Andy Rogers was born on March 16th, 1966 in Fredericton, New
Brunswick to Edward Rogers and his wife, Elizabeth who played pipes
when she was a young girl. "Her father and grandfather, also a piper,
came to Fredericton from Scotland in the early 1920's," says Andy. "I
have a brother and two sisters, but theyíre not involved in the piping
scene, though my little sister was a tenor drummer for a brief period.
As a child, the first piping album we owned was John D. Burgess' "King
of Highland Pipers" and I played it over and over until the grooves
were well worn. My mother started playing again when I was 8 years old
and that got me interested in learning."
Andy was an active young boy, a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, and a model builder. He played soccer and rugby in junior and senior high and in his first year of university. "But piping was a major interest for me," he says.
Andy began his study of the bagpipes with the late Ivan M. Downie, long time Pipe Major and instructor of the Fredericton Society of St. Andrew Pipe Band. "He was an Ďold schoolí instructor," Andy says. "He started me off with exercises, exercises, and exercises.... I knew how to play a crunluath (an intricate movement used in piobaireachd) up and down the scale before I learned my first tune - which was called "Mairi Bhan". The late James McGee showed me the world of the competitive March, Strathspey and Reel and influenced me greatly. He willed me his bagpipe which was given to me when he passed away in 1986 - a set of 1908 Centers. I've played them ever since. I studied with Bob Worrall to a small degree and with Ed Neigh who has been a great influence, mentor, teacher and friend for both light music and piobaireachd. I am currently studying piobaireachd with Bruce Gandy, an excellent teacher on top of all of his other accomplishments in piping."
Andy joined the Fredericton Society of St Andrew Pipe Band in 1979 and was with them, under the leadership of Sandy Gordon, when the band won Grade II North American Pipe Band Championships in 1987, 1989, and 1990. "I left the band after the 1992 season to pursue the solo circuit only to join up with them again for 1995. In 1996, however, I joined the Halifax Police Association Grade I Pipe Band and have been with that organization (now the 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel Pipes and Drums) ever since."
"From a Pipe Major's point-of-view," says the Halifax bandís musical director, Roderick MacLean, "Andy is a very valuable part of the team. He always brings a positive, "lets-get-it-done" attitude to practice, along with a good sense of humour and a great bagpipe. He's definitely one of the power players in the band."
"This past year, 2003, was an absolutely wild ride!" continues Andy. "We won the Grade 1 Canadian Pipe Band Championship at Fort Erie in June and followed that up with a win at the North American Championship in Maxville, Ontario in August. These wins are still just sinking in. There is nothing quite like being the first band to march off the field at Maxville - and being the first in the beer tent!"
Despite the time commitment that playing in a prize-winning pipe band demands, Andy was very active in the solo competitions. He went through the amateur grades (entering at the Grade Three level) during the eighties, and advanced to Open in 1989 after winning the 1988 Grade One Piobaireachd at Maxville. "Competing in the Open Piping events has been very rewarding for me over the years," he says. "I was able to win the title of Atlantic Canada Champion Supreme in 1991, 1994, and 2003. I won the William Livingstone Sr. Memorial Invitational in 1997, and the Silver Medal for Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban, Scotland in 2001. I would say, however, that my most memorable achievement in piping would have to be when I won the Open Piobaireachd at The New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain in 1997. The tune selected by the judges for me to play was "The End of the Great Bridge" and I don't think I have ever played a better tune. That being said, my most prestigious achievement in piping, so far, would have to be the Oban Silver Medal. One of my goals is to win one of the Gold medals at either Oban (The Argyllshire Gathering) or Inverness (The Northern Meeting)."
A university graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Major in Classics and a Bachelor of Education degree in Secondary Social Studies, Andy has worked as a property manager/owner of apartment buildings (a landlord) for past six years in Fredericton. He finds time to work on and restore an old Land Rover and restores antique furniture. He pursues interests in history, cooking, and wine/whisky tasting.
"I try to take an active part in the Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association," says Andy. "I received my judging credentials from the ACPBA in 2003, which entitles me to judge all grades, solo and band. I judged two contests on our circuit this past summer and I've already been hired to judge in the United Sates this coming June. Iím a member of the Competing Pipers Association Scotland. I think any serious solo competitor should join the CPA because most contests now are looking for the grade level for open piping that the CPA issues to its members. I do a bit of teaching, with a number of private students, all adults from around Fredericton and Maine. Over the years I've taught a few clinics, workshops, and summer schools. This summer, I'll be teaching in Ohio and at the Gaelic College in Cape Breton.
"I like to collect solo piping recordings," Andy continues. ""The World's Greatest Pipers" series by Lismor has been an extremely valuable resource for pipers. I pretty much appreciate all forms of music, except for "rap music" or "hip hop music" which I don't think are forms of music at all, and I have quite a varied collection. I also like collecting books on the history of piping and piping music."
Andyís successes on the competition platform have opened other doors to him. "I did quite a few recitals last year and have some lined up for this year. I quite enjoy this aspect of performing. It gives me an opportunity to interact with the audience and explain the bagpipe and the pieces that Iím going to play. I have been on a few recordings by local musicians, a track here and a track there.
To achieve such a high degree of success, Andy has had to think seriously about what he wanted to do in his piping. His insights, formed over many years, could be helpful to others who are climbing the same ladder. "If I was going to give advice to the young players out there, it would be to get a reputable teacher, work on technique so that it is flawless and, as it has been said in the past by better teachers and players than I, practice, practice, practice! Develop your ear so that you are playing a well blown, well set up bagpipe all of the time. Listen to good players whenever you can, and try to produce the sound, musical expression and technique that they do.
"As a whole," Andy says, "I think piping in the Maritimes is in very good shape and getting better. We have excellent, world-class players and teachers at our doorstep and, as the bands from here have demonstrated in 2003 and in past years, band organizations that can make it to the top in Grade II and Grade I. In the last few years we have greatly improved the calibre of our own judging ranks through better testing and work shops and I hope that the ACPBA judging committee continues the excellent work they have done in the past and provide future workshops for our judges to improve even more.
"I certainly think that, in the Maritimes, we have a very distinctive musical style. There is, of course, the "Cape Breton" style of piping which is very unique and musical on itís own. But I think, overall, our playing and choice of repertoire are very "music" driven. One just has to look at the medley performances at Maxville this year. By far, the most musical performances in Grades I and II were played by the bands from the Maritimes.
"If there is one thing that I have noticed about the state of solo playing is that more players are getting better. For Example, at Oban and Inverness this year I was hard pressed to hear a bad bagpipe or poor player in either the Gold or Silver Medal competitions. This is not just happening at the larger contests. I have been seeing this at most contests that I attend.
"We have some extremely talented players coming up through the ranks in the Maritimes, and I think most teachers are teaching their students well. However, the students must realize that it takes dedication and practice to reach the top. I know that there are many things out there that people like to be involved in but, if one is going to be the "best" at something, it takes special effort. Students need to go their teachers for regular tuition and they must have a good sounding instrument - sound is the key. If you are going to do it, do it. If not, then donít. I think it is pretty much as simple as that. We have the tools here - excellent teachers that have been there! To improve the already excellent standard of playing that we have, we need to use them.