Friday, May 22, 2009

Solo Bagpipe Recital at Folklife this Weekend!

I'll be performing a solo bagpipe show at Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle -- the largest free music festival in North America.

Check it out!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Victoria Highland Games

Here's a video of the band at the Victoria Highland Games over the weekend. Weather was breezy and sunny. Perfect!

We are playing our selection of tunes starting with Cosmos Cascade and ending with Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

The outdoor Highland Games competition season begins this weekend in Canada.

I'll be posting updates via my twitter account here:

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Interview in The Tartan Telegraph

I was recently interviewed by Beau Buffington for the May 2009 issue of the Tartan Telegraph. Here's the entire interview:
A Conversation with Jori Chisholm at the Winter Storm Gold Medal competition this year, I was thoroughly impressed with Jori Chisholm’s focus, confidence and control on the platform: as I told him later, he seemed to perform with the attitude that “I came here to win.” Later that weekend, I was able to meet him and to ask him about doing an interview for the newsletter, and I was thrilled that he was agreeable with the idea. I was finally able to catch up with him on as he drove from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. to practice with the World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band (SFUPB) in Vancouver, British Columbia.

-Beau Buffington

Beau Buffington: So, when you practice with SFUPB, what sort of preparation does the band do? Do you just work on practice chanters or pipes? All the above?

Jori Chisholm: Only pipes. We almost never play practice chanters. I don’t know how it works in other bands, but from my experience, most other bands do much more practice chanter work. I think SFU has evolved over the years to just play on pipes. When we learn new music we’ll be playing it from music on overhead projectors, and we’ll just be reading off the overheads and sight reading.

BB: Wow.

JC: That tends to be my philosophy on individual practice as well: just play on the pipes. Maybe a little practice chanter work here and there. Everything that you can do on the chanter, you can also do on the pipes. There’s no reason for you to have a tune memorized before you play it on the pipes. Get a music stand, stick it on the wall, stick it on the fridge with a magnet…whatever, but just get the music up and start playing on the pipes. It’s multitasking: you’re working on learning the tune, memorizing the tune, working on the rhythms of the tune, working on your technique all the stuff you can do on the chanter AND you’re getting the physical workout of the pipes. You’re working your reeds in, getting comfortable, you’re working on your stamina–all that stuff. In a time where people have fewer and fewer free moments, you just try get it all in. So, what I recommend to my students is do as much practice as you can in on the pipes. When you get totally tired and want to keep going, then get your chanter out.

BB: Yeah. That sounds good!

JC: You know, when I cross the border here [..] I’ll head up to the university, and we’ll have practice in one of the big lecture halls. It’ll be right straight on the pipes, pipes out. The pipers and drummers are separate for maybe 45 minutes. We’ll work on unison playing and technique and maybe do some tuning. Then the drummers will join us on drums and we’ll do some of the full band stuff, ensemble work, then we’ll do a little bit of arranging between the pipers and the drummers.

BB: So, what about the players that actually commute from out of the country? Do they make it every week? How does that work?

JC: No, no, no. The way that the top pipe bands in the world have gone […] have sort of become all star bands. SFU is one of those, so we have players all over the world. We have a core ground of players in the Vancouver area who are sort of our in-town players. Then we have guys who are sort of semi-in town / out of town like me, I don’t come every week, but I’m within driving distance. Then we have guys who have to fly. We have guys who are from all over the U.S. who don’t come every week, but we will have these band weekends, 4-day weekends or we’ll have a band week around Spring break. And as many players who can fly out for that. We have a few of those get togethers every year, then in the summer players will come out. So, players who live in Scotland will come out for maybe the whole month of July. It’s quite a sacrifice for them, but we try to have the whole band in town for the lead up to the world’s. And then all the players in the band are top players anyway and they need to be totally prepared and they’re learning the music and we’re distributing the music online, so that when they arrive they know the material, their pipes are going and it’s just the fine-tuning that happens.

BB: As far the equipment, you’ve played long enough to see the changeover {…} from natural to synthetic, how do you think that affects the tuning and variability of the instrument?

