Please take a few minutes to read the following page to educate yourself about different types and levels of bagpipers. There are many (and I mean MANY) pipers here in New York who are advertising their services as "professional" pipers. If clients do not do their homework, they may end up hiring someone who is unqualified and may ruin the special moments that the pipes are supposed to embellish.
Q: Is there a difference between one piper and another?
Q: How do I tell the difference?
A: First, listen to a sample of the music. It should be pleasing to the ear- the sound should be smooth, not high pitched and ear piercing. You can also ask the piper several questions like how long they have been performing and what 'grade' (see below) piper they are.
The governing body for competing pipers in the Eastern United States is called the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. This body has set guidelines by which pipers compete against one another. This is very helpful to you as a potential customer since it gives you a pre-set guideline to gauge if the musician is of a 'professional' quality.
There are six grades:
This is the entry-level grade and consists of beginner pipers. Many parade, police and fire bands fall under this category.
By this time the piper usually has at least a couple of years experience. The judging focus at this grade is correct finger technique and the ability to play simple tunes.
By now musical expression, timing, and bagpipe sound are gaining importance as well as accurate fingering technique. The piper has usually been playing for over four or five years.
All of the above are important in this grade but a higher degree of ability is required to be successful.
**This is the lowest grade suggested for a piper to be hired.**
This is the semi-professional grade. By this time the piper has usually been playing for over 8 years.
Open/ Professional Grade
To reach this level you have to have demonstrated a very high level of piping ability. These pipers are very hard to come by and may charge more than other pipers. However the cost is well worth it. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. THERE ARE PIPERS WHO SAY THEY ARE PROFESSIONAL PIPERS. THIS MEANS THEY ARE TRYING TO DO THIS FOR A LIVING, NOT THAT THEY ARE PROFESSIONALLY RANKED WITHIN THE UNITED STATES. MOST PROFESSIONAL REAL PIPERS HAVE A GRADUATE CERTIFICATE FROM THE EASTERN UNITED STATES PIPE BAND ASSOCIATION TO PROVE THEIR MERIT. A COPY OF MINE WILL BE FURNISHED UPON REQUEST. ANY OTHER PLAYERS WHO SAY THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS AND DONT HAVE THIS CERTIFICATE ARE 99 PERCENT OF THE TIME NOTHING BUT HACKS AND YOU SHOULD STEER CLEAR OF THEM !
It is important to hire a professional-level musician. Aside from knowing the tunes, playing them well and handling the pressure of an audience, a piper needs to know how to adjust his or her pipes in adverse conditions, have back up pipes and equipment, etc.
You don't bury someone twice! If an inexperienced piper messes up at a funeral, there are no second chances; they will ruin the family's experience forever. The same theory applies with weddings.
No piper is better than a bad one!
Q: Can you perform outdoors in the winter?
A: Yes, but depending on the temperature, playing time may be adjusted as the instrument can collect a lot of moisture during the winter months. It's important not to overplay in cold conditions as you could very well crack the pipes. Also, the traditional dress doesn't lend itself to being very warm and tartan trews (trousers) may be worn in place of a kilt.
Q: What if it rains? Can you still play?
A: Yes, of course. It rains a lot in Scotland and Ireland. As long as it's not torrential, rain will not affect the performance.
Q: What happens if you're ill the day of the event?
A: In the unlikely event that I am sick or incapacitated, I will find a suitable replacement for no extra cost to you. You will have a piper no matter what!
Q: Can I hire a bagpiper for a full one or two-hour performance or a cocktail hour?
A: Yes, you can hire a piper for this time span, but you won't need it. With the pipes, less is more. Please consider the nature of the instrument. The pipes are a loud, commanding instrument that stops the action — it can be hard on the ears if played indoors for a long time. You'll want to use the bagpipe to embellish an event; not as background music (unless outdoors). Also, physically, you can't play the bagpipe continually like you would play a piano. Playing the bagpipe is usually done in short increments (fifteen to twenty minutes at a time). It is better to leave your audience wanting more- not having heard too much.
Q: How do your fees work?
A: Fees are 'flat rate' within Westchester and New York City depending on the event and length of time. They include all performance and travel expenses. If travel outside these areas is needed, the price is reflective of the travel time, tolls, gas etc.
Q: What if we only want one piece of music? Or if we are only looking for a piper for a 10-minute set. Are your fees cheaper?
A: This is a tough answer, but in short; not usually. You're paying for time as well as experience. What many bagpipe lovers don't realize is the bagpipe has to be played in advance (warmed up) and kept tuned prior to playing as well as adequate travel time to arrive early and the amount of time between playing, etc. Just getting dressed can be a 30-minute procedure depending on the uniform. It's my experience that few performances (from top to bottom) are less than four hours total time.
Q: I've been looking around for pipers and I've found a few whose fees are cheaper than yours. Why is the cost different?
A: Not all pipers are equal in ability. A piper with years of instruction and experience is likely to cost more than someone who just plays as their hobby- You get what you pay for! I've assembled my qualifications, photos and most importantly, sound samples on this website. If you feel that another piper has the same qualifications and whose fees are less expensive than mine then I will match their fee. It's YOUR special occasion; an important memory. You deserve the best!
Q: What is the process for hiring you?
A: Go through Gig Salad links for contact information. Once contacted and an agreement is reached, I send out a contract and you are officially booked and I will be at your event!
Looking forward to hearing from you!