How I Learned to Play the Bagpipes–Part 3 of 3

In my last post, I finally had my very own set of bagpipes! 

I continued with my private lessons, working harder than ever to learn how to achieve steady blowing pressure, consistent arm pressure on the bag, and correct fingering as I played the melody on the chanter.  Whew!

Can you chew gum, rub your head, and pat your stomach at the same time?  If you can, that’s really cool.  This is not like that 🙂    My poor husband and kids had to listen to hours and hours of the most awful noise until I got the hang of doing those three things at the same time.

After 5 more months of lessons on the pipes, practicing day and night, I had memorized the 17 tunes I needed to know to practice with the band.  One day, during one of my lessons, my bagpipe teacher said the words I had been longing to hear..

“Well, you’re ready if you want to start playing with Silverthistle on Monday nights.”

I have no idea if he could hear my inner squeals of joy and triumph!! His comment gave me the courage to go to one of the band’s practice sessions.  And guess what? I was not the only female piper there! Three other gals were already playing with the band!

 I started going to the regular Monday night practices. It was awesome! I’ll never forget the sound the first time I was standing in the circle as everyone struck up their pipes! There’s no other sound like it on earth! Especially with the drummers!  For the 8 months or so that I played with them, I never stopped getting goose-bumps when the band struck up.  And there was always someone to help me tune up my pipes.  Tuning the pipes is something learned pipers do by ear, and it was not something that came easily to me. 

After showing up at band practice for about a month, Ken Leichti, the pipe major, asked me if I would like to join in on the band’s St Paddy’s Day gigs. 

I almost passed out.

“You mean me? Play with Silverthistle? On a STAGE???????????”  

Smelling salts, please. 

I joined in with the band at three different pubs on St. Patrick’s day that year.  It was such a blast!

There’s definitely something about playing in a group that raises your performance up a notch. 

 Silverthistle is an extremely competitive group with very high goals and expectations for its members.  In 2008, they were ranked 7th in the world!  This, dear friends, is why I am not playing with the band currently. I simply don’t have the time to devote to my piping that is required to compete with these talented folks.  But it sure was fun for a little while!

Before I left Silverthistle, I did become a member of the Eastern Pipeband Association (a requirement to compete) and had the chance to compete with them in the Houston Highland Games.

The page on the left is another fold-out page containing several photos, judge’s ballots,  and my EUSPBA membership card.

 I got to compete with the band, and individually. It was an incredible experience for me, and it gave me a whole new level of appreciation for the art of piping,  BUT I don’t think I”ve had the desire to pipe in 100+ degree heat since then. Talk about hot!

 Here’s the pipe major, Ken Leichti, helping me tune up before my round…I was sooooo nervous…. When you compete, you have to strike up perfectly with no squeaking (a huge feat in and of itself) and play your tune marching back and forth in a methodical fashion in front of a judge. My solo competition tune was a 6/8 march called “The 79th’s Farewell to Gibralter”.   I have the Strathclyde Police’s version on my iPod so I can relive that momentous occasion whenever I want.  🙂

My husband took a job up in Seattle that summer, so we relocated and my fun with the band had to come to an end.  It was really hard to leave because that summer the whole band flew to Glasgow, Scotland to compete in the World Championship Pipe Band competition! It was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities…but sometimes the Lord has other plans.

Yes, I still play my pipes often and subject my patient family to my practicing 🙂 I’ve played for friends and family members,and homeschool co-ops. 

Currently, I’m expecting a “wee bairn” and don’t quite have the energy I usually do, but I still try and add a new tune to my memory bank every so often. Who knows…when the demands of homeschooling and mothering are past, perhaps I’ll join back up with a band!  I wonder if there are any grandmother pipers?  🙂

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventure in bagpiping!

And remember, if you have a dream, never be afraid to explore….


  1. I have really enjoyed reading this series. It’s so neat to hear about other people’s passions and dreams, especially when they can make them come to fruition. Thanks for sharing!

  2. That was a really cool post. I liked the picture of your family. Maddie looked really cute. 🙂
    It was really fun reading about your bag piping adventure! 🙂 I can’t wait to hear you play!

  3. Scarlett-

    I remember going to the Dog and Duck Pub on St. Patrick’s Day to hear you with the SilverThistles. It was awesome! I don’t think that I had ever heard a group of bagpipers before then. I love the sound and can still see you all circled up trying to get tuned up! Something I will never forget! Thank you for sharing your adventure — I often wondered how long it took for you to learn to play!

    Love ya!


    • bscarlettc

      Thanks, Heidi! Yes, I remember! That meant a LOT to me that you came that day–You are such a sweet friend! 🙂

  4. Oh I love this!!
    How cool you play the bag pipes!!

    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you!!

    Kay Ellen

  5. Anne Regen


    I enjoyed reading about your passionate bagpiping
    journey. It’s so neat how you applied yourself.

    Inspiring !

  6. Such an awesome story! I appreciate you taking the time to write it all down! Thanks for the encouragement!
    I’d love to hear you play sometime!! 🙂

  7. Oh, wow! Pretty complicated, sounds like. Way late congratulations on the fulfillment of a good dream!

  8. Scarlett, I’ve visited these 3 posts many many times in the past few months since I picked up a chanter in January. Rereading your story has been a huge encouragement to me. Thank you for sharing it! Are you playing at all now?

    I homeschool my four children also. And my oldest started a year ago with a juvenile band. Taking him to practice each week gave me the notion that maybe I could learn as I sit and wait each week. I’m not as fast as you nor have the time, but I try to make the time and am really enjoying it! I just got a borrowed set last week and am working on steady blowing.

    So thanks for posting this experience, it’s been very encouraging.

    And I’m 34, and have noticed and learned that many start late, even in their 50’s and 60’s and over. It’s so fun!

    • Hi Courtney! That’s awesome you are learning the pipes! Isn’t it the most amazing sound!? Unfortunately, I’m not playing right now. My daughter wanted desperately to learn to play the violin about 4 years ago. I sold my pipes to buy her violin. Sigh. The sacrifices we make for our kids! 😉 I miss it so much! I think “Brown Haired Maiden” will always be permanently ingrained in my finger “memory”, lol. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to pick them up again and get back to it. Don’t give up! You can do it! And how fun to play along with your oldest, too! Thanks for your comment! ~Scarlett

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