JC: All of this new technology has made it really easier to have pipes that sound good and stay in tune. As a result, over the last 10-15 years, the rules have really changed for how competitions are judged. Whereas 15 years ago, even ten years ago under the old, all-natural setup, if your pipes were very slightly out of tune, you might get away with it. But these days, it’s almost like a zero tolerance policy: your pipes have to be absolutely perfect at the end – at the beginning – but also at the end to even be considered for the top prizes. The bar has just been raised so high because of technology. You used to regularly hear pipes going out of when you listened to a competition, drone reeds shutting off, and so on. Now, you hardly hear any of that at the top level. You hear really good, in-tune instruments for the most part all the way through. Of course players still experience what used to be considered very minor problems, but now everything is sort of magnified. I know there are still a few pipers playing the natural sheepskin bags and cane reeds. I tip my hat to them, because it’s a very challenging thing to do. Especially in a solo competition like a piobaireachd where you’re looking at tuning up process of 30-45 minutes plus another 20 minutes on the platform. Sheepskin and cane drone reeds can give a very rich tone, but the synthetic drone reeds and synthetic bags with modern moisture control have made it much easier to keep the pipes stable for long periods of time. For the casual player or lower grade competitor, these innovations have tamed the instrument and made it much easier to achieve great pipe tone. It also leaves you much more time to focus on your playing skill rather than pipe maintenance.

BB: I wanted to ask you about your students, in terms of the Bagpipe Lessons. Obviously, they’re not local, are they all over the country, or all over the world?

JC: Yes, I have students all over the world. I teach traditional lessons and have for many years – once a week or once every two weeks people come to my house and have an hour lesson. But then about seven or eight years ago just when broadband internet was first available and when webcams first came on the market, I started teaching online. Lessons by webcam are basically just like traditional one-on-one lessons, but we meet via the webcam either thru Skype or one of these other video chat programs. And it has been a really great thing for students around the world, because now you don’t have to have a teacher that lives locally, or you don’t have to spend a lot of time and effort and money traveling to your lessons. So, I have students all over the U.S., Canada, Europe. I’m teaching a piper who is retired and traveling around the world right now on a sailboat. So, when he pulls into the port somewhere that has Internet access, he sends me an email that asking, ‘Can we do a lesson this week’? We set something up and there we go, bagpipe lessons on your sailboat in tropical Port Who Knows Where. It’s really another example of how the internet is bringing people together and shrinking distances. I really enjoy the process of trying to find new and innovative uses for all of this exciting technology and find ways to reach and teach more pipers.

BB: So, what are your future goals for your teaching studio? Would you like to continue teaching that way? Do you have a 5 year plan?

JC: I’m going to continue to grow my website. I’ve got several different learning options on there, including these tune lesson downloads which I created a few years ago which allows pipers to download a tune lesson that includes the sheet music, an MP3 of me playing the tune on the pipes and you get an MP3 lesson of me teaching you the tune. The library of tunes include 70 tunes and four Piobaireachds and I plan to keep adding new tunes. I just launched a new website called that is the internet’s first place to download complete pipe band music. With each tune you get the sheet music and a recording of the pipe tune, and the sheet music and a recording of the drum score, and a recording of the combined pipe tune and drum score. For perfect ensemble! The drum music has been put together by my fellow SFU Pipe Band member and World Champion James Laughlin – a great instructor and superb musician. I feel very fortunate to have a teaching studio that has been growing steadily over the years, and my students have been incredibly loyal. It has encouraged me to keep adding to the site and to keep adding new content and to keep innovating. I get some really great feedback from people all around the globe saying that they really appreciate just the access to the material.

BB: So, do your students do a lot of competing?

JC: Some do. I have a whole range of students from seven year old kids to retirees in their seventies. I teach complete beginners from day one all the way up to professional pipers – the whole range – from pipers who are really into competition and want to win at the highest levels to pipers who have never competed and have no interest in competition and are into the music from a hobbyist point of view. There are many reasons to be into the music. For me, I love competing but it’s not the only thing. If I could never compete again, I would absolutely play for fun and still continue learning new tunes, do my recordings and performances.

