as I was quarantined as an over 65. I needed a challenge, and love the sound of the bagpipes, so I investigated spending lockdown finding out if I could learn to play this amazing instrument.

I kept my learning a secret from friends and family. My original goal was to play a simple tune on the full pipes and amaze them all at my 70th birthday party in 2022, and to give my children a memory of me that would be hard to shift!

I've always loved the sound of the Scottish bagpipes. I wanted to see if I could command the pipes with grit and determination at my age.

No tutor, no learning plan except my own so stumbling around in the dark sometimes. Embellishments have been difficult to learn, especially the birl.

I always thought that if I put my mind to it I can do it, especially for my children.

I wobbled when I first bought my pipes. I didn't know how to calibrate or tune, or blow and squeeze properly, and felt as though I was going backwards.

I felt I needed a "learning companion" so researched online piping instruction. I found Dojo to be the most realistic style and approach for me. Others were either a little too pedagogic or too "extrovert". I found I could relate to the human approach of Dojo much better.

I am so happy to be in a community that not only does not judge me for my shortcomings and the fact that I am a beginner, but actively congratulates me and encourages me with every little achievement!

It has lifted me up out of the abyss and given me a sense of direction with my piping.

The step by step approach of the transitioning to the pipes is massively helpful, eg maintenance and posture, and the emphasis on not moving on until each section is accomplished to an acceptable level.

I could already sight read and knew about note values etc, but I find it uplifting to be offered new tunes each week and workshop them with other beginners instead of slogging away at the same tunes each practice session, which is what I was doing, trying to perfect them.

I am definitely improving my fingerwork because of the exercises and assignments, which encourage me to keep practising each one until I feel it is at least near perfect.

Dojo has changed my life and given it an exciting extra purpose and challenge. I felt lost and not getting anywhere trying to teach myself during the beginning of lockdown (in the UK) and the Dojo method has shown me what can be achieved with the right approach, and the camaraderie of the other members. I really look forward to every session as a ray of light in my day!

Given that my piping was a secret until March 2022, when I shared what I have learned with my family and friends, I had to hide my bagpipe paraphernalia whenever the children or grandchildren come round.

Recently my 9 year old granddaughter found my red practice chanter, and said "what's this, Nana?" After a brief panic inside that all would be revealed, I told her that it was a medieval recorder that my father had left me as a hand me down through the generations, and luckily she believed me. I promised she could have it when she is a grown up.

Close shave!

Jacqueline Slattery, Suffolk, United Kingdom

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