Visiting midnight bagpiper blows through campus

Molly Johanson

On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 24, the sound of bagpipes marched its way through campus.

“It was a very surreal moment,” said sophomore Lydia Bailey. “I couldn’t tell where it was coming from or if it was live or recorded. I really appreciated it.”

The origin of the music was Danny Hale, an amateur bagpiper who visited campus as an umpire for this weekend’s tennis tournament. Hale decided to practice bagpiping in his evening off hours.

Hale’s bagpiping attracted quite a crowd, and Hale amiably answered questions from bystanders. He even gave his surrounding audience on Sunday night a quick lesson about reeds and drones. The reeds are what the air blows through in order to make sound, and they can be adjusted looser or tighter. The drone reeds, extra pipes that make the droning background sound, are made of plastic.

When Hale needed to tighten a drone reed to achieve a better sound, a Whitman security guard who had stopped to listen offered his flashlight. According to Hale, the weather was just a little too humid, so the reeds were suffering.

For 11 years Hale played snare drum and managed the Tri-Cities-based Desert Thistle Pipe band. This last year he switched over to bagpipes to accommodate the decreasing number of bagpipe players. According to Hale, there are only about 11 bagpipers in the band.

“People are dwindling, so that’s why I’m switching over [to bagpipes],” said Hale. “I figure another 25 years and I’ll have it down.”

When asked about his Scottish heritage, Hale jokingly replied that he was “just a wee bit” Scottish.

The security guard said that as long as he didn’t get any complaints, Hale could continue playing. ¬†However, not everyone was enamored with the bagpiping.

“If it was in the daytime I’d be okay with it,” said soph0more Melina Hughes, who was distracted by the playing.

Many others, however, enjoyed the quirky musical interlude to their evening.

“I thought it was a fun and quirky interruption of what’s normally a pretty routine walk home for me,” said Anastasia Zamkinos, resident director of the IHC, in an email. “The bagpipes were surprising and therefore made me pay more attention to the sounds and sights of campus at night than I have in a long time, and that ended up contributing to a few moments of appreciation and peacefulness that I’m really grateful for.”

Sophomore Ivana Vukovic also enjoyed the music.

“I was stressed that night, so it was refreshing to hear something as random as bagpipe music,” she said.

Hale’s parting words on Sunday evening were cheery and hopeful: “See you next year. I’ll be better then!”