Frequently Asked Questions:

How expensive is a bagpiper?

For the Rochester NY area, the current market rate for a quality bagpiper is the range $150-350 (USD) depending on the complexity of the event.   Each musician sets their own rate in their own way. I set my fees based on travel time/distance, time-commitment and whatever I need to do to provide what you have in mind for your event. 

It may surprise you that there’s usually little pricing difference between a highly-experienced, skilled piper and someone who is not. There are no downsides to hiring a really good piper. Their larger repertoire and greater skill set makes for better memories. You’ll find that an experienced piper will be a helpful partner in the planning and a joy for you and your guests in the performance.

How does someone select a bagpiper?

The best way to select a piper is through an audition.  Any piper suitable for playing your event should be willing to meet in person to demonstrate their abilities (for free) and to, potentially, begin to lay out tunes for your event.  You don’t need to be a trained music critic to do this – just listen to them play as you would listen to any performer.  For weddings, I frequently have couples or families visit my home.

During the audition, the bagpipe drones should blend together and create a warm, rich, harmonically balanced canvas upon which the chanter paints a musical image. The piper should have full control over his/her instrument. The rhythms should be fluid and effortless. Honking, squealing, squeaking and “sour” notes shouldn’t be part of an audition nor a performance.

If the piper sounds good to you and easily meets your other expectations – go with them. However, if the player delays/cancels the audition – or if the tone, scale or tempos sound “off” – or if they can’t provide tunes that meet your vision – or you’re just not sure – tell them you’ll “think about it” and audition another piper. In the Rochester, NY area, I can help find you an alternative – and I’m happy to do so.

I recognize that, in the case of memorial services, there may not always be time for an audition. Many funeral directors have experience with pipers or you can call me for a recommendation. Being familiar with pipers in the area, and having played at (literally!) hundreds of memorials in every kind of weather, I can help you find an available, solid player for your event.

What music will the bagpiper play at an event?

I find it helpful to work with the family/client to understand their goals for the key moments in the service and to then structure the musical performance around those moments. With a leaning toward Scottish and/or Irish tunes, my repertoire includes hundreds of melodies at any point in time and I’ll draw from that pool during our discussion. There are tunes that are bold and majestic and others that are more contemplative – and others are just plain beautiful music. I’ll work with you to find just the right tune for your vision. If you have a particular, “non-bagpipe” melody in mind that would be meaningful for you family, I’m willing to see if it can be adapted to the (sometimes limiting) scale of the bagpipe.

Using a memorial service as an example, the key moments might include the beginning or end of the service. The three most common, “traditional” tunes for these moments are Amazing Grace, Danny Boy, and/or Going Home, but many others are very suitable . I will typically play an assortment of tunes as guests arrive and depart as this helps with the flow of the event. Playing at the church or graveside is usually quite straightforward. Playing at both sites creates a sense of continuity and flow. I also frequently work with Military Honor Guards.

For a wedding, the processional and recessional marches for the wedding party are always key moments, but there are so many other opportunities to really personalize the service. There are tunes that work well to provide a highlight for each part of the wedding as well as providing movement of the wedding party or guests before, during and after the service. Playing at the wedding venue is always my favorite location. Additionally, many families find that piping the newlyweds into the reception is a wonderful way to reprise the exciting moments from earlier in the day.

Depending on the event, I’ve played as little as a single tune to highlight family heritage – and I’ve also provided the entire music for a wedding – from prelude through to the introduction of the bride and groom at the reception.

Just to be clear, when I’m doing preludes, postludes or receiving lines, I don’t expect anyone to pick and approve every tune in advance. Once the key tunes in place, I’m quite comfortable managing the additional tunes to help facilitate the flow of the event. I’ll select tunes “on-the-fly” that “feel right” and support your musical vision for the event.

Bottom line, contact me to discuss your event.

What will the bagpiper wear?

I am always fully dressed to the modern, semi-formal standard. 

I have three, sometimes four, tartan kilts available to me at any time.  They include the blue/green MacLeod of Harris, the predominantly red MacLean of Duart and the multi-colored MacBeth Tartan.  

I’ll usually wear a jacket or vest over a shirt and tie. I wear Ghillie Brogues (a style of shoe) with kilt socks and flashes. I’m not a fan of hats, but the Glengarry bonnet is my first choice. I always bring a rain cape.

Can you provide other musicians, pipers, drummers and/or a band?

I play with the best pipers and drummers in Western NY between Buffalo and Rochester.  I’m happy to talk to the better players around and see what we can do to meet your vision!  Frankly, playing with other musicians (including other pipers!) can be a mixed blessing. While fun, the collaboration can require significant efforts to match the tuning,  and will generally limit the available repertoire – so we would absolutely need to discuss several days beforehand.