By: Carrie Ratkevich, Staff Reporter
Culinary Arts instructor Carmine Russo joined a bagpipe band after he learned that the band offers free lessons, he said. When he was told Mac-Tire of Skye offered free bagpipe and Scottish drum lessons, Russo was surprised, he said.
“I used to play clarinet and nobody gives free lessons. You pay for lessons.” said Russo.
The free lessons are group lessons and casual, he said. The bands offer free lessons in hopes of recruiting people into the band. It takes three to seven years to become proficient in either instrument because it is challenging, he said.
“If you are a drummer already, Scottish drumming is a little different. It is pretty complex,” said Russo.
Mac-Tire was formed five years ago as a performance group, said Russo. The group plays various gigs throughout the year, including Robert Burns Day, both CNM graduations, and the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival, he said.
The band is unique because they play harmonic pieces, which are difficult to do with bagpipes, he said.
“A lot of pipe bands don’t use harmonies,” said Russo.
During the 2011 Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival, Russo competed in an individual bagpipe competition. He spent several months learning three songs for the competition, he said.
“I had to live, breathe, eat and sleep bagpipes,” said Russo.
Although he did not place, he said his playing improved dramatically.
“It’s always a little nerve wracking to compete, where people are watching you and judging you. But then again, it is good for teachers to do that because that’s what we do to students all the time,” said Russo.
The band uniform is a traditional kilt, said Russo. The kilts are made by Kathy Lare, who is one of only two people in North America to have learned the art of kilt making from Keith Kilt School in Scotland, he said.
Although CNM has been very supportive of Russo’s band, the band has moved practice sessions to a church in the Northwest valley, he said.
To learn more about playing the bagpipes or drums, visit mactireofskye.webs.com, or call 977-0097.