Sunday, November 28, 1999

Teen has passion for bagpipes

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Unlike other teens, 18-year-old Kyle Driscoll has forsaken the sounds of punk, rap and grunge for the ancient, melodic tunes of bagpipes.

        The Beechwood High School senior has played “the pipes” for three years. He listens to Celtic music in his spare time and is looking at colleges that offer piping degrees.

        His passion, he said, was inspired by the instrument's lore, history and resonance.

        “I just liked the sound of it. It just kind of struck something in me that I liked,” said the teen, who draws a blank when asked if he likes anything playing on popular radio.

        His father, Jim, used to take Kyle to Scottish festivals, where he was first exposed to the pipes. When he turned 15, he asked his father for lessons.

        He now practices daily, takes weekly lessons and is one of several pipers in the Cincinnati Caledonian Pipe Band. Kyle is one of the youngest members.

        All the hard work has paid off, said his instructor, Mike Rackers of West Price Hill.

        “He's already gotten to a level that most pipers in this city haven't gotten to,” he said. “If he keeps doing what he keeps doing, he's going to go a lot farther. He has a lot of reason to be happy about his piping.”

        And he is.

        Kyle's mother, Victoria Driscoll, said her son is normally very shy, but that playing the pipes really brings him out of his shell.

        “I'm ever so proud of him. I couldn't be more proud. The music just speaks to his heart,” she said, noting that even when Kyle is sitting down his fingers will still be moving as though practicing on the pipes.

        “It almost seems like a vocation,” she said. “It has given him a tremendous sense of purpose.” ”

        Her voice breaks when she talks about the time Kyle played the bagpipes at a senior citizens' home on St. Patrick's Day and several residents came out of their rooms to see where the music was coming from.

        One of the residents sent Kyle a letter saying she had never seen some of those people leave their rooms before.

        “He was very touched,” she said. “He has a deep sense of history. He's a very spiritual boy.”

        Kyle's piping practice has reaped similar results in his neighborhood, where nearby residents linger at windows and doors to listen to the music he plays, which can range from the lilting to the melancholy.

        “If you work at it, you just get better and better,” said Kyle, sitting at his home with sheets of music before him. “As long as you put the time in, it's not too hard.”

        Kyle plans to attend Northern Kentucky University next year.

        He is considering a transfer to Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and other universities that offer piping degrees and scholarships.


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