Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
I’m from Long Island, New York. At college I had a friend who listened to a lot of Celtic rock. I just really got into the sound of the pipes so I gave learning them a shot. Quickly, I found myself diving into all aspects of the bagpipe. There’s been years of enjoyment and of course the occasional frustration ever since.
How has the pandemic affected your piping?
The recent opportunity to compete virtually has been a blessing for me personally. As an active police officer in the New York Police Department (NYPD) I have kept crazy hours with my work schedule. Almost all competitions are on a Saturday and, more often than not, I’m working. The last time I was actively competing on a solo level was 2009/2010 when the NYPD band was out on the competition circuit. Our band hasn’t been out on the field for some time now so I too have been dormant in my solos. When the virtual competitions started recently it allowed me to make recordings after work or when I had the time. I feel like I’ve been pushing myself again and improving. It’s been hugely rewarding.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Horse tartare. Yep, raw horse. I strongly suggest you skip the horse tartare …
When you travel is there something you particularly miss when away?
Yes, My dogs. I have two Boston Terriers. They’re like little clowns around the house. They’re family and we love them.
What’s the most memorable performance you’ve taken part in, either band or solo?
Sadly, whenever a member of our police department is killed in the line of duty, the NYPD Pipes & Drums has the duty of marching the hearse up to the church. We also lead the hearse to the end of the line-up of officers then play as the hearse passes. This line of police officers from all over the globe can go for miles, literally. To be a part of it is something so moving and sacred. Even though our band is called upon for this task from time to time you never, ever get used to it.
Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?
I think listening to any of the great pipers of our time has been a big influence for me. When you go from learning the pipes to learning standard parade sets things can get somewhat monotonous. Spending hours in the car listening to tunes played by Roddy MacLeod, Jack Lee, Gordon Walker or Angus MacColl was a huge eye opener for me. Whether it’s tuning, tone and most importantly the music, listening to the greats really opened a door for me to show what calibre of piping you really should be striving for.
How do you relax and do you have other interests or hobbies?
My favourite way to relax is to cook and entertain friends at my house. I recently renovated my kitchen and it’s become the heart of our home. An evening of great food, great friends, great conversation and great music in the background make for some great memories.
Favourite piece of music – any music?
That’s a really tough question for me. I grew up with two classical piano players in the house and a mother who loved playing music on the radio constantly. I love tons of different types of music. I don’t know if I could pinpoint one piece of music but any favourite of mine would have to be something that stirs emotion or makes you want to move your feet!
Do you recall the first competition you competed in?
Yes I do. It was at a beautiful venue in New York and being new to the competition scene I let my nerves get the best of me. I’m pretty sure the tune was The Australian Ladies, and about halfway through the tune I completely blanked out. I really don’t miss putting in all of the work only to be crippled by an adrenaline rush anymore.
That’s a toss up between Too Long in This Condition or Lament for Hugh.
Any humorous piping anecdote you can relate to the readers?
Back in 2009 my wife and I travelled to Glasgow to attend the World Pipe Band Championships. This was made possible by a generous gift from my mother. I brought my pipes along to compete in the CLASP World Solo Amateur Piping Competition held during PipingLive! Although being a bit nervous participating in a piping competition in Scotland, I managed to secure a third place win in the Piobaireachd Ground competition.
As an American, winning a piping medal from Scotland was (and still is) a pretty great feeling. Heck, you would have thought I just won the Glenfiddich Piobaireachd competition with how great I was feeling after that win!
Later that day I dropped my mother a quick email to tell her how excited I was that I won a third place medal in the competition. Naturally, to say she was proud was an understatement. Upon my return home I had family, friends and neighbours congratulating me on becoming the third best bagpiper in the world. I even had a local newspaper get in touch with me about it. I then realised my poor mother in her excitement only really grasped some of the key words in what competition I was actually participating in. Key words like piping, third place and world. My poor, loving, proud and misinformed mother. My sisters still refer to me as the third best piper in the world to this day.
• Thank you, Tom!