So, kudos to the Police Pipeband for being able to pull off the workshop.
John Cairns, of http://www.bagpipesolutions.com/ and of course the recent Maxville winning Peel Regional Police band, was our instructor.
I have had the luxury of being instructed by John many years ago. At that point he really helped change the way that I play and set up my instrument. So I was eager to have some time with him again.
Now, I knew that going in there would be a high teacher:student ratio, and much of those students would be at a very 'beginner' level, but still... you can't pass up this kind of opportunity.
The first night was really good as we went over some basics of setting up our pipes. An echo to what I had previous with him, and it re-enforced with me some of what I've done in the past.
(funny prelude... prior to the workshop I had scoured kijiji for some cheap pipes and found a set in Owen Sound -- turns out the seller's son plays with Peel... so I got to say to John "Bill says to say hi")
Second day (after missing part of last night, due to Dean's hospital visit) we work on some piping basics. Basics I say, but it's true fundamentals, and stuff you just can't afford to forget; like blowing the pipe and proper breathing/squeezing techniques. It's great to have somebody really explain in a down to earth way what to do. It's hard trying to teach it to somebody and say "well.. just do it... it'll make sense the more you do it".
One thing I couldn't get over from this day was the amount of "here, fix this" that abounded from the pipers. I mean, this guy is here to give us instruction and teach us what we need to know for when he's not there. Merely 'fixing this' does not help us in the end. He pretty much spelt that out early on... but at every break somebody would yell "John, this isn't working", or "here, look at this, I can't get it to work". Ugh... glad it wasn't me giving the workshop, or else I woulda told them something different than "well, let's see...". Patience of Job I tell ya.
The 3rd day (after missing out on the evening 'fun' at the bar) we cover much of what I wanted to hear. Listening for ensemble, how to pick tunes, being a leader, running a band practice. It was really good to get this information. True GOLD.
With guys like John out there, you wonder if you should be running a band, as he's got it all figured out, there's no way you could 'compete' with that... so why bother? But it's good motivation as well... nothing is static, everything can get better, so long as you keep progressing.