My piping journey began in 1981 when I enrolled in 4th Grade at St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston, Texas. My mother had mentioned to me that the school had a bagpipe band but I had no idea what that was. Around the third week of school one of the senior band members came into the classroom and asked who wanted to learn the bagpipes. A couple of my friends raised their hands so I did as well and I can remember asking him, "By the way, what is a bagpipe?" Little did I know at the time that this decision would have such a huge impact on my life going forward.
My first instructor was Campbell Naismith and his wife was the highland dance instructor. That first school year I wasn't a very serious student, habitually arriving to lessons without my practice chanter (what a beginner learns on), and being told if I forgot it one more time that I'd be kicked out of the band. After this wake-up call I began to take it seriously and from that time forward I've dedicated myself to the instrument and to this day am still learning new things.
The next school year a new band director named Albert McMullin took over when Mr. Naismith moved to California. This year saw me transition from the practice chanter to the bagpipes and begin marching in the band. The following year in 6th grade Mr. McMullin left and the school had no director so senior student Doug Frobese led the band. Going into 7th grade saw yet another change when former student Mike Cusack took over and was director during the rest of my time at the school.
Under the direction of Mike Cusack the school band became one of premier juvenile pipe bands in the world. In the summer of 1985, just before I started high school, the band won the Juvenile World Championship in Hamilton, Scotland, becoming the first American band to ever win a World Championship. That summer the band was over in Scotland for the entire month of August and I was able to learn more about Scottish culture and was able to hear the top bands in person rather than on cassette tape. This trip made me want to work even harder at being the best player I could be.
After graduating from St. Thomas in 1989 I started college at the University of Houston and joined the Hamilton Pipe Band in the fall of that year. The Hamilton Pipe Band was led by Lars Sloan and performed at the Texas Renaissance Festival. The next year Lars left and Donald MacPhee took over as Pipe Major and almost overnight turned us from a street band into Grade 3 champions at the 1990 Stone Mountain Highland Games. At that competition I was also awarded the champion Amateur Piper of the Day. The band went on to win the U.S. Championship in Grade 3 and Grade 2 in the following years.
In 1995 I graduated from the University of Houston with a business degree and alternated my time playing with the Hamilton Pipe Band and joining a Celtic Band called The Rogues. It was at this time that I decided I wanted play the bagpipes full time as my profession. While playing with The Rogues I was able to tour the U.S., Canada, and Scotland performing at Scottish and Irish Festivals as well many Renaissance Festivals. I've recorded six albums with The Rogues over the years and have also written a few tunes, my first being called "The Rock."
In 1998 the Hamilton Pipe Band under new Pipe Major Doug Frobese won the Grade 3 World Championship in Glasgow, Scotland. The following year the band placed 3rd in Grade 2. At this time I took a break from the competitive Pipe Band scene and focused exclusively on performing with The Rogues as well as two other bands called Scottish Mayhem and Scotland Rising. It was during this time that I met my wife Denise at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, Texas.
In 2005 I took a break from the Celtic Band scene and began focusing on solo performances mostly consisting of weddings and funerals, launching my business and Texas Bagpiper website in that year. In the early 2010's I got back into the competitive Pipe Band scene when I joined the St. Thomas Alumni Pipe Band, which had been the Hamilton Pipe Band. During the 2010's we went to Scotland every summer to compete and in 2019 won the Grade 2 World Championship. After that win we were upgraded to Grade One, the highest level, when COVID happened. After a two year break the World Championships returned in 2022 and the band finished 10th in Grade One, making us one of the top 10 bands in the entire world.
This year of 2023 finds me again stepping away from the competitive Pipe Band scene and focusing on solo performances and the occasional festival with The Rogues and Scotland Rising. I'm looking forward to wherever this piping journey takes me next...