BB: So, what are your goals for the piping? Obviously, the Gold medal in Kansas City, you got that, what, that’s the third time this year?

JC: The third time, which is just a great honor. There were so many good pipers in that competition. And a great judging panel. MHAF of Kansas City has done such an excellent job creating an event and in less than ten years turning it into THE piping and drumming event on the continent. I’m looking forward to a great year, which includes playing with the SFU Pipe Band, competing in solo competitions and, of course, Scotland. I go to Scotland every August and plan to continue for a long time. I will compete at the World Championships with the band, that’s the pinnacle of the year for the pipe band world. I stay over for the rest of the month and go to as many of the Highland games as I can. I plan to compete at the Gold Medal in Scotland, at both Oban and Inverness. I would like to keep competing there as long as they keep letting me in. The pinnacle for solo piping is to win those gold medals in Scotland. That gets your name in the history books. I feel like every year I’m improving and sharpening my skills and every year putting out good performances. The rest is in the hands of the judges really.

BB: Does winning the Gold medal in Kansas City somehow put you a step towards qualifying to play in the medal events in Scotland?

JC: Not in any sort of official sense. The way the Gold medal works in Scotland is that every year you have to apply, and part of that application is your competitive track record from the previous year. So, winning the US Gold Medal will definitely go on my application, including who was in the prize list and who was judging. This means something, not in any official sense, but it just adds to my overall track record. I’ve been competing for the Gold medal in Scotland for a few years, I’ve place in the top placed in the top four twice, which is very encouraging. So I my goal is to keep playing well and just have that good, consistent track record so they keep
inviting me back. It’s getting harder and harder every year for players to get into that event, because it’s restricted to 25 or 30 worldwide. If you look at ,every year someone wins the Gold medal so they get moved out, but every year someone wins the Silver medal, which is a qualifier. So, that spot is filled. The number of pipers worldwide at a high level is just getting bigger and bigger. Top piping is definitely getting more international. Whenever I first went over to Scotland just as a spectator almost 15 years ago, there were very few non-Scottish players in the Gold medal competition. Then, just a few years ago, more than half were non-Scottish players. So it’s players from Canada, the US, New Zealand, and now countries in Europe: England, Ireland, Germany. It’s just getting tougher and tougher to get in. So you’ve got to get the competitive track record, and that comes from playing well, which in turn comes from being prepared and competing as often as you can. And I really enjoy competing. It’s not everything to me, but I do enjoy the process of preparation. The global standard of piping has been going up, but the American standard has been going up even faster. Without question, the standard of the U.S. has risen because of events like Kansas City, because you have absolutely top-notch teachers and judges, that’s key. I know from my own experience that my piping would not be where it is without exposure to the top level teaching that came at the Master of Scottish Arts school, at the Balmoral School[…]and it just builds. And also don’t underestimate the power of something like the internet, where now it doesn’t matter where you are, with a couple of clicks, you can listen to great pipers of the past who are no longer living, and you don’t have to be living in Glasgow to hear these guys. People are unearthing a lot of this old material, there’s people re-releasing this stuff that was on old, dusty cassette tapes which is just incredible. The access to good teaching and good, relevant material has never been better. So that in your iPod, you can have Brown, Nicol, MacFadyen, and Donald MacLeod. It’s amazing! And you can get online and have a webcam lesson. It’s a very exciting time to be a piper!
For more info visit Beau's site and download the full issue of the Tartan Telegraph.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

BagpipeLessons on Twitter

It's seems everyone is getting into Twitter these days, so we are too!

Twitter is free social networking and micro-blogging website that allows you to follow my short text messages. I will be using Twitter to post updates on what is new and interesting here at and to provide the latest info on competition results, share interesting web links, and more. It's a fun and informal format and I have started using it to post fun, spur-of-the-moment, whatever-is-on-my-mind sort of items.

Check it out and join to start following on Twitter!

Friday, May 01, 2009

New Bagpipe Learning Community

I've created a new online learning community t0 help pipers learn faster and easier than ever before.

Check it out and join today (it's free!)

Visit Learn the Pipes at