Finlay MacDonald has blazed a trail as one of the country’s finest exponents of contemporary and traditional Piping. He has worked with many leading artists in the traditional music scene including Fred Morrison, The Unusual Suspects, La Banda Europa, Old Blind Dogs and Chris Stout. He combines the mastery and dedication of traditional Piping with a true sense of musical adventure and creative collaboration producing a unique musical voice which can be heard on numerous recordings and projects. His Compositions and arrangements have been played by many leading artists including The World Champions, Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.
Always driven by collaboration and innovation, Finlay’s passion for the music he has grown up with has led him to the post of “Head of Piping Studies” at the National Piping Centre and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where he continues to inspire and develop the very best of new Piping talent.
“Finlay MacDonald has emerged as one of the leading lights in the current crop of young pipers with deep roots in the pipe band tradition, but grafted on to a distinctly contemporary musical sensibility to produce a compelling hybrid.”
Kenny Matheison, The Scotsman 12/5/07
David Wilton started learning at the age of 6 under the instruction of P/M Willie Whyte in Montrose R.B.L. Pipe Band. He soon begun solo piping lessons with Walter Drysdale, competing successfully in the junior solos circuit until progressing into the senior level at 17. David has enjoyed solo success over the years; most recently winning the first Capt MacLellan Memorial Piobaireachd medal in the P/A grade; P/A Highland and Island Piobaireachd competition in Oban and the A Grade Rams Horn Snuff Mull Piobaireachd competition in London.
Previously he has placed 3 times in the silver medal at Oban and Inverness before moving up to the Gold medal. David has won the former winners March, Strathspey and Reel Competition at the Scottish Pipers Association competition and has won a prize on every occasion that he has been invited to the Uist and Barra competition as well as continuing to be a force on the Scottish Highland Games Circuit, winning many aggregate titles over the years.
David has a long running pipe band career playing with City of Brechin Pipe Band, Drambuie Kirkliston Pipe Band, The Clan Gregor Society Pipe Band and ScottishPower Pipe Band and Halifax Citadel Pipe Band. During his time he has been part of 2 World Championship winning bands and has 2 Champion of Champions titles amongst other titles. Currently, this is David's first year as Pipe Major of Grade 2 Lomond and Clyde Pipe Band.
As well as being one of Scotland’s leading pipers, David has, in parallel with his piping career, enjoyed a successful Highland Dancing Career. He has 192 major championship titles including 7 World Championships, 10 Commonwealth, 13 British Championships and has won championships in Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. David retired from dancing as the reigning World Champion and had only been beaten 3 times in his senior career, finishing 2nd each time. He is one of the most sought after dance pipers and lecturers in the field, regularly travelling the world imparting his knowledge of music and dance.
In 2011, David graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with 1st Class honours in Scottish Music – his principal study being the bagpipes with other studies in guitar, whistles and border pipes. During his time at the RSAMD he excelled in course modules such as techniques of teaching, which looked at teaching methods for all ages including children and adults with learning difficulties. As well as a full time instructor of the National Piping Centre, David assists in the co-ordination of CLASP competitions with Margaret Dunn and is on the Board for Piping and Drumming Qualifications.
Alisdair is from Perth, Western Australia. He began piping at Trinity College, Perth at the age of 13 where he also received tuition from local pipers John MacMurchie and Malcolm Brown. In 1996 which was his final year of high school, he was promoted to Pipe Major of the Trinity College Pipes & Drums where he led the band to various juvenile championship wins in Western Australia. In the same year he was also a member of the Grade 3 Armadale City Pipe Band when they won the Australian & South Pacific Pipe Band Championships.
Alisdair joined Western Australia Police Pipe Band (WAPOL) in 1997 and was a part of a very successful period for the band winning the 1998 Grade 2 World Championships, 2001 Grade 1 American Championships and a 10th place at the 2004 World Championships Grade 1.
In 2005 whilst still living in Perth, Australia, Alisdair became the first fly in guest player for the world renowned Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, 12 times winners of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Associations World Pipe Band Championship. In 2006 Alisdair was appointed to the position of Pipe Major of the Western Australia Police Pipe Band which he held for 12 months before relocating to Glasgow in October 2007.
Alisdair is also an accomplished solo piper having won many prizes throughout Australia. At the end of 2008 he joined the ranks of the 10 time World Champions, Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band where he has won every Major title including the Scottish, British, European, Cowal, Ulster, All Ireland and World Pipe Band Championships. In 2011 and 2013 Alisdair was a part of the band that completed the “Grand Slam” winning all 5 major championships in one season including the World Pipe Band Championships.
