If you’ve ever lived in the dorms, you might have heard bagpipes being played near the pond by Mitchell Avenue. That music, which I’m sure you’ve wondered, belongs to a talented student named Allison Hildebrand.
Hildebrand is a speech communications major with minors in strategic communication and biology here at Missouri Western. While she began her music career with a normal instrument in high school, her discovery of Scottish instruments ignited her true music passion.
“The summer after my high school graduation, I ran into a family that lived not too far from me,” Hildebrand said. “(Bagpipes)was the whole family’s hobby, and I’d never seen that before. I thought, ‘this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!’”
Hildebrand took up learning the bagpipes along with the tenor drum. She then joined a pipe band and travels around the midwest performing and competing.
“I played trumpet for high school and college marching band for like ten years, but I never liked it as much as I like (bagpipes), which is way more fun,” Hildebrand said.“It’s really unique, something that’s hard and challenging, and I like the environment you play it in.”
Andi Gamblin, a fellow bagpipe player, has known Hildebrand for years through the pipe band.
“Allison is extremely outgoing, friendly, with a very bubbly personality. She’s caring, eager to learn and definitely has musical talent. She played trumpet classically for quite a few years, so she had that musical background from a young age. She’s very dedicated to whatever she’s involved in and a joy to be around,” Gamblin said.
David A. McNally, professional bagpiper and bagpipe instructor, has been playing bagpipes for 35 years. He has been teaching Hildebrand for the last two years.
“She is a great person. Very enthusiastic and willing to help when the need arises. She has a drive and determination that I wish I saw in more people. As a musician, she is developing well and works hard to improve everyday. She's been a real joy to teach,” McNally said.
Playing the bagpipes is not an easy hobby, though it has remained popular throughout the world, even though it originated in Scotland.
“Most states have at least one bagpipe band,” McNally said. “And there are people that play on their own. I'd say there are definitely more enthusiasts than there used to be when I started out.”
Bagpipes are certainly a unique instrument that fascinate many people. McNally explained some of the historical uses and current purpose of them.
“The bagpipes played a role in multiple military operations. The Royal Highland regiment played on the White House lawn for John F. Kennedy, and to this day are still featured in military and civilian gatherings in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.”
McNally also explained that many celebrities have taken up the bagpipes.
“Phil Collins, Bob Dylan and Peter O'toole all played bagpipes. Ewan MacGregor plays drums in his family’s pipe band.”
Keep an ear out for Hildebrand on campus, one of Missouri Western’s own bagpipe-playing celebrities.