Alison Dunsire - a piper

Updated September 2002  (a bit slow getting to this - oops)

I've discovered there are actually many people watching Alison's piping history. As it continues the details grow, so I've decided to create this separate web page for her.

(Photo is Alison at 10, in her first contest - February 1995)

August 1, 2000 - created this web page.

  visit since.

A summary and index into this web page:

Started on the pipes at age 10 (1995) - played in WUSPBA grade 4 (we lived in California)
11/12 years old  (1996) - WUSPBA Champion of Grade 3
12/13 years old  (1997) - WUSPBA Champion of Grade 2
...................................... WUSPBA Champion of Champions Grade 2
13/14 years old (1998) - Grade 1 - 1/2 year in WUSPBA and 1/2 year in BCPA (we moved)
14/15 years old (1999) - BCPA Grand Aggregate Champion Grade 1
.................................... - a member of RMMPB - winners of  the Juvenile World Championship in Scotland
15/16 years old (2000) - BCPA 68th Annual Gathering Aggregate Grade 1
....................................- BCPA Grand Aggregate Grade 1
....................................- Professional Class competitive debut
....................................- Pipe Major of the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band
16/17 years old (2001) - Professional class competitor - a few cash prizes(!)
................................... - Her band (RMMPB) wins the Juvenile World Championship in Scotland
................................... - the newest member of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band
17/18 years old (2002) - Professional class solo competitor
................................... - heavy school workload - no band for her for the year

Dec 15, 2000 - sound files of Alison's Professional Piping Debut in MP3. (she was 16).

Also from this page you can find a few tunes played by Alison:
The Homewrecker - MP3 - on the pipes - 15 years old.
Dornie Ferry - WAV - on the pipes - she was 13
Mr.'s Tennis Ball - WAV - on the P.C. - she was 13

Or - you may return to my Family's Bagpipe Page

Alison Plays a full silver set of Naill bagpipes. These pipes were  originally mine, however from the beginning of her piping career I promised her a 'great' set of pipes if she made it to Grade 1 for solo - so, Feb. 1998 these became her bagpipes.

Year 2002:

aIMG_3852.jpg (32760 bytes)For the first time in her piping career, Alison did not play in a pipe band for most of the year. She graduated from High School in June 2002, and she also graduated with a 2 year college degree at the same time! The workload to do this meant she had to choose between band and solo piping, and following her teacher's  (Jack Lee) recommendation, she dedicated herself to solos. 

A few prizes in the Pacific Northwest over the summer (in perhaps the most competitive professional class in the world), a  highlight locally was finishing with a 3rd in the Pro Piobaireachd at our biggest games (Enumclaw) (Jack Lee first, Alan Bevan second, Alison third - and many more great pros in the class).

A  two week trip to Scotland, where Crieff was one highlight; 3rd in the Open MSR, 5th in the Open Piobaireachd - A massive, and impressive Open class there - 30 competitors - and no shortage of great pipers.  We then flew home, arriving late on a Tuesday, she hopped in a car with her mum and sister first thing the next morning and drove 900 miles to Pleasanton - arriving Thursday night.  There (on Friday) she WON (!!) her first Professional Event - the Professional Piobaireachd.  Pleasanton, our old home town, is the largest games in the world in terms of spectators, and a pretty big deal in terms of solos too ( 17 in the class I think - Adrian Melvin 2nd, Decker Forrest 3rd, Ian Whitelaw 4th).  She also finished 4th in the MSR there.

The photo is Alison with the trophy from Pleasanton -  Quite a thrill to see her name on this.

Alison has now moved away (to Bellingham) to continue with college, she hopes to be able to find the time to join a band again (guess which one?)

Year 2001:

Alison, Jack and Terry LeeThis photo (which I took) was on the cover of the September 2001 issue of the Piping Times - Alison holds the Grade One World Championship trophy, with Jack and Terry Lee (Pipe Sergeant and Pipe Major of the 4 time World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band) beside her.

A second year as Pipe Major of the RMM PB, and she learned even more.  What a great experience, learning about leading a band from Jack and Terry Lee. The kids band won the Juvenile World Championship in Scotland (again - they did this in 1999 too).  And, as in 1999, the senior band  (SFU) also won. 

Solos for the year were just OK.. The professional class in the BCPA is amazingly strong, but Alison did show up in the prizes a few times, and she really enjoyed the cash!

A few solo contests in Scotland also - no prizes, but memorable, and the start of her professional career.

gr1pf.jpg (10483 bytes)Year 2000:

The photo to the left shows Alison (now 16) with the trophy for the Grade 1 Solo Piping Grand Aggregate - taken November 2000.

She entered her first contest as a Professional competitor in December - the first round of the BCPA Knock Out, and.... she is moving on to the second round. You can hear her performance:  Alison's Professional Piping Debut

Alison's Grade 1 solo career ended with two BIG amateur invitational contests. Only the top (12-15) Grade 1 players from North America are invited to the Nicol-Brown, Connecticut in October, and the George Sherriff, Ontario in November.   Her final contest as a Grade 1 player was the Sherriff, where Alison finished 4th in her Piobaireachd, 1st in the MSR, and 4th Overall. Now she is just 'another 16 year old' professional competitor.

