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News


A blossoming worldwide enthusiasm for piping and drumming seems to be developing in recent years, with more young people taking up these instruments. Indeed, the future of these art forms is very dependent upon a new generation of pipers and drummers learning to play correctly. With this in mind, The Balmoral School hosted The Balmoral Classic featuring the first US Junior Solo Piping Championship on November 10, 2007, and a concert at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall with a contender for the Scottish World Pipe Band Championship.

Keep checking back for more announcements and updates in the coming weeks and months.

As we approach our 31st year of producing summer sessions, we extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to everyone who have supported the school. 

Admission Policy

Students accepted for the Balmoral School sessions are expected to be highly motivated and self-disciplined. We accept students under 21 years of age who are self-directed and require little supervision. Adult chaperones are assigned to students under 21. Students 12 years or younger must be accompanied by a parent or designated adult. All applicants must sign the honor code pledge found at the bottom of the registration form. A minimum $100 deposit (non-refundable) is required for registration. Balance is due upon arrival at the session. A confirmation letter and statement of balance due will be sent upon receipt of deposit.

Schedule

Please plan to arrive between 12:30 and 2:00pm on Sunday of your session of choice. During the remainder of the afternoon the school’s instructors meet with each student individually to discuss his or her piping /drumming skills/experience and to hear a tune or two on the practice chanter or practice pad. At the end of these interviews, students will be grouped into classes. After dinner and orientation, classes will begin on Sunday evening, with the last class finishing by Friday at noon. No classes are held on Saturday. Each student is assigned one small class of an hour's length each morning and another one in the afternoon with a different instructor. During the weekday evenings, there will be school-wide presentations on various topics related to piping and drumming, as well as student and instructor recitals. Students usually depart the campus on Friday afternoon.

Recording

Students are permitted to record all the classes, workshops and recitals for their personal use. Video taping of recitals is permitted on a limited basis. A public concert is often held on the second Thursday of each session.

Instruments

All students are requested to bring a practice chanter or practice drum pad and, if possible, a set of pipes or a snare drum.

New Students

Many thanks for your interest in the Balmoral Piping and Drumming Schools. If you will provide your mailing address, I will send you the information on the upcoming sessions and we will include you on our mailing list to receive the new brochure. See the upcoming sessions page for dates coming up, or just past.  We have sponsored summer sessions in piping since1978. Our goal is to encourage world-class quality of instruction in piping and drumming whenever possible. We emphasize good tone, clean playing, and the development of repertoire. The administrative guidelines and the campus facilities of the universities we work with are very supportive for a relaxed, focused and successful educational experience. 

Small group instruction and attention to individual needs are essential elements of the Balmoral Schools. Our instructors have many years of experience teaching pipers and drummers from beginner to advanced levels of expertise. The daily routine of the sessions usually consist of two one-hour classes each day: One in the morning and one in the afternoon, in small groups of a maximum of six students. Off-class daily hours are generally used to study and prepare for the lessons of the next class. During the evenings there are scheduled workshops on reeds, bagpipe maintenance, and other topics, as well as recitals by instructors and students. Tape recording of lessons and instructor recitals is permitted if done unobtrusively. 

We accept students of all ages, gender, regardless of race or ethnic origin, with the school sessions consisting of mostly adults between 25 and 50 years, with about as many senior citizens (20%) as teenagers. The gender distribution is usually one-third female and two-thirds male. Beginners usually make up a third, intermediate students a third, and advanced players a third of the student population. 

We are a non-profit, tax-exempt educational corporation. A small amount of financial assistance is awarded to scholarship applicants each year, and scholarship application forms are available by request. Band discounts are also available. I hope to meet you at one of the Balmoral sessions this summer.

Beginning Students

Many thanks for your interest in the Balmoral Piping and Drumming Schools. If you will provide your mailing address, I will send you the information on the upcoming sessions and we will include you on our mailing list to receive the new brochure. See the upcoming sessions page for dates coming up, or just past.  The Balmoral Schools were established in 1978, and we have sponsored summer sessions in piping since that time as a non-profit, tax-exempt educational corporation. Our goal is to encourage world-class quality of instruction in piping and drumming whenever possible. We emphasize good tone, clean playing, and the development of repertoire. The administrative guidelines and the campus facilities of the universities we work with are very supportive for a relaxed, focused and successful educational experience. 

The Balmoral School accepts students of all ages, gender, regardless of race or ethnic origin, with the school sessions consisting of mostly adults between 25 and 50 years, with about as many senior citizens (20%) as teenagers. The gender distribution is usually one-third female and two-thirds male. Beginners usually make up a third, intermediate students a third, and advanced players a third of the student population. 

The Balmoral School instructors emphasize the traditional music of the pipes, and we work within this repertoire to develop students' abilities. We believe that the traditional techniques developed for the pipes over the centuries are time-proven methods for producing musical results whatever music is being played on the instrument. As in classical, jazz, or other beginner music courses, our beginner course focuses on the correct movement of the fingers, and covers the rudiments of music such as tone, tuning, rhythm, and expression. 

