Bagpipe. The word alone conjures images and sounds of asthmatic geese in their dying throes. Either that or one immediately tears up as “Amazing Grace” begins playing in his or her head. Despite these stereotypes, playing the bagpipe has been my therapeutic saving grace and I believe everyone could have a little more of its music in his or her life.
The first time it happened, I was practicing in my front yard. Cars were passing, gaping children pressed noses flat against the window, and even the occasional honk. One car drove by and the driver hit the brakes, which was not entirely unusual, then proceeded to go into reverse for a hundred yards and stop in the middle of the country road. It was an older gentleman and he asked if I could play “Amazing Grace” for him so I somewhat grudgingly humored him and began playing the tune. He sat in his car, crying, and told me after I was done that a piper had played at his father’s funeral many years ago and he had not heard it since. I then realized that the instrument I play is something special to a lot of people. Countless listeners have regaled me with stories of times they heard pipes at funerals, weddings, and on television and how much they enjoy hearing me play. I never tire of learning how I have touched someone’s life simply through a musical instrument.
Playing for an audience is always rewarding but playing for myself is even better. There are times when everything clicks and I get into the “zone.” The instrument is in perfect tune, the fingers are going well, and the music is flowing. These are sublime occasions and are worth every practice session that ends with me vowing to throw them into the road as they sit smugly in their case laughing at me. It sounds hokey, but there were days at school that I couldn’t wait to get home and play my pipes.
Being from a divorced family, I felt as though the instrument and the music were some of the only aspects of my life where I was in complete control and knew what was going to happen. Having that sort of stability in my life and an emotional outlet helped me get through some tough times in my life, and is still helping to this day. It is generally known that playing and listening to music are stress-relievers, and I firmly agree with that concept.
The bagpipe is a noble instrument, a war instrument, and an emotional instrument. Choosing to express myself through it has given me opportunities to travel, meet phenomenal people, touch other people’s lives, as well as give me a sense of gratification. I believe the world could do with a little more bagpipe.
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