Liane Anderson: Becoming the Musician I Want to Be

After having moved interstate to a new city, with 2 kids under 5yrs old, I saw the local Pipes and Drums Band on parade, and put my hand up to join - I wanted to play bagpipes.

I wanted to play in that band in parades. I wanted to play for memorials, as I was involved with the RSL (for returned soldiers etc). I wanted to remember my grandmother.

As a little girl I spent many an interesting afternoon with my grandmother and her rpm 78 vinyls of the Edinburgh Tattoo and her "testing" of the cooking sherry. I was encouraged to march around to the pipes and drums, to much applause and sherry-tasting - no, no "testing".

My 1st practice chanter was too hard for weeks - then I found sawdust inside it. My 1st pipes were a band set, again too hard to blow for months - then I found a hole in the bag. The instructions from the PM were brief, one way only, no questions answered, watch his fingers, watch his foot, and never any giving of knowledge about the instrument or the music. No self-tuning allowed. Tunes were above the ability of the band, and, quite frankly, above the ability of the PM to teach. Everything was grueling.

I was told up front that I was too old to learn (40); being female, was too physically weak to handle the instrument; and too old to ever play fast. I ended up believing that I'd never be any good no matter how hard I tried.

I quit for some years. It wasn't so much about the perseverance, effort, sweat, mud, blood and tears that the process seemingly required of me to learn this complex instrument. It was the "politics of piping" - the mindless repetitive dogma, the refusal by the PM to take on new ideas about teaching, the half-hearted effort put in by every band member, and the domineering, insulting, negative, stressful environment that was band membership.

In a city with only a few Pipe Bands, all Grade 4 except one, I had nowhere to go. The internet was still a bit new, but I scoured it for bagpipe instruction and help, and absorbed everything I found. Still no improvement for me. Then I found Dojo U when it started - and it blew my mind. Real sharing of knowledge, creative teaching, and a clear pathway to improvement. Genuine help.

I signed up straight away. Andrew is almost Australian in his irreverence for how things "should be said" - always straight to the point - I was hooked.

Yes, yes it is a good place. I'm locked in to the archives because of the time zone. I've been getting to know the Dojo personalities in the classes - feels a bit voyeuristic - and I want to find a way to join in live classes. I am certain that I will improve better and quicker if I do.

Dojo learning has given me the absolute confidence in my ability to learn and become a good musician. Clear directions in what to and how to improve, creative teaching, and encouragement for me to become creative too.

Before Dojo, I accepted that my pipes would always be difficult to play, including the need for a gut-buster reed. Now, with Dojo, I insist on comfortable pipes because I'm being given a true understanding of the instrument, and how to make it suit me.

Dojo has given me a wealth of knowledge about how to go about tuning my pipes. I'm still working on the method - but at last I have a method.

I love the way we are being shown how to 'attack' a tune by first working on the groove and the tune's rhythm. I'm a happy clapper. Then the simplified version - phrase by phrase - then the gradual build up of intensity and complexity. Much easier thank you.

Dojo gives clear, objective instructions and (importantly) ways to measure success/failure, and then how to go about fixing the problem. For example: crossing noises inside embellishments (who knew that was a thing!) Also: understanding my intensity level and what to do about it.

I am happier, I feel capable, I feel creative and I'm hungry for more improvement, more work. I have a teacher who understands how difficult and limiting being in a band can be. A teacher who, while showing me how to improve, is also pushing himself to improve/be creative as a teacher. A teacher who wants me to become the musician I want to be. Hello Dojo, and cheers thanks a lot.

Liane Anderson, South Australia

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