Inside the Circle with Bridger Woods, Piper & Musical Boy Wonder
When and why did you start playing pipes? Why a pipe band?
I started on the pipes a little over 2 years ago and before that on the practice chanter about two and a half years ago. My whole family is Scottish and I've always been interested in bagpipes and it was always something I wanted to do. I saw the band perform at the Zion Youth Choir and thought "Great, they can teach me and Andy (Pipe Major) isn't too bad looking himself, so it was a double value."
Is your family musical?
Yes, kind of. My dad plays the guitar. My mom plays flute and piano and my sister has attempted the piano but I think she was dropped on her head as a child....
Who was your first teacher?
The one and only (gestures to Andy).
Describe your practice routine.
You know, I'm just so good, I don't even need a practice routine. No, if its a good week, I try to practice every day. If not so good, at least five days a week. I will do at least half an hour to forty-five minutes each day, starting on the pipes to get them warmed up, playing some parade tunes, then I'll go into some of my competitions tunes. Then, I will finish with something fun like a jig or a hornpipe. After that, I'll take them apart, clean them and grab the handy old practice chanter and sit and hammer out the things I noticed that I wasn't doing so well on the pipes.
How do you balance piping with other obligations in your life? Family, job, etc. and what inspires you to stick with it?
I am fairly busy as the Student Body President at my school, I also still sing in the Zion's Youth Choir, I work as a lifeguard in the summer and ski patrol in the winter, etc. so I just try to have a set time carved out to practice between homework, etc.
Who are your favorite musicians?
In piping, my favorite musician is Andy Fusco - probably because he's the only one I know. Otherwise, there is a rock band from Sweden, called The Hives, that are really good. I also like the EEM scene so The Glitch Mob, Marshmallow, Jaws, bands like that.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance and competition?
I don't make mistakes. But, if I happen to, on the off chance, I just keeping going - push through the mistake and then look at it afterwards and look at it to make sure it doesn't happen again.
What advice would you give to a new student/musician just starting out in piping?
If you're just starting on PC, really look at the exercises and getting your fingers right. On pipes, power through it - its going to be difficult and sound awful but you just power through until you reach the stamina you need.
What do you think it takes to make a great/the best piper?
You have to have a big ego and dedication. You have to want to spend the time to practice - it is a different type of music than you have ever seen before with different rules. All the rules are thrown out the window but there are new rules you have to follow.
Where would you like to see the band in the next 5 - 10 years? What do you hope to accomplish personally as a musician in the next 5 - 10 years?
I don't really know where you go as a pipe band but I think we can develop the program and get a stronger Grade 4 band and then move up into a Grade 3 band. I would also like to see our solo players continue to progress and progress into higher grades, become a larger band, attract more people, etc.
How would your life be different if you weren't a piper?
I don't even know how to answer that question.... I think even if I hadn't started learning music at such an early age, I would have picked it up at some point later in life. My mom tells me these stories of music classes where I would be sitting there banging on drums, and just loving it. No matter what, I can't imagine my life without music in it.
What other instrument would you most like to play if you weren't a piper?
I already play three others but if I was going to add a fifth - I would probably play bass.
What is your favorite thing about being a piper in the Las Vegas Pipe Band?
The amount of fun we have - we are such a wide group of personalities that we can have fun wherever we are and whatever we are doing. We can turn it off and turn the focus on and really get the job done. And then we can go to the pub and get wasted (or you guys can) and then laugh.
What is your favorite curse word?
Oh my heck, is probably up there, because you only use it when you are really angry.