Outside of piping Alisdair is a keen Triathlete having raced in many events throughout Western Australia and Scotland. Since 2014 Alisdair has completed the Ironman UK 70.3 ,Ironman Wales, and Challenge Roth in Germany. Recently, Alisdair completed the Paris Marathon and is now currently training for Challenge Roth, Germany and Ironman Busselton, Western Australia, events which take place in 2016.
Margaret began learning the pipes at age 8 and was initially taught by her father Con Houlihan and Stephen Power (ex Scots Guards).
She moved to Scotland in 1998 to attend the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama where she studied for 4 years and graduated with an Honours Degree in Scottish Traditional Music. While Margaret was at the Academy she joined the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, under P/M Robert Mathieson, and with them won the World Pipe Band Championships in Grade 1 in 2000.
Margaret returned as Pipe Major of her local home band, Cullen, in 2006 and in 2007 the band won the World Pipe Band Championships in Grade 3B. The band progressed to grade 2, where they won the All Ireland Pipe Band Championships in 2013.
Margaret is a qualified examiner for the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board exams (SQA approved) after passing the Institute of Piping Graduate Certificate with distinction in 2004.
Margaret has competed regularly around the Scottish Highland Games circuit and at the Argyllshire Gathering, London and the Northern Meetings. She has also competed in many knockout competitions through-out Scotland. Here are some of her prizes to date include:
- 1st MacGregor Memorial Piobaireachd (22 and under) Argyllshire Gathering 1999
- 1st B Grade March, Argyllshire Gathering 1999
- 1st Strachan Memorial A Grade March Strathspey & Reel, London 2000
- 1st Duncan Johnstone Memorial Piobaireachd 2001
- 1st A Grade Strathspey and Reel, Argyllshire Gathering 2003
- Winner of the Silver Medal at the Northern Meetings 2007
- 1st A Grade March at the Argyllshire Gathering 2007
- 5th Former Winners MSR London 2007
- 5th Former Winners 2/4 March London 2007
- Islay Inn Knockout Winner 2011
- Piping for Pints Knockout, Aberdeen 2013
- Scots Guards Club Knockout Winner 2014
Captain (Retired) Stuart D Samson MBE
Stuart Samson was born in Laurencekirk and has been playing the pipes since the age of 8. He enlisted into the Army in 1978, as a junior piper and joined the Drums and Pipes of The Gordon Highlanders in 1980. He was appointed Pipe Major of the Gordon Highlanders from 1990 – 1994 and then went on to carry out several Pipe Major appointments including the Pipe Major of the Highlanders and the Warrant Officer Class One Senior Pipe Major at the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming.
He was commissioned in 2002 and was appointed the Director of the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming in April 2003. He was responsible for providing all the structured musical training for pipers and drummers in the British Army as well as advising the Higher Command and Commanding Officers regarding Pipe Band matters.
During this time he was also responsible as the Director of Army Bagpipe Music, for coordinating the musical programme and display for the Massed Pipes and Drums at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. He has considerable experience in this field having first performed in the Tattoo in 1979 and many times thereafter as a piper and Pipe Major.
Stuart has also been successful on the solo piping circuit over the years, winning the Silver Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 1988 and being placed second in the Gold Medal in both Inverness and Oban in 1995 and 1998 respectively, gaining an invitation to the Glenfiddich Championships in 1998.
Stuart completed his Army service in April 2008 having served 30 years and was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June of that year in recognition for services to Army Piping and a distinguished career. Stuart is currently a part time Instructor at the National Piping Centre teaching on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland BA Scottish Music – Piping Degree. In addition to this Stuart is also the Director of Music for the Massed Pipes and Drums at the Basel Tattoo in Switzerland, which takes place annually in July.
Stuart Samson is not available for lessons and teaches only on the BMus Piping Degree.
Clare Lynas started piping at the age of seven in her local pipe band, Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia with PM Bob Martin. Throughout her piping career she has received tuition from Ian Speirs, Ian MacFadyen, Tom Speirs and most recently Roddy MacLeod MBE.
An experienced Grade 1 piper, Clare has played with ScottishPower, 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel and is a current member of Lomond and Clyde pipe band.
