Bill Caudill, Director of the Scottish Heritage Center and Instructor
of the College Pipe Band at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in
Laurinburg, North Carolina, was born in 1967 in Charlotte and grew up
in the country outside the small town of Waxhaw. His father, William
Jake Caudill was from the community of Ronda in the foothills of the
North Carolina Mountains. His mother, Margaret Kell Caudill was from
the Charlotte area and grew up in and around Waxhaw. "My father was
raised in an area where there was a lot of traditional Appalachian and
old-time music," says Bill. "He was an avid square dancer in his
younger days. My mother played piano. I am an only child, which I think
greatly contributed to my early piping career and the fact that my
parents catered to my interests."
Most of Billís maternal grandmotherís ancestors settled in the Upper Cape Fear and Upper Pee Dee river valleys of the Carolinas, which was the site of the largest Highland settlement in North America until well into the 19th century. "I live only a few minutes drive from the gravesites of at least eight emigrant ancestors from Scotland. I have connections to Skye (MacQueens, MacDonalds, MacRaes), Glenelg (MacCrimmons), and Islay (Sinclairs and MacKenzies) just to name a few of my Highland ancestors who came to the Carolinas in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At least some were Gaelic speakers, but none that I know of were musicians, though Iíd love to claim some genetic connection between my piping and the fact that my fourth great grandmother was a MacCrimmon."
Bill started chanter lessons in 1976 when he was in the third grade and took his pipes to play for Ďshow and tellí when he was in fourth grade. By the time he was in junior high school, he was playing regularly with a pipe band and did a lot of performances in his community. "I felt that I was considered a bit of an oddball," Bill says. "Not too many people knew much about things Scottish and Iím sure a lot of folks thought that my wearing a kilt and playing the pipes was strange to say the least. Nonetheless, I led a fairly normal teen life, and had friends who did appreciate what I did in my spare time. I played in the high school marching band and did a special feature one year playing the pipes for one of the bandís shows."
When it came time to consider colleges, Bill chose St. Andrews Presbyterian College, a small college of the liberal arts and sciences located in Laurinburg, North Carolina. "There were a number of reasons for this," he explains. "First, I am a Presbyterian and knew of the college through the church. Secondly, I had deep family roots in the community and region in which the college was located. Third, the college had always had some identification with its Scottish Presbyterian roots as well as the historic connections it had with this region of Highland settlement."
One of the Collegeís parent institutions, Flora MacDonald College, located in Red Springs, had actively recruited dancers and pipers from Nova Scotia in the late 1940ís and 50ís. St. Andrews was formed from the merger of this institution and one other in 1956. "Since itís opening," says Bill, "the college always hired pipers to play for convocations and graduations. I was a pretty good High School student so I received a handsome academic scholarship at St. Andrews, but once they found out about my piping interests and abilities they added an additional stipend to be the "Official Piper" for the college. During my four years of undergraduate work I not only played for all official events, but also served as an ambassador for the college playing at church engagements, civic functions, etc. I became a Ďpiping poster childí for the college, which in turn raised awareness of the collegeís Scottish roots and connections and it enabled me to bring piping into an area which had not had it for at least two or three generations."
Bill was an avid student of history and this became his academic major. "My interests were primarily in ante-bellum Southern history and the American Civil War, but due to the connections I made in this area of genealogical importance to me, I soon veered toward Scottish-American history and the history of Scots in North Carolina. I did my undergraduate honours thesis on the historical use of Gaelic in the old Highland settlements of the region. That work led me to connections to several scholars in Scotland and some scholarly attention to my interests and research. I won our history departmentís prize for ĎBest Paper of the Yearí with that work. I graduated from St. Andrews in May of 1989 with a B.A. degree with Honours in History."
Just prior to graduation Bill was asked to remain at St. Andrews to join the college staff with the hopes of creating a number of projects that would further highlight and bring attention to the collegeís Scottish identity and roots. "Little did I know that what had been my hobby was to become my profession!"
