Some kids play piano and some take up guitar, but Garden Oaks’ Ian McDaniel went a different direction after attending the Sherwood Forest Faire near Austin.
“I would sometimes go up there for the fair, but I went to the summer camp held there for several sessions over the years,” McDaniel said. “One of the staff there played the bagpipe, and at the camp he would wake everyone up with them in the morning, which I always thought was neat. On the way out one year, I became interested and asked him where I could learn more about the bagpipes.”
The staff member told him about a group in Houston that played. After going to a few of the meetings, McDaniel was hooked.
“My mom bought me a practice chanter and a book of music,” he said. “After playing the practice chanter enough, my mom bought me a set of actual bagpipes.”
McDaniel explained that a bagpipe has a mouthpiece; the three drones, which are the pipes that stick out the top of the bag; and the chanter, which is the part that plays the music where the player’s fingers are.
“All of the drones and the chanter on the bagpipe have a reed in them, but the most important one is in the chanter as that reed makes the signature bagpipe sound,” he said. “A practice chanter is similar to the chanter on the bagpipe, but it is smaller than what is on the bagpipe and is meant to be played by itself, similar to a recorder.”
The former Oak Forest Elementary student got a chanter when he was 12 and an actual set of pipes when he was 15. The recent graduate of Energy Institute High School is now 18 and off to the Colorado School of Mines in the fall.
McDaniel said playing the bagpipe is not something he does for school or professionally.
“It's just something I do because I like doing it and I think it's neat,” he said. “I am thinking about if I want to do anything special with them in college like joining a band, but I haven't made up my mind on that just yet.”
Weather permitting, McDaniel likes to practice every other day for about 15-20 minutes on the pipes.
“I play the chanter much more often when in my room, though, as it is a lot quieter and doesn't take as much air to play,” he said.
While there was a thread on the Garden Oaks Facebook page recently about one neighbor’s noise complaint concerning the pipes, McDaniel said most people enjoy it and think it is interesting.
“However, I don't usually go around telling people I play the (bagpipe), though, so it's not like most people know outside my friend group and some people at school,” he said.
Sally McDaniel loves that her son decided to learn a musical instrument and is grateful to teacher John Michael Henderson, who has taught Ian for more than five years, free of charge.
“His dad and I could not be more pleased that (Ian) chose bagpipes,” she said. “The fact that he chose such an uncommon instrument for this part of the world tells us his heart is in it.”