Jack Lee Comes to Town

In an admirably far-sighted move, my band (the Wasatch and District Pipe Band) decided to forego the usual early-season trip to the Las Vegas Highland Games. Instead, we booked Jack Lee and Duncan Miller to come to Salt Lake and conduct a piping and drumming clinic. The rationale behind this decision was to build the two bands’ piping and drumming skills, so that we can go back to games like Las Vegas in the future and give an more excellent account of ourselves.

Naturally, our expectations were high since Jack Lee is one of the best solo pipers of our generation, and is also the Pipe Sergeant of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band – the current World Pipe Band Champions. We were not disappointed. In a remarkably intense weekend, Jack retooled both our Grade 3 and Grade 4 performance sets, and set us on the road to possible success in Scotland at the Worlds in 2010.

Friday evening, Jack started out with a solo piping session, where he showed us how to set up our pipes for the best sound. We all use the same type of chanter reeds as Jack and the SFU Pipe Band, so he knows his way around them. After that, we switched to piobaireachd, and Jack coached us through The Desperate Battle (complete with crunluath-a-mach variations) and then The Munros’ Salute, a simpler, but very beautiful tune.

On Saturday Jack evaluated our two performance sets and modified our Quick March Medley to make it flow better. The set now opens with a MAP tune, and next year will switch entirely to these tunes. (MAP stands for Musical Appreciation and Performance and are tunes approved for Grade 4 bands competing in Scotland under the rules of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association. They are all 2-part 2/4 marches.) By Sunday, we had learned the tune and played the new set on pipes, with the drum corps. In 24 hours we had completed a process that normally takes weeks in the Fall. Making these kinds of changes just a few weeks before the beginning of the competition season is quite risky, but our confidence is currently at a reckless high under Jack Lee’s tutelage!

It was a fantastic weekend. Jack is a wonderful blend of kind, funny, intense and disciplined, and I know we’ve benefited immensely as a group and as individual pipers.

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