After establishing the Scottish Heritage Center at St. Andrews and its associated projects, which included founding a college pipe band, Bill was rewarded by the college with the opportunity to pursue graduate studies. He acquired a M.A. in Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "My thesis dealt with oral histories associated with the final major Highland emigration to North Carolina that occurred in 1884 comprised mainly of crofters from Skye and Lewis who were recruited by local Scottish-Americans as agricultural labourers. That has been, to date, the terminal point of my education."
Billís present occupation is Director of the Scottish Heritage Center and Instructor of the College Pipe Band at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. He has held a position on the college faculty since August of 1989. "My job entails not only instruction of the college pipe band but also serving as curator of a fairly notable collection of old and rare books dealing with Scotland and Scottish-American history and genealogy. I also do a lot of public relations outreach and fundraising work for the program."
Bill personally raised the funds for building the Scottish Heritage Center at the college. The 1800 sq. ft. facility houses the old and rare book collections as well as other artefacts and items relative to the history and traditions of Scots in the region. "I assist a good number of visitors who are researching genealogies as well as topics in Scottish-American history, and have assisted in the production of several BBC documentaries relative to the emigration of Scots to our region. I also coordinate a major academic symposium each year dealing with topics relative to Scots in North America and each year bring over several notable scholars from Scotland which attracts a couple of hundred attendees each year from throughout the U.S. and occasionally from Canada and Scotland as well. Being Scottish is truly my job and life now."
Bill was married in 1992 to Anne Michelle McLean and, while conducting research into their familiesí roots, they discovered that they had ancestors who came over from Scotland together on the same emigrant ship in 1802. "I have always felt that there was some sort of providential guidance that was leading me through life. This coincidence only deepens that belief!"
After several years of tagging along to his summer teaching engagements and performances Billís wife developed an interest in tenor drumming and became quite a good tenor drummer. She competed successfully at the Professional level in both the EUSPBA as well as at Maxville and Montreal, but in recent years she put the tenor drum down to devote her time to being a mother. "We have two children, John Alexander (John Alec), born December 3, 1999 and Daniel MacQueen born February 5, 2003. The fact that Iíve got two young ones in the house has just about eliminated my personal practice time but itís worth it. I am a confirmed and proud Ďfamily man.í
"I would have to say that, outside of piping, my hobby is history, but then again thatís also part of my job. I enjoy historical research and writing, and have had a number of articles published on the history and cultural retention of the Highland community in North Carolina. Also, I have lectured on topics relative to North Carolinaís Highland Settlement not only locally but also at symposia sponsored by the Scottish History Department at the University of Glasgow. My most recent major presentation of this type was at an academic conference honouring the work of Dr. Charles Dunn of Harvard Universityís Celtic Department who wrote the notable work Highland Settler. I enjoy interpreting to others what I have learned through my experiences and research."
When Bill expressed an interest in learning to play the bagpipes, his parents had a somewhat difficult time at first locating a tutor for him. About a year later, they found Dick Campbell, of Charlotte. "Dick was affiliated with the Charlotte Caledonian Pipe Band which was basically a street band but at the time I began tuition all of the players were correctly taught and they produced a reasonable sound. Dick was a reasonable player, but I think he knew his limitations. He used to always tell me, "Donít do as I do, do as I say." He took me through the exercises in the old Loganís Tutor, through the College of Piping Tutor, and onto a number of band tunes before I touched a bagpipe. I really thank him for that as, unlike so many kids I see today who get their pipes too early, I was ready for them and had a good dozen or more tunes off well before I moved on to the pipes.
"My first set of pipes were early 60ís vintage MacPhersonís, though I now play Dick Campbellís old silver and ivory Hendersons that were given to me after his death. I spent the first week blowing just the three drones and learning to tune them to each other. I think that was very important in the development of tuning and learning to blow tone. I then graduated up to the full instrument. I didnít have a problem with blowing the pipes and everyone used to talk about the hard reeds I liked to blow. Dick got me started on solo competitions as he felt that this would be a way to get feedback and encouragement in addition to what he was doing with me. My first competition tune was the "The 10th H.L.I. Crossing the Rhine," and I won 2nd place out of a good field.