She is the Pipe Major of the 1999 Juvenile World Champions - the  Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band (from Burnaby BC).

2000 Solo Year: Alison won the overall for Grade 1 Piping at the BC Pipers' Annual Gathering, and she was (again) the BC Pipers' Association Grade 1 Grand Aggregate Champion. (quite dominant this year, she had more than twice the points of the second place finisher).. in fact..

alfinig3.jpg (8863 bytes)In the 29 events BCPA Grade 1 events entered  during the year Alison was in the prizes 26 times, with 16 of them 1st place finishes. (most of these events had 10 or more competitors.) As planned, she worked very hard on  Piobaireachd for this year and in the 8 Piobaireachd events entered, she finished 1st seven  times (2nd one time). Her MSRs were pretty good too - five 1st place finishes in 10 events entered. Alison has decided she just isn't a Jig / Hornpipe player this year (with four 1sts  in 11 events) - next year I guess.

(Photo on the right was taken during G1 solo MSR July 2000: Alison's magic hands with Mickey Mouse band aids to cover blisters (from riding her horse). Michael Cusack and Alasdair Gillies were two of her solo judges this day, she won those events (Piob & MSR) - but I wonder if they noticed the fingers?)

al00ag.jpg (8307 bytes)The photo to the left was taken in April, 2000.  Alison (15 at the time) is holding the trophy for winning Grade 1 class at the BC Pipers' 68th Annual Gathering. (She does not like this photo)

2000 Band Year: Pipe Major of the 1999 Juvenile World Champions; band can't be much more fun that that  (well, if they win in 2001, that'll be even more fun I'm sure). Alison has been having an immense amount of fun and is learning (from Jack and Terry Lee) a great deal. 

Her band (playing in Grade 3) won every event they entered.

alrmmtrp.jpg (16387 bytes)Year 1999:

The photo to the left was taken during the Fall of 1999 - Her band returned, after the month of August in Scotland, with these trophies (25 in total - including the World's)

1999 Solo Year: Winter contests were a series of learning experiences - with little success, but real progress being made. 

The 1999 summer solo season was cut short at the request of her band - they asked the kids to stop playing solos part way through July and concentrate on band music - so she did.

Before the required  break in solos, Alison had done quite well for herself - in each of her Grade 1 contests  she was  in the prizes for every light music event - she was the only Grade 1 player in the BCPA to do this..  (Piobaireachd, well.. next season.)  In 9 light music events this summer Alison placed 1st  5 times, with classes that always had a more than 10 Grade 1 players. 

Although she missed the last 3 contests of the season, Alison had built up a large enough lead in overall points that she is the 1999 BC Pipers' Association Grand Aggregate winner for Grade 1.

As a judge once said 'Not bad for a California girl!'

1999 Invitational Contests: There are two really prestigious invitational contests held each fall. As the Grand Aggregate winner of the BCPA Grade 1 class Alison  was invited to both (the Nicol - Brown Invitational in Connecticut, and the George Sherriff Memorial  in Ontario).

Alison was quite  happy with her performances at both the Nicol-Brown and the Sherriff (she played as well as she could at the time) although she did not receive any prize. These were contests with an amazingly high standard of play and while she was originally a bit disappointed, she quickly realized the honour was in the invitations - just the top12 amateurs were invited,  from all of North America! (next year - she says).

1999 Band Year: RMMPB  Grade 3 / Juvenile - they won every Grade 3 and Juvenile contest they entered, including the World Pipe Band Championship in Scotland.   They even won 3 of the 5 times they competed in Grade 2 in Scotland. - A very good band, and a great deal of fun for the kids.

1998 Solo Year: (Grade 1 - 13 years old)

The photo to the right was taken summer 1998.

Should a 13 year old girl from California be in Grade 1 for solo competition? Most would probably say 'no'.  However, Alison is motivated by a challenge, and her results in Grade 2 clearly showed she was at the top of that class - so she moved up.  

The start of the season: Her first big solo contest of the year was the BC Pipers' 66th Annual Gathering (4/98)- in Vancouver.  In Grade 1 there the class had 25 competitors (there are not even that many grade 1 players in all of WUSPBA, which was, at the time, our home Pipe Band Association.) Alison was pleased with her playing, and felt she had played reasonably well in each event.  When the results were announced she was very pleased indeed- she had placed 2nd in the Jig. She then felt comfortable, 'even in Western Canada' in Grade 1. 

Alison competed solo throughout the spring and summer of '98, in a few WUSPBA contests (some WUSPBA contests don't have a grade 1 class, so she watched her sister play), and in a few BCPA contests (at the start of summer we moved to Washington State, so the BC Pipers' Association (BCPA) is now our home association).  

