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Bagpiping by Jeff Herbster, Mt. Vernon, Maine.

A bit about me and my music.................

I've been a musician for over 50 years, starting on violin, then progressing to french horn, oboe, bass guitar, sitar, banjo and  finally in 1993, the Highland Bagpipes.  I love the pipes!!! I am currently a Grade 1 piper with both the Eastern and Western Pipe band associations, although I no longer compete.  I am a member of Clan MacKay, and have, in the past, been a clan Vice President for the Northeast as well as an official clan piper.  I have performed all over the US and Canada, and in the past few years I have had the privilege of playing for the 40th anniversary of Valley Forge National Park, the 400th anniversary of the Popham Colony, and the Bicentennial Wagon Train Reunion & Convention.  In 2017 I was selected to be the first ever bagpiper to perform at the US Naval Museum in Washington, DC.  I have played at the College of Piping on Prince Edward Island, on board the USS Constitution in Boston,  opened for the International War Brides Convention, over 200 weddings and funerals, and just about any occasion that needs a bagpiper.  My piping career also has included private lessons with the late Alasdair Gillies, who was the last Pipe Major of the Queen’s Own Highlanders.  Alasdair was a military piper for 17 years (1980-1997) and he won the coveted Royal Society Silver Star for the March, Strathspey and Reel Competition a record 13 times.  These lessons, I feel, were the greatest times I've had as a piper.  Then, on a 'whim', I took up the baritone ukulele and mountain dulcimer.  Another journey that is just so much fun.  I continue to teach bagpipes and banjo and although I retired last year, I still enjoy watching people discover the bagpipes.  

In addition to the pipes, I also play the Shuttle pipes, or as they are sometimes known, Musette de Cour, a great quiet instrument for indoor background music at dinner parties, recitals and receptions.


In the past  decade I have been specializing in the performance of Ceol Mor  meaning the "great music", to distinguish this complex extended art-music from the more popular  Scottish music such as dances, reels, marches and strathspeys.  The Piobaireachd, pronounced "Pea Brock" is the classic music of the pipes.   

When the Highlands and Islands of Scotland adopted the bagpipe,  perhaps some six hundred years ago, they began to develop the instrument  and its music to suit their needs and tastes.

What emerged was the instrument we know today as the Great Highland  Bagpipe, and a form of music, piobaireachd, which is unique to the  instrument.  It is a very stylized form of music. There is freedom in  the theme or “ground” of the piobaireachd to express joy, sadness, or  sometimes in the “gathering” tunes , a peremptory warning or call to  arms.   Nothing resembling piobaireachd has been discovered in any other country  in the world. Also the Great Highland Bagpipe is the only instrument  which can reproduce piobaireachd satisfactorily to the ear of the  devotee.