When John Callahan was a participant in the Self Expression and Leadership Program in Seattle, he created a community project dedicated to the preservation of Sottish arts, culture and History. While John’s project started as a one time event, it quickly began to grow and take on a life of it’s own. Here is John’s story:
The name of my project originally was the Scottish Masters Class, a class dedicated to the best artistic expression possible, bar none. The target community of my project was Scottish artists both established and beginners particularly young artists. As the Self-Expression and Leadership Program progressed the project expanded! It went from a small one time class to “Mastery of Scottish Arts”, an organization created to preserve and develop Scottish arts (piping dancing and drumming), raise them to world-class levels in the Pacific Northwest,and by example, raise the level of these art forms throughout the United States. In three months, using the distinctions of the Self-Expression and Leadership Program, I formed a corporation and enrolled a Board of Directors. I then enrolled a World Champion bagpiper from Scotland. Using the distinctions of enrollment/agreement I promoted his participation to other great artists and I enrolled a cadre of World Champion artists from Scotland, Canada and the US. Our first school was held in 1998 and has continued every year since then. In addition to the instruction, the “Mastery of Scottish Arts Foundation” puts on an annual concert by these Masters
The faculty of the school consists of world class piper’s dancers and drummers who are enrolled in passing on their knowledge and developing the future of these art forms through world-class instruction of young students. Members of the faculty are world champions in their artistic form and at the time Mastery of Scottish Arts was formed there was no place on the planet where such a stellar group had been assembled in one place for the purpose of instruction and performance. For example, one of the original instructors was the pipe major for a six time world championship pipe band. For students to be able to take lessons from this individual would be like a little league baseball player being able to take lessons from the captain of a baseball team who had won six World Series in a row! By virtue of the caliber of the instruction the school quickly became known as the best in the world. Students from around the world have attended and range from raw beginners to accomplished artists. Unlike other schools, beginners are guaranteed personal lessons with World Masters. An analogy would be a young opera hopeful being given the opportunity to have lessons with not just one, but each of the “Three Tenors”. The school is in its 10th year and other schools similar to Mastery of Scottish Arts are now in existence. The quality of piping dancing and drumming in the United States continues to rise dramatically. Many young students who attended the school have gone on to become world class competitors.
The Masters of Scottish Arts concert was initiated in conjunction with the first Mastery of Scottish Arts Winter School in 1998, with the vision of broadening the audience for traditional Scottish bag piping, drumming and Highland dance. The first concert drew about 350 people and after a venue change to Benaroya Hall, the state of the art acoustically superior home of Seattle Symphony, the attendance grew to over 2300 people, giving the concert the distinction of being the most largely attended solo piping dancing and drumming concert anywhere in the world. What makes the concert unique is that it is the only time the performers, all the very best in the genre, play together as an ensemble. Two high quality compact discs of the live recordings have been released to date.
The possibility of preserving this art form, raising it to world-class levels in the United States and providing instruction for artists at all levels regardless of age and skill level is a reality.