About 1980, Burt Mitchell moved to the Charlotte area and eventually took over the Charlotte band, making it into a competitive entity. This shift took Bill away from Dick Campbell, but he had encouraged his young protťgť to move on as he felt he had done what he could with him. "Dick died unexpectedly in 1982 and that was quite a blow to me. Nonetheless, I reconciled myself that he would be proud that I had taken what he had given me and was putting it to good use. Burt was a successful professional competitor at that time. He worked with me and taught me a lot about expression and execution Ė particularly in dance music. He also gave me my first piobaireachd, "The Lament for the Old Sword."
"In the winter of 1982 I accepted an offer to join the Grandfather Mountain Highlanders who were a successful Grade III band in western North Carolina. There were a lot more young people involved in that band and that helped me make the decision to leave the Charlotte band. Harvey Ritch was the bandís Pipe Major and, though I never took any lessons from him, I learned a lot about band work and bagpipe sound from him. Harvey was a good teacher and had taught most of the players in the band himself. By 1984 he had recruited Ed Krintz, the former Pipe Major of the Grade II Denny and Dunipace band in Washington, D.C., to take over the Grandfather Mountain band. Ed was also an accomplished professional competitor and I got a few piobaireachd from him during my high school years."
From 1980 onward, Bill attended the North American Academy of Piping in Valle Crucis, North Carolina and was receiving a couple of weeks of tuition from Sandy Jones and Hamilton Workman each year. "Nonetheless, from 1982 onward, I was pretty much on my own. I learned a lot by listening to good recordings, and if there was one that was truly influential to me it was the 1974 recording made by Donald MacPherson in New Zealand. I had that LP and listened to cassette copies of it in my car driving to school so many times that I wore out the cassettes. That recording, perhaps more than anything, influenced my idea of what a good bagpipe was supposed to sound like and what good expression was.
"I learned a lot of light music tunes on my own and tried to make them sound like I thought they were supposed to sound. It was unfortunate that I was a bit geographically isolated from folks who could help me on a full-time basis. I did have the opportunity to spend a week at College of Piping in Glasgow in 1988 while I was over on a junior-year study trip connected with St. Andrews and I had piobaireachd tuition there from Fred Morrison, Sr. and Ronald Morrison. Colin MacLellan and Ed Neigh, with whom I have taught at the North American Academy of Piping, have also taken me through a few piobaireachd. Still, I regret that I havenít had the opportunity of working with a good teacher for any length of time since the early 80ís. I pretty much worked my way up from EUSPBA Amateur Grade III to the Professional level on my own without a regular teacher. Iím happy that Iíve been able to achieve what I have through absorbing what I could from a lot of sources. In some ways I think it has helped me be well rounded if nothing else."
Billís first band competition was at the games in Savannah, Georgia in 1980. "Nobody knew anything about the Charlotte band, as the band hadnít been active at all in competition. We turned some heads that day when the band played tunes like all four parts of "The Red Speckled Hen" and "Alec C. MacGregor" in our medley. It was definitely above grade level material and we did it pretty well. The Charlotte band under the leadership of Burt Mitchell went on to become the top Grade IV band in the South in the early 1980ís. When I left the band in the winter of 1982, I was at that time itís longest serving member. The band had seen an almost 100% turnover from older casual players to younger competitive players. I was always the youngest member during my time with the Charlotte band."
In the winter of 1982, Billís parents began driving him to Grandfather Mountain band practices in Linville, which was a little over a three hour drive from his home in Waxhaw, "until I got my driverís license and was able to make the trip myself" Bill adds. "The band had a lot of successes in Grade III in the early to mid-80s. For several years there werenít any bands from the South through the Mid-Atlantic who could touch their rendition of "Donald MacLeanís Farewell to Oban," "Caledonian Canal," and "The Sound of Sleat" in the MSR events."
