As a young piper I faced a daunting task. Standing on a patch of grass in Balboa park at the San Diego Celtic Faire, I readied myself to play “The Massacre of Glencoe”. It was my first time entering an amateur open piobaireachd competition and I faced a sea of Southern California amateur competitors as well as a handful of the previous years’ winners. The contest was adjudicated by the newly-minted gold medalist Eric Rigler who had just returned from living and competing in Scotland. I was completely surprised when I found out I had not only won first prize but also the Campbell J. Naismith Piobroch Award. It was quite the lift to a young competitor!
I am lucky to have been trained by Campbell Naismith himself. Every Thursday after school from age 14-18 my mother drove me to his house for my lesson. He was a stickler of execution and technique yet remained true to the expressive musicality of each piece he played. Campbell wanted me to understand the emotive aspects of the piping canon and especially piobaireachd. I was taught to respect the gravity of each pause as well as reflect on the wide range of feelings that the composer was expressing. From uplifting to entertaining to melancholy, a player of piobroch is a messenger of the original experience of the composer many years before. One can learn the notes, copy the style, but one can only understand music by being taught by a true musician.
Winning the Campbell J. Naismith Award is an experience I will never forget. Receiving the gift of Campbell’s expertise and teaching is a prize I will enjoy for the rest of my life. I will always be in debt to Campbell Naismith.