When hiring a professional musician, regardless of the instrument, there is a standard of dress. For bagpipers it is highland attire (kilt, wool socks, etc) and there are variances in uniform from Summer to Winter, the expectation is always a kilt! It always stuns me when I hear of someone hiring a piper and that person comes in jeans and a polo. In Tampa Bay, there are more bagpipers than most would expect but those who do this for a living, like myself, are very few. The very few times I will wear a polo is piping relaxed gigs like on St. Patrick's Day but always kilted.
Great Highland Bagpipes (GHB) are a very sensitive instrument to temperature, humidity and sun exposure and we have all those in spades in Florida! Performing for so many years I have learned a few tricks on how to adjust on the fly when going from outdoors to indoors and visa versa. Unless you are a musician, you are not going to think about how that sudden change will affect the instrument and your tuning. Regardless how long you have been playing the GHB, weather will win in the end! When you hire a professional bagpiper, there is an expectation to be in tune and sounding good but have some grace if that piper needs to perform indoors and outdoors for your event.
We all have bad days, right? Well that should not be noticed on your piper. There are stereotypes attached to our culture but just like attitude that shouldn't affect the performance. Even when I drank, I never did when I was engaged in a performance because of the side effects of alcohol. I give it all I have and do my absolute best for each performance and being buzzed, drunk, angry or depressed will without question affect the playing.
Behind the Scenes
Every musician needs to practice regardless of skill level or time in. Life happens and we can't always get in the length of time we would like to practice but do you know how much time does? For myself, I average about 30 hours each week practicing. Mostly new tunes I'm learning but a good amount on brushing up on what I know and making sure I'm playing it properly. Just for fun here is a segment of bagpipe sheet music:
No you don't need to read music to realize that is a lot of things to play. The larger notes are the melody and all the small notes are embellishments, and since you cannot separate notes by tonguing like on traditional instruments, those embellishments is what we use to separate the melody notes. On here are grace notes, birls, rodins, and doublings and there are many more! So you can see that you may only need 20-30 musics of playing, I spend a lot of time so I can perform at the highest level possible for you.
Bagpipes are an expensive instrument, thousands for the pipers, hundreds for a chanter bag and reeds. I have 2 sets of bagpipes, fair and fowl weather sets. Each there own chanters, reeds, case, etc. and a set of Scottish Smallpipes for relaxed, indoors affairs such as cocktail hours. Don't forget Uncle Sam gets his cut and website cost, uniform (a proper kilt is $400-500) and so on. Those who play are passionate about the music and history as well as having very understanding spouses haha.
It is an honor to continue to perform for the community and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so!