When Ed Krintz took the band, he led it to additional successes. In 1986 the band was upgraded to Grade II and competed in Ontario at Maxville and Montreal that year. Ed appointed Bill as Pipe Sergeant of the band shortly after his arrival and the younger player began having a major part in the set-up work for the band. "In 1987 Edís work responsibilities forced him to relocate from the area and I was selected to become pipe major. At that time, the Grandfather Mountain band had a lot of young people in college, myself included, and we got together only about twice a month for all-day Saturday practices, meeting in Greensboro, which was centrally located for those in colleges here in the state. I commuted about 2 Ĺ hours twice a month from St. Andrews Presbyterian College to manage practices. It was difficult, but I was able to maintain both my academic life as well as my piping life to pretty high standards. I never missed making the Deanís List a single semester while in college despite the work I was putting in to piping. The Grandfather Mountain band took prizes at the few Grade II contests that were held at that time. I remember one very good performance we had at Delco in Pennsylvania in 1988. Unfortunately we didnít have the depth in drumming that we did in piping and this was always a handicap. During the late 80ís we definitely had the strongest pipe section in the Southern United States."
In 1989, Bill began teaching and recruiting to form a band for St. Andrews College but remained active as pipe major of Grandfather Mountain. "By the 1990 season, I was becoming stretched a little thin and stepped down from the pipe majorís position with Grandfather Mountain but Ed Krintz was able to secure a transfer back to North Carolina and resumed his role with the band. By 1991 I had gotten a group of players together at St. Andrews and we began doing some local performances. Our first ones were in street clothes as I also had the challenge of raising the funds to purchase uniforms for the band as part of my job. Iím very proud to say that, by the age of 23, I had founded and completely outfitted my own pipe band!"
In 1992 the band entered and won its first Grade V contest. During the next season, the band continued its successes in Grade V and also was challenging up to Grade IV and either winning or taking second place everywhere in the Southeast. In 1994 the band was upgraded to Grade IV and began attracting some experienced players to the college through scholarship offerings. The band played quite successfully in Grade IV through the 1998 season, and produced a recording. "This was a great educational project for the students involved. We sold about 3,000 copies and Ed Neigh gave it a very favourable review in the EUSPBA magazine, The Voice. It has also been heard on National Public Radioís "The Thistle and Shamrock" hosted by Fiona Ritchie."
The band was pretty much unchallenged in the Southeast in Grade IV and was upgraded to Grade III for the 1999 season. They have remained in Grade III since that time. "Iíve been told by some prominent pipers and judges that itís a shame that we arenít able to keep the band together during the summers as weíd likely do well at some of the larger contests in EUSPBA as well as in PPBSO. Thatís pretty much impossible, as weíve got students spread from as far away as Texas and Colorado as well as Massachusetts and Connecticut. With the geography involved it just isnít feasible. We are challenged by the fact that membership in a college band is transitional, as well as the fact that we are only active during the academic year, thus missing the major contests of the summer months. The band has never finished out of the prize list in any contest since itís competitive debut. Weíve had some good young players with lot of potential pass through our ranks and some have gone on to pursue their piping and drumming interests beyond the college years. In 2003 at Maxville I was extremely proud to have had alumni of the band playing in both the winning Grade I and Grade II bands. That was very fulfilling."
Bill has been participating in solo competition since 1979. "I remember my first first-place win at Charleston, South Carolina in 1980. From that time on it was only to get better. I won the EUSPBA Championship for Grade IV in 1981, for Grade III in 1982, the Grade II overall in 1984, and was among the top four players in Grade I for each of my four years in that grade (1985-1988). I also remember winning the Amateur Grade I Piobaireachd at Delco Games in Pennsylvania in 1988 playing "The MacLeodís Salute" for Jim McGillivray on a very hot dusty day. I remember his score sheet saying simply "This was an Open calibre performance." I remember that as being one of the wins that gave me the confidence to move up to the Professional level the next year. Iíve been fairly successful having place 3rd overall for the past two years running. I remember playing "The Lament for Captain MacDougall" for the win in 2001, again before judge Jim McGillivray, and I think that was probably the best tune Iíd ever played. Iíve never had the opportunity to compete in solos overseas and hopefully sometime before I get too old Iíll have a chance to do that."