Small group instruction and attention to individual needs are essential elements of the Balmoral Schools. Our instructors have many years of experience teaching pipers and drummers from beginner to advanced levels of expertise. The daily routine of the sessions usually consist of two one-hour classes each day: One in the morning and one in the afternoon, in small groups of a maximum of six students. Off-class daily hours are generally used to study and prepare for the lessons of the next class. During the evenings there are scheduled workshops on reeds, bagpipe maintenance, and other topics, as well as recitals by instructors and students. Tape recording of lessons and instructor recitals is permitted if done unobtrusively. 

Students should plan to arrive between 12:30 and 2:00pm on Sunday. During the remainder of the afternoon the school’s instructors meet with each student individually to discuss his or her piping /drumming skills/experience and to hear a tune or two on the practice chanter or practice pad. At the end of these interviews, students will be grouped into classes. After dinner and orientation, classes will begin on Sunday evening. Students usually depart the campus on Friday afternoon (the last classes finish by noon on Friday). 

For Beginners

Since you indicated that you may be a beginner, I would like to briefly describe what you get yourself into when learning this ancient and fascinating instrument. First of all, I must point out that it is not a particularly easy instrument to play. However, we believe that anyone can learn to play the pipes who has the following: A) The self-motivation, B) the ability to count steadily, C) a minimum of 30 minutes a day of practice, and D) a good teacher. 

One begins his or her learning of the pipes with a quiet instrument called the practice chanter. This instrument is what all pipers learn on, whether a beginner just getting control of the fingers or an advanced player learning new tunes or refining existing tunes. As with the pipes themselves, it is a reed instrument, and has the same number of finger holes as the melody pipe or chanter of the bagpipes. However, you blow directly into the practice chanter rather than into a bag, and the volume is much, much less. In other words, we can quietly learn the correct fingering of pipe music without blowing hard and making a lot of terrible noises. I also need to point out that the fingering itself is specialized , and unique to the instrument. It is highly advisable for learners to work with a qualified instructor. Otherwise it is easy to pick up bad habits, making it impossible to play good music. 

After the student has memorized about 5 or 6 tunes on the practice chanter, and plays them correctly, the time is reached to start making the transition to the pipes. This point is usually reached after 3-6 months of weekly or biweekly lessons on the practice chanter. The reason for the delay in starting on the great pipes is because there are so many other things besides moving the fingers that must be done, such as blowing harder, squeezing the bag, and coordinating these two activities so that the pressure of one equals the pressure of the other. The beginner has too many things to do at once if he or she is trying to learn the music at the same time as these other functions. The practice chanter allows us to control our fingers and learn the music first, before we try to coordinate the squeezing and blowing needed for the bagpipes. In summary, wisdom dictates that for best results we must learn one thing at a time, a proposition that is true not only for bagpipes but for most endeavors. 

I should also point out that the Balmoral Piping School sessions are excellent opportunities for making the transition from the practice chanter to the full set of pipes, a change that few people are able to bring about quickly or easily. Within the positive learning environment of the Balmoral Schools, questions can be answered, individualized tips for improvement obtained, and progress achieved in the least amount of time possible. In fact, our slogan is: Achieve More in Two Weeks than in Twelve Months of Weekly Lessons. Many of our students return for several years or more because they know the truth behind this slogan. 

A major feature of the practice chanter is that it represents much less of an investment than the Great Highland pipes: between $80 and $180, depending on the quality of the materials used in its construction (ie. Delrin, a synthetic, dense material vs. African Blackwood or Grenadilla, the wood from which other expensive woodwinds like oboes or bassoons are constructed). So, this investment, coupled with $20 or so for an instruction book, is what is needed to start finding out if the bagpipe is the instrument for you. Full sets of new Highland pipes start at around $850, although occasionally used sets can be found for about half this much. Also, beware of cheap sets of pipes made of totally inferior materials. Most of these can be identified by their weight and inferior craftsmanship: they are a lot lighter in weight than the sets made of quality materials, and you can identify shoddy craftsmanship by examining the inside of the drone and chanter bores for unpolished roughness. 

We can try to help you find an instructor in your area, using our database of pipers across the USA. If this is not possible, the second best route is probably to purchase a video or audio tape that goes along with the written tutor book. In either case the Balmoral Piping School sessions can be an excellent, intensive learning time each year to supplement your regular learning routine. We are committed to individualized instruction in small groups with a normal class size of five students. We accept beginners who have no experience, but we must request that they attend for two weeks. Experience tells us that novice students need the time that the second week provides in order to learn proper fingering and technique. 

Practice chanters and other piping supplies can be purchased from the Balmoral School or from various suppliers in this country. 

If you would like accelerated learning from some of the world's very best piping instructors and performers, please do consider the Balmoral School of Piping. We'll help you learn to play a wonderful instrument that deserves more good players.