Paul Olson: Always in Awe

I have had an interest in piping since high school, when I played saxophone for a band that also had a bagpipe corps. Many years past graduation (17 to be exact), while on furlough from my full time job, I decided to join a local band and begin my piping journey.

My original goal was to join a band, learn how to play a few tunes on the full bagpipes and participate in band parades and events. I was striving to learn something new that I had been interested in for nearly two decades.

In high school, I was blessed to play saxophone for a band which was modeled off of the Queen's Coldstream Guard band in the U.K. During my freshman year, we had the opportunity to actually play with and beside the Coldsteam Guard in Royal Albert Hall in London. Whether it was performing in Royal Albert Hall or performing during the halftime of a Friday night football game in the fall, I was always in awe of our bagpipe corps. That was my inspiration.

My key struggle in piping was finding the time to devote to daily practicing. Shortly after beginning my piping journey, my son was born, and as any parent can attest to, everything changes in that moment. Unfortunately, piping took a back seat for me during the next several years as I focused on being a parent above all else.

After years of setting aside my pipes for other responsibilities I had, I believed that when I did finally find the time, I was too old to pick them back up and perform to the level that I had always aspired to.

I did actually quit the pipes for many years. After my son was born, I set down my pipes for about 13 years. I felt as though I just didn't have the time to devote to practicing. Though my intentions were always there over those years to pick them up and start playing again, I always seemed to find an excuse as to why I couldn't.

I first found the Dojo several years ago as I was browsing the internet on piping subjects and culture. The Dojo website peaked my interest and I sincerely thought it would provide me with the spark I needed to pick up my pipes and practice chanter and begin again after a long hiatus.

After I first heard about the Dojo, it honestly did not take me long to sign up for a membership. I really wanted the excitement I had felt years prior when I had first started my piping journey and joined my first band. More than that, I felt as though I needed piping guidance and structure that I hadn't had in a long time.

The Dojo community is an amazing place to be. No matter what skill level you are at, I feel the piping community at the Dojo is there for you 110 percent, whether it be through their instructors or through other piping students. The immersion and resources that I receive from the Dojo and its community is second to none.

The Dojo has benefited me and my piping by giving me a solid foundation, discipline and direction on the path to my bagpipe freedom. Never in my wildest dreams did I think clapping a rhythm would be the foundation that I needed on which to build! I still feel like I am just beginning and that there is so much yet to come.

Though I am only in week #3 of the 5 challenges, the daily immersion coupled with playing my pipes every day, if only for a few minutes, has made me feel so much more confident and comfortable as compared to how I felt previously. Before the Dojo, I seemed to always have an excuse as to why I couldn't play my pipes more, and now I look forward to the immersion and daily practice.

As a relatively new beginner at the Dojo, I have found the guidance and information relating to pipe tuning second to none.

Absolutely yes! I find that clapping through a tune and rhythm many times before I even think about picking up the practice chanter has given me a solid foundation in making it much easier to tackle tunes I never would even consider possible at my level.

The finger technique at the Dojo has brought about a confidence in my piping that I have always strived for. Using the Dojo technique, I gradually add in the embellishments after finding the groove and rhythm in a tune. Before the Dojo, I tried to tackle everything at once, which as I now know, is completely overwhelming as well as discouraging. The Dojo technique builds upon a solid foundation and understanding before tackling the more complex actions.

I am tremendously happier in my life and in my pursuit of bagpipe freedom. I can't tell you how much I look forward to my bagpipe immersion each and every day, coupled with garnering as much knowledge, technique and instruction from the Dojo's excellent instructors. Though I feel like I am still at a new beginning, I have a confidence in my piping that I have never experienced before.

I was fortunate enough to attend a piping workshop in November where Andrew and the Dojo was represented both as an instructor as well as a sponsor. It was after attending that weekend workshop that I knew I wanted to bring focus to my piping and immerse myself in what the Dojo had to offer. I immediately began my membership at the Dojo, and have completely enjoyed each and every moment since.

Paul Olson, Pennsylvania, USA

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