The Ups and Downs of Our New Reality

This past September my pipe band was buzzing with excitement as we made plans to go to Scotland for the World Championships. Adding to this excitement was the fact that three other pipe bands from the Canadian Maritime provinces would also be traveling to The Worlds. There were plans in the works for an "East Coast Embassy" hangout at a Glasgow pub. I was in the preliminary stages of booking a spot to meet up with subscribers. Almost our entire band had purchased tickets to the Inveraray Concert and my wife and I had booked a post-worlds tour of the highlands with our nieces from Winnipeg.

Then, in late February, we started to hear whispers about Covid-19.

Would schools be cancelled?

Would we be able to travel to the UK?

A couple weeks later those whispers started to become real. Schools closed, Canadians were encouraged to cancel their March break plans and many stores and restaurants began closing. Soon after that, friends started getting laid off, grocery stores began running out of toilet paper, flour and yeast (among many other things) and life, as I had known it ground to a halt.

I am one of the fortunate ones and I appreciate that fact every day. Besides running I teach drum kit at a local music school. Thanks to Zoom I was able to keep my full student load. Due to reclaimed time from cancelled gigs, clinics, pipe band practices and social engagements, I've been able to dive into a project that has been on the back burner for a while: Music Theory for Pipe Band Drummers (a video series on the YouTube channel). I count my blessings daily as I have many musician friends that are struggling--especially those who earn the majority of their income from performing.

In many ways, life has become more complicated. However, in other ways, life is simpler now. My daily routine now involves only a few things: get up, check email, keep in touch with friends and family, work on content for or YouTube, plan and organize my teaching day, teach Zoom lessons, eat three meals, watch a Netflix show to slow my brain down at the end of the night and go to bed. Interspersed throughout the week are grocery shopping, financial planning and walks through the neighbourhood.

Rinse and repeat.

Even with a "simple" plan for each day there are some days where I feel very low. I sleep in until 11:00 am, I struggle to eat three meals and I watch four Netflix shows instead of just one. These down days are hard. If I'm only running at 50% energy when I begin a teaching day, at the end of the day I end up at 0%. And, to be honest, I'm not a very fun person to be around when I'm at 0%. To make matters even more confusing my mood doesn't seem to be determined by quality of sleep, the nutrients in the food I'm eating or the amount of exercise I'm getting. Some days I wake up and just feel like crap.

Those days are a battle.

The next day I can wake up with a ton of positive energy. It seems very random.

Sunday was a down day for everybody. I awoke to news that 18 people had died in an act of violence so heinous that it has affected everyone in Nova Scotia. Social media was flooded with people trying to come to terms with one of the most violent days in the history of the province. I thought about it all day and into the next. It still doesn't seem possible that something so terrifying and destructive happened in our peaceful corner of the world.





So what does all this have to do with pipe band drumming? I have no doubt that most pipers and drummers watched with disappointment, sadness and frustration as the inevitability of a cancelled competition season grew slowly from rumour to reality. It is now a fact: there will be no pipe band this summer.

At the outset of the epidemic, as cancellations mounted, our band tried several things to keep people motivated and engaged. I had a facebook live rehearsal with the drummers to mixed results, the Halifax area bands staged a virtual beer tent, and requests were made to submit recordings to keep people practicing. After a couple weeks I realized that it was simply too hard to have regular drum corps practices. People were dealing with so much; layoffs, changes at work and school, childcare, money issues and physical/mental health all moved to the top of the priority list. The writing was on the wall. All pipe band related activities in Dartmouth stopped cold.



It took me a couple of weeks to get settled into teaching drum kit online. After a week of technical glitches and getting Zoom figured out I started to settle into a groove with it (pun intended). I called my pipe major and chatted about the uncertainty of it all but we agreed we'd keep in touch, send music back and forth and maybe collaborate on a couple of videos. I also taught a couple of one-on-one lessons to drum corps members and picked up a couple of new pipe band drumming students. I started adding to the YouTube channel and doing some broad outlines for new projects. I started practicing more. Things got a little bit better.


There are lots of things we can do to keep our heads in the pipe band game. First off, keep in touch with your fellow drummers--whether it be on social media or through Zoom, Skype or Facetime. We can always practice more too. I'm looking forward to diving into the pile of scores in my file box that have been sitting there, seemingly waiting for this pandemic. We can also learn to write better drum scores and get some practice reading new ones. We can learn theory or how to interpret drum rolls in different styles. We can practice the fundamentals and improve our technique. We can scour the web for new resources and, when we find a good one, let everyone know about it. We can subscribe to facebook groups, follow our favourite drummers on Instagram and enter online drumming contests to keep our chops up!

There are going to be ups and downs over the next while. If we mirror the ups and downs of the world with the ups and downs of our sticks while we play, practice, write, read and create, we can weather this storm!

I hope you are all healthy and doing okay. Sending out positive thoughts to you all as we try to navigate this new reality.

Keep your heads up and stay safe,