Clare enjoyed a successful solo piping career in the junior circuit gaining entry in to the Silver Medal aged 18. She was a student of The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music based in Plockton, after which she went on to complete an undergraduate degree in Classical Music at Edinburgh Napier University graduating with First Class Honours. Before starting at the National Piping Centre, she gained a Postgraduate Diploma in Scottish Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Her performance background includes piping at the opening of the Scottish Parliament, finale soloist at the Norwegian Military Tattoo and playing an own composition, commissioned by Alexander McCall Smith, at St. Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh University. Clare’s vast experience ranges from solo piping, pipe bands and folk ensembles playing whistles, clarinet and piano.
Roddy MacLeod MBE
Roddy MacLeod MBE is the Principal of The National Piping Centre. One of the world’s most accomplished competitive solo pipers, Roddy was tutored by piper and composer Duncan Johnstone and has won all of solo piping’s most coveted awards, many of them several times over. He is in keen international demand as a recitalist, judge and instructor.
He was Pipe Major of the World renowned Grade 1 ScottishPower Pipe Band from 1995 – 2005 during which time he led them to over 45 Grade 1 Championship prizes in major competition including the Cowal Championships and the All-Ireland Championship. In 2008 he led the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band to the final of Grade 1 at the World Pipe Band Championships after bringing together a group of the worlds top solo pipers and drummers together for a short period of intensive practice. In 2016 the Spirit of Scotland reformed with Roddy at the helm once more, with lead drummer Jim Kilpatrick. They competed at all 5 major championships, winning prizes at British, UK and European Championships, and qualifed for the final of the World Pipe Band Championships, finishing 8th overall.
With a strong background in teaching, a dedication to the promotion of standards within piping and a zeal to widen popular appreciation of the pipes, he exemplifies the role, task and standing of The National Piping Centre. Roddy is also a Director and a Founder of Piping Live!, the Glasgow International Piping Festival.
- Awarded MBE for Services to Piping 2003;
- Winner of the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award for Music 2004;
- Winner, Kishmul Banner composition competition;
- Inducted into the Traditional Music Awards Hall of Fame 2012
Solo competition prizes include:
- Glenfiddich Piping Championship, overall winner (5 times), MSR winner (twice), Piobaireachd winner (10 times);
- Northern Meetings, Inverness – Highland Society of London Gold Medal, Bicentenary Gold Medal and Clasp (2), Former Winners MSR;
- Argyllshire Gatherings, Oban – Highland Society of London Gold Medal, Senior Piobaireachd (2), Former Winners MSR (2), and Open Jigs;
- Bratach Gorm (7 times);
- Silver Chanter (7 times);
- Gillies Cup Open Piobaireachd, London (9 times);
- London Medallion Former Winners MSR (5 times);
- Scottish Piping Society of London overall champion (7 times);
- National Mod overall champion (5 times);
- Uist and Barra overall winner (5 times);
- Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition overall winner (3 times);
- Springbank Invitational Overall Winner;
- Dunvegan Medal;
- Dunvegan Colonel Jock MacDonald Clasp (4 times);
- Dr Allan MacDonald Cup for overall winner at Skye (3 times);
- Highland Society of London Gold Medal, overall winner (Skye) (3 times);
- Dr Dan Reid Invitational overall winner (3 times);
- G.S McLennan Invitational overall winner;
- Scottish Pipers Association overall winner (4 times);
- Scottish Pipers Association Piping Times Knockout winner;
- Highlands and Islands Festival Invitational Piobaireachd winner (4 times);
- Clan Donald Quaich winner (twice);
- Lochaber Tuagh Or Invitational Piobaireachd winner (3 times);
- Haddo House Quaich Invitational winner;
- Scotway Garden Festival 20th Century Piobaireachd winner;
- Scotway Lord Provost of Glasgow’s Competition MSR (3 times);
- World’s Greatest Pipers, Volume 6;
- Pipers of Distinction series (KRL);
- Piping Centre Recital Series;
- RSPS “The Last Piper”;
- Hebridean Piper video.
- Roddy MacLeod MBE Piobaireachd Volume 1
Finlay began learning the pipes at the age of 8 with his Grandfather (Alastair Sinclair) during a summer spent with him at his home on the Isle of Tiree. He began receiving lessons from Ronnie McShannon shortly afterwards and continued to do so since.
Finlay has been surrounded by piping his whole life – His mother (Anne Johnston) was a very successful solo piper, being the first woman ever to win the Silver Medal. His father (Tommy Johnston) was also a successful pipe band drummer and played under Leading Drummer Alex Duthart.
Finlay has played in several pipe bands over his career, most recently with Inveraray & District under Pipe Major Stuart Liddell. He spent 4 years with Inveraray, during their rise from Grade 2 to the top end of Grade 1. Prior to this he played in The Spirit of Scotland Pipe band under Pipe Major Roddy MacLeod and also the 52nd Lowland Regiment under Pipe Major Gordon Walker.
