Morgan Blake: Stomping Around the House

I fell in love with the pipes when I was 8 years old at the Glengarry Highland games in Maxville, Ontario. Seeing the bands march to the field just sent chills through my body and still does.

I was given a chanter and taken to a couple lessons in Cornwall, CA, but because of the long drive from Massena, NY my Dad stopped taking me and then moved us out to Oregon where there were really no resources for piping at that time.

I've played piano and guitar, but always had a passion for the pipes. I discovered a small parade band in my home town in Oregon and asked about lessons. To my surprise, their pipe major lived a few blocks from me and I started lessons with him. Took me 6 months to get on the pipes (Colin Kyo) and I did a couple solo grade 4 competitions before COVID hit. Been playing with the band here for about 4 years now.

I want to max my talent and abilities out as much as time will allow. Timing, rhythm, tachums, grips to b without rolling noise is driving me nuts right now. Of course making time to practice daily over the past two years was a struggle, but I'm back at it again.

I thought I was too old and that was quickly pushed aside. I also thought I hit a wall and wasn't sure what to do, which was very discouraging. I still think there is some wall that's evading me from getting past.

After COVID hit and my band fell away for a while, it was difficult to keep up with regular practice and my instructor quit being the pipe major for the band. He also asked me to try other instructors which wasn't to make me feel bad, but only to expand my knowledge. Still I was put off a bit and fell into a funk.

I signed up right away when my instructor sent me the link. For the last two years my work schedule would not allow me to attend band events or rehearsals, when he found out I was starting back he sent me the link.

I really think my wall is being exposed through the fingerwork sessions. I really worked on playing to my foot, which my instructors really never emphasized before. I don't know why. I have always recorded myself, so that wasn't an issue. I noticed a clear difference in the way I was playing my 2/4 march after I spent a day playing just to my foot. I also had issue with rolling crossing noises on my lower hand after grips. It got me to get my rhythmic book out and start working away. Had it for years but this lesson got me to open it and start.

I'm very diligent about my pipes being airtight. I check my joints regularly. My original instructor did me good in this regard. My pipes are easy to play, but I have watched Andrew's videos before and were helpful.

My timing and rhythm were not great before on some tunes. My sound and skill are definitely improving through the fingerwork section.

I'm happy so far and spend way too much time on the Dojo site. The instructors are fun and inclusive. I find that refreshing and it's nice to be back at it again.

Yesterday I was so excited about how much better I was playing to my foot, that I put on my ghillies, threw a piece of plywood on the floor so I could hear my feet marching while I focused on hitting every beat. I'm sure I looked a sight with my leggings, ghillies and sweatshirt stomping around my house...

Morgan Blake, Oregon, USA

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