I started bagpipes in the aftermath of 9-11, having seen numerous pipers and pipe bands on TV playing ceremonies in New York. I joined a local band, took lessons, and fell in love with pipe band's music and community.
I picked up the instrument out of curiosity without a real end in mind, but by the time I was involved in the piping scene I set a number of "long term goals" including: win piper of the day at a major contest in Grade 2 solos, play in a grade 3+ band, lead a band, play for at least two heads of state, play in a trad session or jam session in Scotland or Ireland, and learn all/most of the peripheral instruments (snare, bass, tenor, whistle, uilleann pipes, etc).
Maximizing tone and blowing steady were my biggest struggles for the longest time. Early on I struggled more with things like rhythmic embellishments, musical expression, and arranging tunes/harmonies for band.
The pipe band community in general is one I love to interact with, but the Dojo community in particular is self-sorted for people with a real passion for good music and a desire to improve. Too often you come across pipers who do it more for dress-up and a pint at the pub, which is hard for me to connect with.
I have used the Dojo this time around to really understand band ensemble more. My band suddenly found itself without any drummers, and a goal of mine was to be a well-rounded band player, so I signed up for Dojo both as a piper and a drummer. I've used tunes of the week to understand the interaction of the two parts across multiple idioms, learned a significant amount of the basic snare rudiments from both the drumming tutor and Ed's live classes, and in the intervening time I've been able to play snare in 3 band gigs and my first solo snare contest (taking 2nd!). I feel significantly more prepared to both execute and teach good rhythmic practices in my band, and it's possible the Dojo's drumming lessons have enabled me to save my band's competitive unit for another season.
Ed's feedback on my drumming rudiments has made all the difference between my band having nobody to play snare and a healthy corps of newbies who can play massed bands decently well. Every week at band practice I take back tips on hand position, roll and buzz smoothness, paths between buzzes, taps, flams, and drags, etc. We owe Ed and the Dojo a lot!
I played in 6 events at the Stone Mountain games this year. Meeting my drumming instructor in person for the first time at my first solo snare contest - it was cool getting the same experience of having that support and guidance that I had at my first piping contest 20 years ago again on snare even though there are no local snare instructors for me to take lessons from.
The Dojo may have enabled my eccentricities too much, but I love it.
JD Ingraham, Charleston, United States