Tim Swan: Piping Means Everything To Me

The VA suggested that I learn and play an instrument. They claimed it is proven that music and playing an instrument help with dealing with TBI and C-PTSD.

I wanted to learn the pipes as an individual but found out quickly that I needed an instructor and the support of a band to help me.

After getting started I starting setting goals, both in the band and as an individual. I put all my time into the practice chanter and relearning how to read music. I starting listening to bagpipe and pipe and drum music. Followed the world championships and learned about certain pipers. At first I set my goals too high and learned that I needed to be more realistic. I know that I will never be a grade 1 piper so right now my goal is grade 3.

I also found out that there is a need, in my area, for a piper to play in funerals, memorial services, weddings and other events. I have happily accepted that role and feel I do it well. But my goal is to be the best I can be. I want to try solo competition and see where that goes.

My Grandfather, Robert Fleming, was a bagpiper in WW1 with the Seaforth Highlanders. When I found this out I knew I wanted to learn this instrument. I played the trumpet and French horn in high-school and knew I didn't want to play them as an adult. So when the VA suggested that I learn an instrument I knew it would be the bagpipes. I quickly was drawn to Gordon Duncan as an inspiration. His story moved me in his struggles and successes. I'm also drawn to Celtic bag-rock. But I also enjoy traditional bagpipe and Pipe and Drum music. With my injuries, from my service time, the bagpipes have literally saved my life!

When looking for an instructor I had several tell me that I was too old. That due to my age I wouldn't have the dexterity, memory and other issues associated with age. It took me years to find someone. I found a grade 5 fun/parade band. So now I'm limited to their knowledge and still, and I'm at a stand still.

A band member told me about the Dojo. So I did the free 30 day then joined. I run into time issues and will let it for a while then rejoin as so on.

Dojo is a great place to be, especially if you actually use it and don't have excuses for not continuing month to month. It's the best resource out there. I'm more of a face to face, hands on person but this is the second best method. But you need to commit to it, stop the excuses and dive in.

There are so many aspects to the Dojo. You can do things on your own, join groups or one on one all from your computer. I have to say that due to our remote location and very limited internet service it makes it hard to do classes.

Tuning is easier for me now, but I have to go back through the course not that I have a better understanding. It's good to back track sometimes. And after five years on the pipes and learning 135 tunes, now my issue is keeping all them up to par!

I play a lot of solo events. Funerals, memorial services, weddings, parties, West Point football games, Wineries, college presidential inaugurations and just being a wandering piper at events. I'm comfortable in these situations but want to be better! I want to see how I stack up.

Piping means everything to me at almost 58 years and I just wish I could have found an instructor earlier in life.

Tim Swan, Pennsylvania, USA

Related Articles