By Scott Williams
  In 1998, I attended three summer schools to further my understanding of Piobaireachd (Celtic Heritage: A Piobaireachd Summer: Oct/Nov ‘98; Dec ‘98/Jan ‘99; and Feb/March 99). One of the schools was Donald F. Lindsay’s Invermark School of Piping. I flew to Boston, then travelled by bus to Castleton, Vermont to study with Donald (Celtic Heritage, Feb/March and April/May, 99)and also with world renowned piper Alasdair Gillies (Celtic Heritage, June/July, 99). I was placed in the advanced piping class and sitting beside me every day for a week was a thirteen year old boy whose fabulous fingers, wonderful talent, and true love for the music were an inspiration to all of us in the group. The boy, Andrew Douglas, is now an Open class piper at age seventeen, and he has agreed to be the next subject for this series of articles about Young Pipers of North America.
         Andrew was born on September 24th, 1984 to Bruce and Elizabeth Douglas of Syracuse, New York. “My great grandfather on my father’s side was born in Scotland,” says Andrew. “My grandfather, great uncle, father and aunt were all involved in the piping culture in central New York and they have given me a great deal of encouragement and support. Also, my brother Alex is a Grade 1 level drummer and plays with the Oran Mor Drum Corps.”
         Andrew has recently completed Grade Eleven as a student at St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario and is an accomplished A-Level scholar. He plays on representative teams (volleyball, basketball, lacrosse), and is a member of the jazz band and other musical ensembles as a percussionist. He is the pipe major of the pipe band and currently receives tuition in piping from the College’s full-time instructor, Jim McGillivray (See Celtic Heritage, Aug/Sept 95), a Gold Medalist and Clasp winner, and one of Canada’s leading experts in Piobaireachd.
         “My first teacher, however, was my father,” Andrew explains. “He played in various central New York piping organizations from 1958 to the mid 70's. I’ve been told by others that he was quite the talent as a young player, and he still plays at a high level. He set down the pipes until 1991, at which point it caught my interest. He started teaching me on my eighth birthday in 1992. Dad played with the Oran Mor Pipe Band until 1998, and then rejoined the lower-grade feeder band to Oran Mor, the Mohawk Valley Frasers. He was a factor in their rise from Grade 5 to Grade 3 by 2001. Dad used the College of Piping Tutor, the ‘green book’, and taught me all of my ‘light music’ basics. He stressed learning from both the printed page and by ear at a very early age. I remember I learned my first big tunes totally by ear, from an old Glasgow City Police Pipe Band album from the 60s.”
         Andrew caught on quickly. “When I was tiny,” he reminisces, “I used to listen to songs on the radio and count the beats. I remember I used to count to three, and had to hold the third beat longer. I finally discovered in Grade 3 music class at school that there could be four beats to a bar of music! Anyway, I was always listening for patterns. I learned the twelve bar blues progression found in popular music when I was about five, although it was not taught to me in school till I was in Grade 9. I had a keen interest in music, and was always considering how it flowed naturally. Piping was an easy concept for me to pick up.”
         Andrew’s father introduced him to the Mohawk Valley Frasers when he was nine years old. The band was in Grade 5 at that time under Pipe Major Ed Nickerson. When he joined Oran Mor at age ten, his father sent him off to Donald Lindsay for lessons to prepare him to compete as a solo piper. “It was from Donald that I got my start as a Piobaireachd player and progressed through the amateur ranks up to my first year in Grade 1. He taught me about singing the tunes and how to do all the movements correctly, etc.. By then, I was I pretty well learning light music on my own, but I did have lots of help at summer schools from players such as Jack Lee, Alasdair Gillies, Willie McCallum, Angus MacColl, Jim McGillivray, and of course Donald.
         “It was at that time that I was invited to attend St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario where I could study under Jim McGillivray. I had known him from the Invermark Schools, and accepted the invitation based on his impact on my playing during the short time he was able to teach me at summer schools. I was really happy to receive a scholarship that covers part of my expenses. There have been some other good pipers attracted to the school. Grade 1 piper Matthew Mitchell, for example, is at the school now. I’m pipe major of the band and Matthew is pipe sergeant. The band is steadily improving.
         “Jim has helped me advance toward my goals of perfecting my playing and reaching my potential in many ways. He always preaches competitive finesse and especially ‘no boredom’ in relation to my Piobaireachd. He has taken me into the professional level of Piobaireachd for sure, and my current goal is to play the music the way he wants it played.
         “You see, I think Piobaireachd is an art, but not necessarily musical, not in the ordinary sense anyway. When kids are starting to learn it, often they are looking for the musical quality of the tunes, but where you really have to look is at the background of the composition and try to tell the story. Just because it doesn’t sound musically great, doesn’t mean it’s not a great Piobaireachd to play. Understanding this was an important stepping stone for me. When you get to be a pretty good player and finally decide its time to get serious about Piobaireachd, like I did when I had reached the Grade 1 Amateur level, you have to play it as an art. I credit my success so far in piping to Jim's and Donald's faith in my playing.”
         Andrew rose through the competitive ranks quickly and was the overall winner at the prestigious Nicol-Brown Invitational Solo Amateur Piping Competition held in Hartford, Connecticut in 1998 (1st in the MSR, 1st in the 6/8 March, and 3rd in the Piobaireachd), with the first prize being an all-expense paid trip to London, England in 1999 where he won the Under 17 Slow Air and Jig contest, and placed second in the M/S/R. He came second overall at the Nicol-Brown in 2000, and came third overall at the George Sheriff Invitational Amateur Solo Piping Contest in Hamilton, Ontario. He finished in first place in almost every event he entered in the United States (with the exception of two second place finishes in Piobaireachd) and ended up as EUSPBA’ Grade 1 Champion Supreme. “I still play with the Oran Mor Pipe Band, under Donald Lindsay and Jim Clough,” he adds, “but I joined the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band early in 2002. I flew out for my first rehearsal with them late in January.”
         The band flew Andrew to Vancouver for several practices over the winter to prepare him for their spring concert tour, which would take him to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Glasgow, Scotland, in March of 2002.
A series of competitions on the west coast of the US and Canada left the
band undefeated, and Andrew as the sixth place aggregate Open player in the
BC Pipers' rankings.  A stop-over at the North American Pipe Band
Championships in Maxville, Ontario in August earned him a third place in the professional MSR at Friday's Gold Medal Competition, and led to a North
American Championship for the band. The next week, Andrew was in Scotland with the band for the World Pipe Band Championships and phoned home the next day to report that they had taken second place. 
         Andrew has branched out into teaching, working with private students and pipe bands, and has taught at workshops, clinics, and summer schools. For example, in 2001 he taught at one of the Invermark Piping Schools.
         “I taught just one class a day for two weeks to take a chunk out of the tuition fee for my own lessons,” he explains. “It was a remarkable experience because I got a shot at sparking some students with the excitement of playing. It is so important at that stage to get ‘pumped up’ about learning. I tried to help them do that.” Andrew also worked with the Mohawk Valley and Scotia Glenville Pipe Bands, and taught a few students during summers.
         Some of Andrew’s original compositions have been published in Bruce Gandy's third book and in Charlie Glendenning's new book.  “I enjoy composing,” Andrew says. “Actually, I’m quite an active composer. It’s something other pipers should try to do, but they should compose ‘music’ first. The ‘flash’ comes second. My first tune is still one of my favourites to play. It’s called ‘Puckertoot Road’ and it’s named after the twisty road to Donald Lindsay’s house. It was a ‘seat of the pants’ kind of thing. I just wrote some notes down. Later, Jackson Galloway went through it with me and helped me see how some of the notes didn’t work - words like ‘cheesy’ and ‘gigundo’ were hard to take for a cocky young composer, but I managed. Jackson taught me to write harmonies. He’s a great musician and has had a great influence on my development as a player.
         “You know, with the right attitude toward your own ability and your own potential, you can go anywhere, and that applies to anybody. You never have to settle for second best. If you're not winning when you'd like to be, you need to seize that opportunity to get better. Everyone has weaknesses, but the ones with the fewest weaknesses are the ones who fixed the big ones while they still could.
         “Piping teachers need to challenge their students to be real musicians in everything they play. Never let them forget that there will always be something in their playing that they can improve on. I think the level of piping is at an all time high in North America right now, but it can still get higher. Like I said about composing, it is the music that is most important and not the flash.”
         Andrepassionate about making music first, and flash later. Otherwise, you’re like a shooting star and you fall to earth unnoticed. I mean, you don’t have to be ‘Alasdair McMozart’ to be successful in creating good music. You just have to play it so it sounds beautiful, not fast, not necessarily really sharp, just beautiful. It’s tough to explain. You have to feel it.”
         Andrew returns to St. Andrew’s College in September for his last year of high school and will be joined by his younger brother, Alex Douglas,
a top notch Gaelic drummer who will join the school band as lead tip of the
drum corp.  Andrew will continue to attend practices in Vancouver with SFU
as they prepare for an upcoming concert tour that will include stops in
Toronto, Boston, and Halifax in the spring of 2003.



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