Scots children ‘should be given bagpipe lessons’

The future of the bagpipes is under threat. Picture: Greg Macvean

The future of the bagpipes is under threat. Picture: Greg Macvean

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SCHOOLKIDS in Edinburgh and Glasgow should be taught the bagpipes in class, according to key figures in Scotland’s pipe band movement including Craig Munro of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

David Johnston, Championships Convenor for the Scottish Schools Pipe Band, last night warned the future of the bagpipes is under threat unless more councils give state school pupils the chance to learn to play them.

Picture: TSPL

Picture: TSPL

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More than 75,000 people are expected to descend upon Edinburgh’s Princes Street on Wednesday to bring in the New Year, which will see thousands of revellers singing along as the pipes play Auld Lang Syne at midnight.

But Mr Johnston said unless more is done to bring pipe band instruments into state school classrooms, this could soon become a thing of the past.

Many state schools do not offer pupils the opportunity to learn piping or drumming in the classroom, despite many private school pupils having access to “flourishing” pipe bands and dedicated tutors.

Craig Munro of international bagpipe band Red Hot Chilli Pipers, has also spoken out against the imbalance, saying if more state schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow were to introduce the pipes and drums into their curriculum, other schools across Scotland would follow.

He said: “It is clear that several schools are trying to get school pipe bands up and running but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get the piping and drumming onto the curriculum.

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If schools can offer students the likes of the recorder to learn music, then why not the bagpipes? It seems as though there is a lack of choice as to whether or not kids can learn the pipes and drums whilst in school.

“What many people perhaps don’t realise is that it is possible to build a fulfilling career from the bagpipes.”

Councils in areas such as the Highlands and Argyll and Bute are known to have a significantly larger proportion of their students playing the pipes and drums whilst in school than in other areas.

However, in the larger Scottish cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, there are only a handful of pupils playing the pipes and drums and in some council areas, there are no students playing these instruments all.

Mr Johnston added that there was a concern that the skills will become regionalised and elitist with many of the country’s top bands now coming from rural communities or private schools.

He said: “The future of our national instrument is under threat because of the inability of most of Scotland’s councils to offer lessons in their schools.

“Some say there is no money for it, some say there is no demand. Yet where we have helped schools get tuition the demand is huge - and if a council can afford a glockenspiel teacher, surely they can afford to teach pipes and drums.

“In several schools across Scotland, parent councils have had to resort to take their own action to set up after school clubs and bring in teachers at their own expense to offer tutoring to their children.

“I find it disappointing that in so many Scottish state schools piping and drumming is not on the curriculum – yet many private schools have flourishing bands and dedicated pipe tutors which bring huge prestige and self-esteem to band members and to the school.

“If this worrying trend continues we won’t have any future pipers and drummers and hearing the roar of pipes and drums on Hogmanay could become a thing of the past.”

Last year, the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships attracted more than 400 young pipers and drummers from schools across Scotland.

Entries for next year’s event are open to children from all backgrounds, and a new “freestyle” competition aims to include more pupils by allowing them to jam with other instruments and play their own choice of music.

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