My history as a bagpipe player (or piper, as it is sometimes called) starts long ago when I was only 10 years old. Like many other children, I watched the episodes of Samson and Gert (a Dutch/Belgium television show). At a certain moment a music video was released on TV in which they went to Scotland afterwards. I was then enchanted by that strange, beautiful country, with large castles, vast landscapes and mystical instruments, complete with Scottish bagpipe music. As a child, I immediately fell in love with the instrument, the country and everything that went with it.

 

A few years later I was allowed to attend music lessons from my parents. We did look around to a bagpipe teacher or a band in the neighborhood, but at that point we could not find much. The only thing we could find was a bagpipe band in Apeldoorn, and that was too far away for us from Ermelo. As an alternative, I followed piano lessons for two years, which was fun and useful for my music theory, but my teachers at the time would confirm that I was not the most passionate student. I even got Scottish pieces to play because I still prefered to play the Scottish bagpipes.

In June 2009, a full of year after I started practicing, I met the band Friends of the Pipes on the beach near Ermelo. I still really wanted to learn bagpipes so I took a chance and asked them where I could learn to play. The answer; join the band and we will teach you. The next day I was a member of the band.

 

The months that followed I concentrated completely on learning to play the bagpipes. I took a break of my studies. Through of a lot of effort and hard work, I progressed very quickly. 10 months after the start of my training with the band I was on the street playing the bagpipes, something that normally only happens after a few years. For me it was a dream come true, and that motivation forced me to keep going.

 

I stayed with the band for the following years. I participated in performances and still learned a lot. My own level also continued to rise. After a few years I started teaching in the band myself. At home I practiced on the heather in Ermelo. Because I was regularly found there, I also gained some regional fame. In 2013 I was told that there was nothing left for me to learn in the band. Although this was a big compliment, I was faced with a choice. Where did I go to keep improving myself? To another band? Would I take lessons? Or did I settle for the level that I had?

Eventually I stopped with piano lessons, and then I remained silent for a while in the musical field. Occasionally I could be found behind the piano, but that was all. Yet I still secretly loved the Scottish bagpipes. Every time I ran into the bagpipes, I stayed and listened for a while and I was clearly enjoying myself.

When I went to Zwolle to study history (and later English), I came across a practice chanter (practice flute) in a music shop in Zwolle. Immediately I thought of my dream that I already had as a child. I still wanted to follow that dream, and since as a student I still had a lot of time (or lack of planning skills to make this time useful) I bought the practice chanter and a music book about the bagpipes and I took it home to get started with practicing.

No matter how enthusiastic I was, I didn't get anywhere. Much remained unclear, and although I played regularly, it did not sound like it should.

In the end I chose to take lessons, but from teachers in Scotland myself. Since 2013 I go to Glasgow in Scotland every year to take lessons and take exams. I do this at the College of Piping, in the West End. This is one of the two highly regarded bagpipe schools in Glasgow. The teachers themselves are also top players who participated in the top class of the various leagues in Scotland. Every year I practice my material at home, and then stay a week in Glasgow. I get lessons for a week and I get the chance improve the last few details. I do exams on the last day. The exams provide me with the neccecary feedback to see if I've grown and improved.

And that brings us to today. I give performances throughout the country nowadays and I am still occasionally found at the heather, casually playing on!

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© Jaco Koster 2016

KvK: 73472131