Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

And the Winner Is….

“I can’t tell people I won $200 dollars in the talent show and then tell them I did something boring with it.” Intrigued? Us too —read it, you know you wanna.
Michael McLeod
Pictured above, the bagpipe legend himself: Michael McLeod.

Sitting in the audience at McAlister Auditorium for Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia’s 40th Annual Family Weekend Talent Showcase, you chuckle at another musical theory joke by the MC, Dr. Dobbs, and struggle to remember the Alma Mater in solfege, grateful at last to be introduced to the next act.

From off stage you hear the hauntingly beautiful beginning notes of a bagpipe’s lullaby and suddenly you are transported to the vibrant rolling hills of Scotland. Out marches Michael McLeod in full Scottish dress. His kilt is a striking yellow and black accessorized with a traditional sporran pouch. Knee high, thick wool hose, a jacobite-esque shirt, and traditional shoes called ghillie brogues complete the ensemble and transport you even further into the Scottish Highlands. For the next several minutes, you are completely transfixed as McLeod takes you on an extraordinary journey through time and space.

Michael McLeod is a junior from Greenwood, South Carolina. He is a biology major on the premed track, hoping to eventually become a dentist. While he plays several instruments and acts as the section leader for the saxophones in the Paladin Regimine, he has no intention of majoring in music.

“I just like to play anything that is in front of me,” he said. McLeod began playing the bagpipes at nine years old, following in the footsteps of his older brother: “I have no idea what got him into bagpiping… he just heard bagpipes and was like ‘I want to do that’… and then he [took] it seriously.” Now the brothers have a website and perform gigs for Scottish festivals and other venues up and down the East Coast. McLeod has also competed and won several professional grade bagpipe competitions. Although he was excited to perform at the talent show, he had a little help signing up. 

“My dad had seen it on some schedule for family weekend like a month in advance,” McLeod said. “He kept asking me about it and bothering me about it…He said he already got tickets!” McLeod was not sure where to even sign up until two weeks before the talent show when it was announced at a marching band rehearsal. Disregarding his hectic schedule – and not realizing there was any money involved – McLeod decided to go for it. “Sounds like fun,” he said.

The songs he chose were ones he had performed before, but the order he put them in was rather scandalous for the bagpiping community. “It’s kind of a weird mix of tunes…any traditional bagpiper would probably consider it a sin, the order that I played these tunes in, because I went from a slow air [slow, instrumental ballad] into a reel [dance tune]… that kind of transition would never happen; if your’e going to play slow air into something, you would play slow air into a hornpipe [another type of dance tune slower than a reel]. But instead I played that after a reel,” he explained.

McLeod began slow with “Samantha’s Lullaby,” a traditional slow air tune he has known for a long time. Fans of the song may have noticed he only played half of it, but he only needed that much to walk out onto the stage. Knowing his audience, McLeod wasted no time jumping into “Pressed for Time,” an upbeat reel that had everybody tapping their toes to the beat. An extremely modern song for bagpipe music, “Pressed for Time” was written in the 80s and is extremely fast paced, even for a reel.

“I don’t think I’ve heard a tune you can play faster than you can play that…it’s a lot of fun to play.” The song after that, “John Cairn’s Double,” was also a more modern song. Although traditionally this hornpipe would be played after the slow air, McLeod had performed it so many times he could play it in a way that fully realized the song’s energetic nature. So even though the tune is technically slower than “Pressed for Time,” McLeod felt that “John Cairn’s Double” allowed him to crescendo through the set and end on a climactic high note.

Even though he was balancing the talent show with performing in the band at the football game and a busy week of classes, McLeod still managed to win the first-place prize, $200. Although he is not sure what he is going to do with his spoils yet, he is determined it has to be something fun.

“I can’t tell people I won $200 dollars in the talent show and then tell them I did something boring with it,” he said. He credits his win to his parent’s continuous support and his late bagpipe instructor, Jimmy Macintosh.

McLeod can often be found playing the bagpipes around the lake on nice days. Or you can catch him and his brother in July at the Scottish Festival in Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina.




Leave a Comment
Donate to The Paladin

Your donation will support the student journalists of Furman University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Paladin

Comments (0)

All The Paladin Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *