When I wrote “bagpipe” in that personal mental Google search engine that is my brain, two windows popped up. The first window had the image of an old, rusty, gingered-hair, funny-looking man in a skirt. He had tennis balls-sized cheeks and a tomato-red face as he blew into that cumbersome instrument. Two or three chuckles later, the first window shut down to reveal the second window. It was a video. The noise (yes, noise, not melody!) came from Ross Geller’s instrument (Ross is a character of the TV show “Friends”) who practiced his bagpipe skills for Monica and Chandler’s wedding. It is as hilarious as annoying!
My mental windows are just minimal representations of a zillion stereotypes that people have about Scottish and Irish bagpipe players.
But then there is Jamie. Jamie Polson Kelly.
A freshman majoring in Exercise Science, the 18-year-old Jamie Polson Kelly is one of two Scottish students currently at Missouri Valley College. He accepted a Missouri Valley College soccer scholarship because it both suited his academic and soccer level, he said.
Jamie comes from a little village called Helmsdale in Scotland. How far is that from the Loch Ness monster? It is an hour away from where he lives, he said, then laughed, because he doesn’t believe in the legend.
The bagpipe is the instrument he chose when he was 9 over the drum kit he already had, he said. A lot of bagpipe players pushed him in that direction because it is really popular in Scotland, he added.
When he first started to play the bagpipe–the first practices at home, the first few oops-wrong-notes–his parents just hated it, he said. And then he got better and he joined a pipe band. He traveled the world. He said that he played in Beijing (China), in Canada, in Spain. He became a major of his band, so he even had the privilege to play a solo in front of the Pope.
So, of course, Jamie didn’t have too many butterflies in his stomach when he had to open the processional march across the campus for the Missouri Valley College Convocation Day. He also was really relaxed, playing in his whole attire, the shooting day in front of the camera when Mass communication student Toray Henry videotaped him during a Delta interview.
Now when he plays, he can tell that his parents are very proud, he said.
But a teenage member of a popular music band is not only seeking the pride of parents. A teenage member of a popular band wants to impress some girls!
Well, actually that is teenagers in general but is the bagpipe a “chick-magnet”? “Oooooh, yeah,” he answered and laughed. I witnessed that him playing for Toray Henry to record him for a shot in front of MacDonald Hall, the main women’s dorm on campus, and all of the square windows started to fill up with ladies with amazed smiles. At the end of the shot, the girls gave him a round of wild applause, blew him kisses, and threw some flower-printed panties! No, it did not really go that far. But, so close!
Speaking of under-garments, real “skirts” men (people who traditionally wear the kilts in Scotland) do not wear anything under their kilt, Jamie said.
There are only 30 people in the whole world to have the exact same kilt that Jamie has. Indeed, to order the kilt he is wearing, people need to be licensed as it is an army-type of kilt, he said.
Jamie swapped his Diesel jeans, Nike belt, and back pack for his bagpipe, kilt, Scottish flag belt and a sporran which is a little one-pocket bag that a bagpipe player wears in front of his skirt. He usually puts his cell phone in it, Jamie said with a grin.
Giving himself the tempo of the song he played for us by stomping his brogue shoes that, he clarified, you only wear with a kilt, Jamie Polson Kelly appeared to me as a charming version of the Celtic Viking spirit that our college personifies.
It would be epic!
One night going out of the cafeteria, two students, Sabrina Moussier and Juliana Doyle, heard him play. They tried to follow the melody to see where it came from and to see who was playing but it stopped. Disappointed, the two friends headed back to their dorm room until the music started playing again. This time, they found him. He was playing a march song next to his dorm. Jamie practices the bagpipe next to the Moreland residence hall and sometimes a few people watch, he said.
It was so cool and he is so cute, the women said. Indeed, cuteness and talent is definitely something he has a lock on with his bagpipe.
Here is one of the traditional Scottish songs people can hear Jamie rehearse next to Moreland:
Video produced by Toray Henry, Mass Communication-broadcasting student.
Here, Jamie plays a huge British classic. Do you recognize it?