Dan Nevans reviews Bruce Gandy’s ‘Performance: Delivering Your Own Awesome’

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Dan Nevans

Bravado is cheap and flimsy. Like that wrench set you bought for £5 that sheared away on the second nut when you were replacing that toilet seat you broke trying to replace that tiny light bulb in the bathroom.

Piping has always had a bad attitude when it comes to development. For over a century pipers have talked about “having it or not having it” – usually the sort of talk employed by those who couldn’t carry “it” in a bucket without the letters “s” and “h” being added in front. Nowadays however, we live in a much more accepting society when it comes to emotions. Anxiety, depression, and fear are the demons that haunt the windows of everyone.

And together, everyone can be free of them.  

I have made no secret that I am a highly anxious person and the steps I use to defeat or at least hold back my anxieties are in print for all to see. For this reason, I am pleased to talk to you today about multi-award winning piper Bruce Gandy’s new book, Performance: Delivering Your Own Awesome.

Bruce Gandy is a Gold Medal winner in Scotland and in his native Canada. A former Pipe Sergeant of the pioneering 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band during the 1980s and 90s, winning the World Pipe Band Championship in 1987. As a composer, Bruce has released four collections of music, pieces from which have all been played at the highest levels of performance available in the world of piping. His contribution to piping in Nova Scotia where he has lived since the late 1990s is a testament to the man’s love for the artform. The Bruce Gandy Foundation supports the tuition of pipers in Canada’s eastern province through webinars reaches out to pipers globally. As a teacher Bruce has been responsible for the development of many of the great pipers coming out of Halifax and greater Nova Scotia, not least among which would be his own son Alex (In 2018 Alex and Bruce were the first father and son to compete at the Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championship, the ipso facto Superbowl of solo piping).

It is, then, no surprise to see a player and teacher of this calibre release a book on performance. Treading in the footsteps of The Inner Game of Music and The Chimp Paradox, Bruce presents a performance preparation and delivery guide intended for us, pipers. The viewpoint of the writer is of great interest as Bruce opens the book explaining how he has always been an anxious person. That this anxiety casts a shadow over his whole life not just his piping.

Bruce lays out, for us Nervous Nellies, a path. So often hard to find in a mental state dyed purple with panic. The book is split into four sections:

  • Part One: learning tunes
  • Part Two: Rehearsal
  • Part Three: Performance
  • Part Four: Moving Forward

Each section provides a framework for development in the Total Preparation Package (TPP). Useful tips and the odd anecdote smoothly carry us through each very readable and digestible passage. I have adopted a few ideas already myself and am experimenting over the next few weeks to see what difference they make and if I can refine my playing around them.

Kind words in the introduction from well known Canadian piper, Peter Aumonier give us some insight into the person we will be hearing from for the next 144 or so pages. I guess my favourite thing about this book is the place where it comes from: Bruce talks to us openly and honestly. There is no bravado and no ambiguity to be found within the pages of Performance: Delivering Your Own Awesome. Bruce uses his place of success and experience not as a plaudit to convince us to drink the cool aid but in fact as a measure the journey he has been on. Above all, Bruce makes sure to point the focus of this publication squarely at the reader.

Coming at us from a place of kindness and benevolent experience, Performance: Delivering Your Own Awesome is a great addition to any piper’s performance arsenal. For players who feel like they are stuck in a loop or pipers who are suffering from their own internal issues which stand in the way of them delivering their best, all will find some help here.

• Performance: Delivering your own awesome is available now from https://www.brucegandymusic.com/online-shop

* Dan Nevans is a full-time Piping Teacher at the National Piping Centre. He is a music graduate from the BA Applied Music at the University of Strathclyde. As well as being a familiar face around Scotland’s solo piping circuit, Dan plays with Glasgow Police, having played previously with Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia and Vale of Atholl.