London, England: In November 1998 we flew to London England for a solo contest - Grade 1 for solo has no meaning there and Alison played in classes that included professional players. She enjoyed the experience, learned quite a lot, and .. well.. next time. (she says)

The move to grade 1 solo is quite a step from grade 2, and the move to the BCPA is quite a change from the WUSPBA.  Alison was very pleased with her first solo year in grade 1. With only one exception she placed (top three) in at least one event at every solo competition, and she did this in grade one classes of between 10 and 25 competitors. Based on contest results it would appear that she is in the top 1/3rd of the grade 1 class in the BCPA, and she has set  some lofty goals for next season ...check back.... (1999 update - she was the top of the Grade 1 class for the 1999 season!)

1997 Solo Year: (Grade 2 - 12 years old)

The picture to the right  is from the summer of 1997.

Alison competed solo through all of 1997 in grade 2.   She won  the grade 2  solo overall in all of the major WUSPBA  (Western US Pipe Band Association) contests in 1997 and moved up to Grade 1* for solo competition in 1998.

Alison  also won the WUSPBA grade 2 Championship for 1997, and she won the title 'WUSPBA Champion of  Champions' for  Grade 2 for 1997 (the yearly championship.)   Not a bad year for a piper that turned 13 in the summer of 1997.

In WUSPBA's largest solo contests of 1997, Costa Mesa (Memorial Day weekend), Pleasanton (Labor Day weekend), and the WUSPBA Championship; there were 11 individual solo events for Grade 2,  Alison placed first in 10 of the 11 events (she had a 'bad' , by her standard, Piobaireachd day in Pleasanton in '97- placing 3rd out of 8).

(* Grade 1:   Solo bagpipe competitors (in North America) are divided into grade levels based upon their skill and or accomplishments.  The lowest level is sometimes called Grade 5 - these are beginners, often not even playing the full bagpipes.  In WUSPBA bagpipe competition starts at grade 4. In 1997 Grade 4 has nearly 50% of all bagpipe amateur solo competitors, Grade 3 has nearly 25% of  solo competitors.  Grade 2 has about 12% . To put Grade 1 solo into perspective: this is the highest amateur solo competition level - the vast majority of competitive bagpipers will not ever make it to this grade, and those who do are highly skilled, dedicated, and typically in their late teens or early twenties.  In WUSPBA in 1997, 93% of the  amateur solo competitors are in the lower grades - 4, 3, and 2  )

1996 Solo Year: (Grade 3 - 11 years old)

Alison moved  up to Grade 3 following the Queen Mary (Long Beach CA) competition of  February 1996 (where she won the overall- it was a 'cute' picture on the award stand - a little 11 year old girl and  her competitors, men who ranged in age from 18 ?to 40?).  She improved quite quickly through 1996, and in the last contest of the year Alison won the Western US Pipe Band Association grade 3 Championship.  Working hard through the winter of '96/97 she moved up to grade 2 for solo.

1995 Solo Year: (Grade 4 - 10 years old)

The picture to the left is from Alison's first solo contest, on the Queen Mary, in Long Beach California, February 1995, Grade 4 - she placed 4th and 3rd - out of 4 in the 16 and under grade 4 class - she was 10 at the time.  Her judge there was Richard Parkes (PM of  Field Marshal Montgomery). Since that time we have  had the good fortune to get to know Richard and his brother Gordon, and we are proud to be able to count them among our bagpiping  friends now. 

I was Alison's first bagpipe teacher.
Scott MacDonald (PM LA Scots)
Stuart Liddell (SFU)
Alan Bevan (SFU)
Jack Lee (SFU) is now her solo teacher.

Piping schools:
1995 College of Piping - PEI, Canada,
1998 Mastery of Scottish Arts - WA, USA,
1999 Piping Hot Summer Drummer School in BC.,
2000 Piping Hot Summer Drummer School in BC.


Would you like to hear Alison playing (11/97 - on the practise chanter) a jig that she wrote?  This is a two part jig named "MR's tennis ball" 44KWAV  A friend wrote a two parted jig that was named 'Hanna's squeaky cake' - for their dog Hanna, and her favorite toy ' a squeaky, Alison wrote a third and fourth  part for that jig, and named it after our dog (Mr.), and his favorite toy.  You might notice that Alison is a circular breather:  

The original bagpipe was  most likely the cheeks of a person playing something like our practise chanter.  The cheeks provide a reservoir of air to be used to 'power' the chanter while the person inhales (through the nose).  In this fashion the player never stops playing to take a breath, there is always air going through the chanter.  It is kind of like the separation that occurs if you were to squirt water from your mouth while inhaling through your nose.

I'm told it is either easy to learn or very difficult.  I guess I am one of the lucky ones - shortly after I saw someone doing circular breath  (the advantages were obvious, ) I learned to do it.  Alison learned very quickly also.  We don't even think about it now, in fact it is very difficult to play the practise chanter without circular breathing.


Would you like to hear Alison play one of her solo Strathspeys (3/98 -  on her pipes)? We recorded this with the standard $3 Personal Computer microphone, but the sound quality is nearly acceptable.

This is a 193K wave file - for 1 minute 5 seconds of music.


Recorded with the $3 PC microphone, just playing around (complete with a mistake), converted to MP3 - 1 minute 4 seconds of music, 192K MP3