Richard Steffen: Piping With My Boy!

My son was learning pipes and was part of a local Pipes and Drums. I used to follow along and watch at the games and eventually I expressed an interest in learning so he started teaching me. I really wanted to play in the Pipes and Drums that my son was in so as to have an activity we could do together.

While I was still fairly new, I jokingly told my wife we should book a bagpipe cruise (we are both avid cruisers). So on a whim, I googled bagpipe cruises and found the Pipers Dojo Bagpipe Cruise. I emailed (since I was still new to this and really wasn't very good) to see what level player I needed to be to sign up. They encouraged me to sign up even though I wasn't a member at the time. I loved it and got me interested in what the Dojo had to offer.

I have recommended Dojo U to several people. Why? Because it is an community of people all trying to get better. The instructors are excellent, and can work with any level player, and the other players are so supportive and encouraging. I was extremely reluctant to play in the classes at first, but after a while and with a couple of "come on and give it a try one time" statements, I gave it a try. They put just the right amount of pressure to get me out of my shell.

I suffered an illness this past winter that caused me to get so weak I could no longer play and even the chanter got to be a struggle for me. I have just started getting back to the early lessons. It has really helped me refocus, get my fingers moving correctly and get me excited about playing again. I have a long way to go, but I am so happy that the Dojo method is so quickly getting me back on track.

Dojo U helped me learn how to tune my own pipes pretty well. That was always a problem for me, and during competitions I was always lost if my son or someone else was not there to help tune. Now I feel confident that I could get pretty darn close and be competitive on my own. I am no longer afraid in that situation.

Learning new tunes was also a struggle. It caused me lots of grief in the band. The way I was taught was to "just memorize it" but thanks to the Dojo I know how to study the tune, lock in the rhythm, learn the basic tune, then worry about adding the embellishments. I can learn tunes much quicker and sight read much better than I could before. There are still some things to improve, but now it is fun to learn new tunes rather than a chore that I dreaded.

One last thing... I had never really tried to do any public gigs other than solo competitions and band performances and competitions. Now I am very willing to do them. It has really freed me from some of my insecurities. I still get nervous, but afterwards, I feel good.

Dick S from El Paso, Illinois

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