Prior to joining The National Piping Centre, he worked as a reed maker and is a time-served Mechanical Engineer.
Some of Finlay’s main results include:
- 1st – 2016 March, Strathspey and Reel – Uist and Barra Association Competition
- 1st – 2015 Highland Society of London Gold Medal – Northern Meeting
- 1st – 2015 A Grade MSR – Northern Meeting
- 4th – 2015 Open Piobaireachd – Argyllshire Gathering
- 4th – 2015 Masters Piobaireachd
- 3rd – 2015 Masters MSR
- 3rd – 2015 Donald MacLeod Memorial Piobaireachd
- 2nd – 2014 Masters Piobaireachd
- 1st – 2012 Highland Society of London Gold Medal – Argyllshire Gathering
- 1st – 2011 A Grade S&R – Argyllshire Gathering
- 1st – 2006 Silver Medal – Northern Meeting
John's piping career began in earnest at the age of nine, under the watchful eye of his father, Brian, and former double Gold Medallist and Pipe Sergeant of the the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, Angus J. MacLellan. Alongside close attention to the technical intricacies of the chanter and pipes, a deep appreciation for the music and traditions was instilled at an early age. This rigorous grounding has gone on to influence what has become a wide and varied career as a professional piping teacher and performer.
As a teacher, John's first experiences were gained at Glasgow's College of Piping as an evening class and summer school instructor. This formative experience gave an early insight into the wide variety of ages, backgrounds and learning needs of piping students. Since 2008 John has been a full time member of the National Piping Centre's teaching faculty. The diversity of students attending individual lessons, courses, summer schools, workshops, seminars and online courses at the National Piping Centre, at home and abroad, has enabled John to develop a thoughtful, intuitive and responsive approach to teaching. Equally comfortable teaching the complete basics of holding the practice chanter, through to expressing the nuances of piping's classic repertoire, or mentoring pipers in search of a new approach to their playing, John's teaching style and experience caters for the individual needs of each student. In addition, as a holder of the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board SCQF Level 8 certificate John is an approved examiner for all PDQB examinations.
As a performer and composer/arranger John's background is varied, showing an equally deep appreciation for the competitive traditions of solo piping and pipe bands as for more contemporary forms of expression. In terms of solo competition John has been a successful competitor on the annual highland games circuit from a young age, winning many awards over the years and in 2012 was runner-up in Highland Society of London's Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering, one of solo piping's most prestigious competitions. Having been involved in a number of pipe bands since the age of twelve John is currently a member of the 'all-star' Grade 1 band Spirit of Scotland. It is in electronic music production that John has been able to stretch his creativity and find new avenues for exploring traditional music, with a number of critically acclaimed releases. John is also a founding member of The Big Music Society, a multifaceted project with the express aim of helping to foster new and creative approaches the piping's 'classical' tradition, Ceol Mor.
Wilson is originally from Crieff, Perthshire, where he started piping at the age of 8, taught by the late P/M John MacKenzie, Dunblane. He received tuition from him for the next 28 years.
Wilson played for the local Strathearn Pipe Band in Grade 4, before joining the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band where he enjoyed success in Grade 2 and 3. Having joined Strathclyde Police in 1982, Wilson was a member of the police pipe band winning the Grade 1 World Championship on 5 occasions. He later became a member of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band.
Wilson was a police officer for 30 years before retiring from the force in 2012. He was a Chief Inspector and was the Area Commander responsible for delivering policing in East Ayrshire. One of the highlights of his career was as a member of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Bid Team where he was responsible for the security planning.
Wilson has a BA in Police Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in International Event Management from Glasgow Caledonian University.
In his solo career, Wilson won the Silver Medal, A Grade Strathspeys and Reels and the Gold Medal at the Northern Meetings. He retired from competitive piping in 1996 to focus on his police career. In 2016 he returned to the competition circuit where he competed in the Clasp at the Northern Meeting for the first time.
Since retiring from the police he has worked as a part time instructor at the NPC teaching a range of students from Oman who were working towards SCQF qualifications. He holds a SCQF Level 8 and is an approved assessor.
A native of Airdrie north Lanarkshire was taugh his piping from his father John before recieving lessons from Bob McFie, Jim Semple, Logan Tannoch, James Wark, Donald MacPhee and William J Morrison.
Dan was one of the first members of the national youth pipe band of scotland and holds a degree in applied music from the university of strathclyde.
