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Wanted: bagpipe teachers to meet new demand

Education authorities have been urged to change their tune to ensure piping does not lose out in the squeeze on classroom resources.

Roddy MacLeod, director of the Piping Centre in Glasgow, says visits to Glasgow primary schools have convinced him there is a big untapped demand to learn the Highland bagpipes. He fears that demand cannot be met because of a shortage of instructors. Peter McKinness, based at Cleveden and Hillpark secondaries, is Glasgow's only schools piping instructor.

"The response has been overwhelming, with 85 per cent or more of the children saying they want to know more about it," said Mr MacLoed. "Some have started lessons at the centre but, sadly, not all schools can resource piping and that's a problem. "

Mr MacLeod believes all education authorities should give a higher priority to traditional music. "Interest in piping is potentially enormous. Taking the pipes into primary schools in Glasgow, I've met with an amazing, positive response. I've also realised how little most children know about an instrument that is so central to their culture.

"Too often Scottish music seems to get subordinated to European music at large. Our children come to see their own music as marginal, even alien. I believe we have some compelling educational and social reasons to encourage schools to review the way they use traditional music and the priority they give it. "

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has allowed pipes to be the instrument of choice for practical work in Standard grade, Higher and CSYS music since 1974.

Iain MacFadyen, piping tutor in Highland Council for 25 years and one of Scotland's three specialist examiners for bagpipes, said that 90 secondary schools presented pipers for this year's exams. "Interest is growing," he said. "Ten years ago, you'd be lucky if you got 30 schools. The number of pipers in each school is growing too."

The Piping Centre has been given a Pounds 1,000 Scottish Arts Council grant towards the cost of its school visits programme.

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