The end of another year approaches, and since it is that time, when all you will see over the next couple of weeks everywhere and anywhere are lists of “the year’s best,” the year’s worst,” “top trends to watch for the coming year,” and on and on, we thought it best fall into step and compile our own list for 2006: “Ten piping and drumming things to plan and do before 2006 ends.” You have 365 days…go!
1. Stretch your competitive boundaries. If you are an active competitor, pick the highest-end bagpipe contest (solo or band) you can think of for your playing grade or level and enter. Work for it, and make giving your best go at it your goal.
2. Expose yourself to bigger and better piping and drumming. Pick the highest-level solo or pipe band event you can think of and attend as a spectator. Pick something that will give you exposure to something that you’ve not seen or heard before.
3. Educate yourself. Seek out one new educational thing that will enhance your playing. This can be attending a workshop or summer school, beginning a short series of lessons with someone, taking a class on music theory, or studying a particular point about bagpipe music that has always interested or baffled you.
4. Study. Pick one area of piping or pipe band history unknown to you and research it.
5. Stretch your musical boundaries. Concoct one set of tunes made up of brand new material to play for fun.
6. Perform. Pick one opportunity to play in front of a sizable audience—and not a paying gig, or a competition. If you do this regularly anyway, pick an opportunity to play for a receptive crowd who might otherwise not expect it.
7. Contribute. Volunteer or donate to help organize a piping event or workshop in your area.
8. Indulge. Treat yourself to a new toy: a new instrument gadget; a new chanter; new sticks; try a new brand of reeds; get a new pipe or drum case.
9. Challenge yourself. Change your rehearsal regimen for a brief while.
10. Allow yourself some creativity. Sit down and compose a piece of music.
As you might tell, this list is really about busting through your usual habits. So much of modern life forces us to adopt “schedules” and “procedures” that become second nature and only add a humdrum quality to our lives. If there is only one thing you do for your piping or drumming in 2006, it should be to examine your current routines and identify those things that have become thoughtless, stale, and boring. Once you’ve identified those things, change them. Shake up your piping and drumming to keep it interesting and try to bring some creativity and style into your pursuit. It can’t hurt. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.