In 2006 Dan joined then Robert Wiseman diaries Vale of Atholl pipe band and began his grade one career. Since 2010 Dan has been a member of Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band. Winning the world pipe band championships in 2015.
Ross Ainslie is one of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians and composers, playing pipes, whistles and cittern. He is renowned for his highly acclaimed solo material, and as a skilled performer and prolific collaborator who performs regularly with bands Treacherous Orchestra – of which he is a founding member – Salsa Celtica, Dougie Maclean, Charlie Mckerron, India Alba, and with Jarlath Henderson.
Born in Perthshire in 1983, Ross began his career as a member of the Perth and District Pipe Band, before joining the Grade 1 Vale of Atholl Pipe Band, where he was mentored by piper Gordon Duncan. Hugely influenced by Gordon’s fearlessly innovative spirit and groundbreaking compositions, Ross began exploring his own abilities as a composer and writing his own tunes, and in 2002 he was a finalist in the prestigious BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition.
Ross is a founding member of the 13-piece musical powerhouse Treacherous Orchestra. In April 2015, they received a prestigious nomination for the Scottish Album of the Year Award longlist for their second album Grind. He’s also a member of world/trad fusion group Salsa Celtica and Indian-Scottish quartet India Alba. Ross also writes and performs with Irish Uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson. The pair have released two critically acclaimed albums which showcase their groundbreaking fusion of Border and Uilleann pipes – Partners in Crime (2008) and Air-Fix (2013).
In 2013, Ross released his first solo record, Wide Open, which offers a snap-shot into his rich musical influences. It was nominated for Album of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2013 and made the top 10 of the Sunday Herald’s Top 50 Scottish Albums of 2013 list (no.9).
In 2015 Ross was commissioned by Celtic Connections to compose a new work for its prestigious New Voices strand. The piece – Remembering – saw Ross turn his hand to songwriting, in addition to writing new tunes, drawing on past experiences and relationships which have influenced him both musically and personally.
A highly in-demand musician, he has joined an array of acclaimed bands and musicians on tour and in the recording studio – including recording as one third of trad collective Tunebook, plus tours with Gordon Duncan, Flook and Ivan Drever’s band Clueless, and a special guest spot on Shooglenifty’s The Untied Knot.
In a career with many highlights so far, Ross continually pushes new musical boundaries. Prestigious industry recognition has come in the form of a multitude of award nominations, nomination for Musician of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2013 and 2016, nomination for Best Duo with Jarlath Henderson in 2014.
He’s also received nods at the Scots Trad Music Awards with various nominations, nominated for Instrumentalist of the year in 2010 nominated for Live Act of the year with Jarlath Henderson in 2008 and with Treacherous Orchestra in 2009 and 2010, nominated for Album of the year in 2013, Treacherous Orchestra won Album of the year and Ross also was Composer of the year in 2015.
Exciting projects on the horizon include the recording of his New Voice piece Remembering for an album of the same name which is due to be released late summer 2015, and aspirations to follow its release with a series of live dates with the New Voices band.
Willie is a native of Campbeltown, where he learned piping primarily from his uncles Ronald and Hugh and P/M Ronald McCallum, Piper to the Duke of Argyll. His roots go right back to the early days of piping competition and his 4 times great grandfather, John MacAlister, won the Prize Pipe in 1782.
This season has seen Willie involved in the normal circuit of competition where he won some of the major events at the Metro Cup NY, Donald MacLeod Memorial, Springbank Invitational as well as major prizes at Inverness and Oban. His most recent success was winning the MSR contest at the Glenfiddich for the 8th time.
Some other notable career wins are the Gold Medals at Inverness and Oban, Senior Piobaireachd Oban (3), Bratach Gorm (4), Silver Chanter (3), Former Winners MSR Oban (5), Former Winners MSR Inverness (4), P/M Donald MacLeod Memorial (9), Springbank Invitational (9), Dan Reid Memorial (7), Donald MacDonald Quaich (3), Former Winners MSR London (5).He runs his own piping business, Willie McCallum Piping, which involves teaching, as well as selling bagpipes, being consultant to bagpipe maker McCallum Bagpipes Ltd, in Kilmarnock and similarly involved at Bannatyne Ltd, Pipe Bag maker, working on developing bags and moisture control devices.
His teaching career started in the early 1990s and since then he has been involved in teaching several champion pipers who have won Silver Medals, Gold Medals, Former Winners MSR, Clasps and the Silver Chanter.
Willie lives in Bearsden with his wife Christine and has two children, Hailey and Scott.