Michael Dunstan: Mastering Something New Is Irreplaceable

Quite by accident, I happened upon a pipe band practicing and was hooked. After that, I became somewhat of a groupie. I remember how overcome I was by the sound of massed pipers together. There was something in it to "stir the blood" that I had not experienced before.

My goal was to be able to play in a pipe band, and possibly make myself available for other events, as opportunity provided. Circumstances being what they were, it took some time just to master the scales on the chanter. Along with learning, the problem of time, and everyday life always seemed to be getting in the way.

Frustration was a key part of my not progressing in learning. In this, it is most helpful to have access to a good teacher, who is willing to take the time to work out the bugs. Early on, it was necessary to travel to where the band was meeting to speak to someone about problems. Unfortunately, many times there wasn't time to address these as the primary concern was in working the band up for events. So what progress I made was slow at best.

I actually did quit out of frustration. It took me many years before I even considered learning again. The greatest obstacle was time. Working a full time job during the week, and the general demands of life, take a toll.

Some weeks ago, my wife and I were talking one evening, and she suggested that I reconsider the bagpipes. For many years, I have been toying with the idea, and I decided to see if I could find some manner of instruction. After making some local inquiries, and having failed to get in contact with anyone who knew anything about bagpipes, much less be able to take on a student, I decided to look online. The good thing was that I discovered a number of programs that were available for virtual instruction. The bad thing was that I couldn't decide which one would be the best for me.

It took a few days, and some real deliberation on my part, but I decided to make a real commitment to learning, and as there is no greater commitment than "putting my money where my mouth is", I decided to invest in a full year in the Dojo because it seemed to offer the most in the way of resources, and opportunities to learn.

So far, I have found the Dojo to be a very supporting community. Even though I still get frustrated with some of the material, there are enough resources available, and one on one instruction, that I have been able to advance in spite of it all.

I have made more progress in the past two months toward learning to play the bagpipes than I had made in the previous 36 years of working it out on my own.

The lesson structure and approach has given me more confidence in playing, and as time has progressed, more familiarity with the instrument. I find that I don't think about things as much as I used to. That it is becoming more "automatic", and even fun. It used to be that I would pick up the chanter and run through the scales periodically, just to keep some familiarity. Now I look at a sheet of music, and can play a tune, or have a song in my head, and can work it out on the chanter.

As a beginning student, I am still working my way up to a set of bagpipes. Even so, I feel confident that it won't be long before I am ready to seek out a set, and I am looking forward to the day I finally get there. it will have been a long time coming.

Learning tunes is definitely easier since I started at the Dojo. It took a bit of trial and error before things started sinking in, but as things have progressed it has become much easier than in the beginning.

I am improving. It is far from perfect yet, I still have a good way to go to work out all the bugs, but my piping is a good deal better than it was. Tonight, my wife told me that my son asked her if my practicing was a recording, and she told him that it was me playing. I have to admit, it felt good.

As someone who generally manages to heap more on my plate than I can swallow, the time I have devoted to this has gone a good way toward keeping me out of trouble. If I get bored, I pick up the chanter. If I have some extra time on my hands, I do the same. It seems that as I have improved in my understanding and ability, this makes me want to devote even more time to playing. The feeling of accomplishment at having mastered something new is irreplaceable.

Michael Dunstan, Mississippi, USA

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