Madison Pipes & Drums Q&A

Photo by Madison Pipes & Drums

Adam Borger (AB) Pipe Sergeant, Quartermaster
Greg Bruno (GB) Piper
Kevin Hendryx (KH) Piper

Of all the instruments in the world, what compelled you to choose bagpipes?

AB My wife introduced me to the instrument. She was a Highland dancer for years. She bought me a kilt for our wedding, and I wore that to a Scottish Christmas concert in Oshkosh. There I ran into a person that was a piper for a band, and he asked if my wife would teach Highland dance to some kids and if I wanted to learn to play. It's been 23 years and going since that day.

GB I was introduced to bagpipes as a high schooler because I was sent to a military academy that was modeled on British military academies. As such, bagpiping was offered as a class, and I chose to take that class. When I first heard the pipe band play, I loved it. The music gave me goosebumps. For a few years after high school, I dabbled in playing the electric guitar because I loved certain genres of metal as much as I loved pipe music. But I ultimately put the guitar away because everyone played guitar. I determined I would not get anywhere, and I would not get any attention by being one mediocre hobby guitarist in a million. The world did not need more guitarists. It needed more bagpipers.

KH I love the music of the bagpipes and the whole Scottish/Celtic ethos and history and cultural world that surrounds Highland piping. I wanted to be a part of that and hear the music whenever I wanted, so I decided this is what I would be: a piper. I wanted that more than anything else in the world, and wanting it that badly made me work to achieve it.

What does playing the pipes/drums provide for you? A challenge? An appreciation for the history? The music itself? Something else entirely?

AB Its fun, challenging, musical, and provides entertainment for many throughout the years. The band is always trying to improve, and that encourages individual members to improve as well and not stagnate. Its also very rewarding to see students that Ive taught eventually take on their own students and teach their children as well.

GB I play an instrument for the sake of being a well-rounded person. I enjoy music on a sentimental level (as is true of almost everyone), so I think being somewhat of a musician is necessary for me to live my life to its fullest. If I was not playing bagpipes, I would be playing a different instrument. Regarding bagpipes in particular, I do innately love the sound. Furthermore, I do appreciate the historical nature of the instrument. Although its true that the Highland pipes we play are Scottish, its also true that other types of bagpipes were ubiquitous across Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages. I enjoy pre-Columbian history, and for that reason, I also enjoy keeping bagpiping alive in the 21st century.

KH I feel a link to the past and to all the pipers who came before and are part of the same river of music through the ages. I feel I'm a part of that story now. Music has the power of transcendence, and to be able to channel some of that power through yourself, through a bag and some wood and your breath and fingers, and to have a similar effect on others is an exhilarating experience that nothing else can match.

What do you believe playing the pipes/drums adds to our community?

AB People seem genuinely moved and excited when the band playswhether thats in local parades, at competitions, performances, wedding, or funerals. As a member, you tend to lose sight of that over the years until you play an event and see an audience with smiles on their faces or tears in their eyes. It seems most people love the pipes and drums.

GB For some members of our community, I believe our music provides excitement, joy, a stirring of emotions, chills, a sense of courage, and a sense of pride. These are the feelings I got when I first heard a bagpipe band play. But bagpipes are not for everyone. Other members of the community are annoyed.

KH We folk musicians maintain a living tradition across the centurieswe are the caretakers of history and culture; we preserve and teach and pass along all the knowledge and experience that comes before so this treasure can enrich every generation that follows. Our community would be poorer without us.

Kyle Jacobson is lead writer and senior copy editor for Madison Essentials.

Photograph by Barbara Wilson