In addition to playing the bagpipes, I have served in the
Navy as a weather guesser, with bagpipes always by my side.
After my service in the Navy, I studied at the School of Visual
Arts in New York City, which led to a position as an award
winning designer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I have taught
skiing in Lake Tahoe becoming Sierra at Tahoe's most requested
instructor three years running, and was named one of North
America's most effective skiing instructors by Skiing
magazine. I am currently building homes, doing video shoots
for the morning ski report and playing bagpipes professionally.
I took up bagpiping in 1975 at the suggestion of my best
friend Scott Kager. We were in church choir together and I
don't know where he came up with the idea (nor does he). We
were directed to the Gordon Highlanders of Buffalo, New York,
and went to one of their practices in a gymnasium of an old
high school. It was my first time hearing bagpipes in person.
As they marched back and forth, I remember the sound filling
the huge space, ringing off the brick walls and tears streaming
down my face. Not "appropriate behavior" for a teenage
boy and I hoped that no one had noticed. Scott and I quickly
learned the bagpipes, joined the band and had the time of
our lives. It wasn't until much later that I discovered how
rich my blood is with this music.
For my birthday, I was given "The Book of the Bagpipe"
written by Hugh Cheape. In it I came across the passage
"Other family dynasties of pipers emerged besides
the MacCrimmons of Harris and Skye, such as... the Cummings
of Badenoch and Strathspey, the successive generations of
whom performed the duties of official piper for their clan
chieftain patrons through hundreds of years and who sustained
and generated the music of the bagpipe until the collapse
of the society which nurtured them in the wake of the Jacobite
wars of the 18th century."
I was stunned. My life and my past seemed to fall into place
as if you shook a jigsaw puzzle box, opened the lid and found
the puzzle complete.
I first saw the portrait of William Cumming, "The Piper
to the Lord Grant", at the Ben Lomond Games, with my
daughter. I remember remarking how cool that would be - to
be a hereditary piper - for that to be your whole job. Now
I find myself creating just that, but I want to be more than
a full time piper - I'm working on being an outstanding piper
- one that my family and my ancestors would be proud of.