Susan Kennedy: Learning is Life-Long
I had always wanted to play pipes, but didn't even know it was a thing in the United States. I met a local piper in my little town and he referred me to Dojo U.
My original goal was to play smallpipes and play with trad-oriented musicians.
The sound has *always* resonated with me. Not so much the marches, but the dance music and slow airs, and (now) piobaireachd really speaks to me. Our community danced a lot to recordings of reels when I was a kid and there were definitely pipes involved, along with fiddles and whistles.
Keeping my pipes easy to play requires constant vigilance. Tuning is an ongoing challenge - the better I get at it, the farther I seem to have to go. Clean fingerwork and rhythm at speed - choose any one, the other two won't be there. Yet.
Learning is life-long. The more I improve, the more I understand that I have to learn.
My biggest limiting belief? That had I started this at a younger age, the top end of my potential would be so much higher. If for no other reason than more years available to get good at it.
I did quit the first time I tried playing. I'd spent a couple of months on the practice chanter with my local piping friend, and was at the point I was ready to try playing pipes. They were JUST SO HARD. I put them down and walked away for another two years.
My local piping friend had heard about the Dojo from a guy in his band. When I was ready to try playing again, he had set the pipes down himself, and suggested I join the Dojo and start taking classes as he wasn't interested in teaching at the time.
The really fun part of this all is that I was such an enthusiast that HE joined the Dojo himself this year, and is not only working through the Freedom Phases but is enjoying Cameron's class with me. It has improved not only his playing but his teaching, and he is passing along Dojo wisdom (and eventually Dojo membership) to his students.
I signed up pretty quickly after finding out about the Dojo. I was recovering from a recent surgery and had the time to jump in.
The Dojo provides an opportunity to get to know pipers from around the world, all of whom are interested in getting better, not just treading water. It is incredibly supportive, and when you get in the inevitable rut, other members' enthusiasm gets your fire stoked again.
What's more, if you do a Dojo deep dive, you can have a chance to meet and learn from some of the world's top pipers. The Dojo is a gateway to a whole new world you didn't know you needed.
I wouldn't be playing (or enjoying the benefits of playing) if it weren't for the Dojo. Period.
My pipes were unplayable (at least by me) before joining the Dojo. It is NO FUN to try and play when you're hanging on by the skin of your teeth.
Now, it's fun. A lot of fun, and I have no problem at all convincing myself to pick up the pipes to play.
Tuning is never "easy". But at least now it's possible. Occasionally they sound really good. Kind of like that one perfect golf shot, it keeps me coming back.
Using the Dojo's learning methodology makes it a whole lot easier to pick up new tunes, and to get them clean more quickly. Start slow to go fast.
My fingerwork is significantly improved from when I first started. It never occurred to me I would be able to play a clean crunluath. They are starting to get pretty decent. Again, clean fingerwork is a lifetime process.
The Dojo has opened a world to me that I didn't know existed - one that has given me a new place to put my passion. I have new friends who I've met in person after having gotten to know them online. I've learned to appreciate the playing in high-level competitions that I never would have understood before. I'm actually rearranging my life now to spend more of it enjoying the piping world.
I'm even working on moving to Scotland for part of the year to pursue piping. The fact that I have friends there who I met through the Dojo is making it feasible.
I have no illusions that I'll ever be a great player, or even a good one. But I can play well enough to have a lot of fun with it, and to hang with people who feel similarly. What more could I ask?
Susan Kennedy, Nevada, USA