In 2002 Bill won two of the five qualifying events for the United States Piping Foundation contest in Delaware. He won the Professional Piobaireachd at Stone Mountain, Georgia for three years running. He also won the Professional Piobaireachd at Loch Norman in North Carolina playing "The Earl of Seaforthís Salute". "Those wins, as well as the Piper of the Day awards at Ligonier and Grandfather Mountain, stand out as some of my proudest achievements of recent years.
"To me, one of the greatest challenges for any piper is being able to produce a high quality sound. Thatís something Iíve sort of developed a knack for and enjoy being able to help produce - not only for myself but for others, be it private students, my bands or other bands that I work with. My current set-up includes my old Henderson drones with Crozier drone reeds and a Naill chanter with Donald MacPhee chanter reeds. I play a Gannaway bag Ė no zippers or kitty litter for me!!
"I am very involved with the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, and have served on the Associationís Music Board since 1998. I currently serve on the grading committee and am chairman of the judgeís review committee of the Music Board. I am also a member of the EUSPBA Judgeís Panel since 1998. I have judged throughout the EUSPBA but have yet to have the good fortune of an invitation to judge in one of our other societies here in North America."
Bill is active as a teacher. Not only is this part of his everyday responsibilities during the academic year, but he also teaches most of the serious and aspiring young players in his region of the Carolinas. "I work with a varying number of the college students each year and maintain about 10-12 private students. Iím proud of the impact Iíve been able to have on some of the college alumni who are now pursuing piping seriously. One of the most fulfilling things about being located where I am, in a community of people who are largely of Highland descent, is the fact that Iíve served as somewhat of a piping missionary Ė bringing piping to an area that did not have any piping to speak of before I arrived. Iíll always be proud of that."
"In 1988 I was invited to join the staff of the North American Academy of Piping under the direction of Pipe Major Sandy Jones. I now work with Sandy as well as Ed Neigh and others for one month each summer in the mountains of North Carolina. I am frequently called on to do band clinics and have traveled throughout the EUSPBA to do these. I do two or three workshops for some of the local bands here in the Carolinas, but sometimes go further a field as time permits. I have also instructed at the Mid-Atlantic Workshop (Delco Workshop). My time for private students is a bit more limited now that I have a wife and children, who always come first in my life, but I like to do what I can for those who are willing to work and learn. I normally see three or four private students each week in addition to the college students who are enrolled for private tuition with me through the collegeís music department.
"The Grandfather Mountain band is currently playing my composition, "The Grandfather Mountain Highlanders at Montreal" for the intro tune of their competition medley. I also composed a little jig called "The Pig Sty" commemorating a very memorable practical joke played on Sandy Jones at the North American Academy of Piping one summer. I also composed a 4-parted 2/4 march called "Miss Anne McLean" which was written for my wife and played for our wedding.
"Iíve done a few recordings during my piping career. My first recording experience was with an album the Grandfather Mountain Highlanders produced back in 1987 under Ed Krintz. I played the solo for "Amazing Grace" on that one, and another solo track on another album the Grandfather band also produced in 1992. I also produced two recordings with the St. Andrews Presbyterian College band, in 1998 and in 2002. On the second of those, I did a cut of the Gaelic song "Bu Deonach Leam Tilleadh" or "I Would Willingly Return" with keyboard accompaniment. We overdubbed some field recordings I had made of some of the last Gaelic speakers in North Carolina. Iím very proud of that one as I think it sort of captures some of the spirit of "what once was." Iíve also recorded a few tracks on Scottish smallpipes with a Celtic band out of Charlotte as well as with a fairly well known Christian musician named Jim Morgan out of Laurinburg.
"I do a lot of playing in my local area and try to do at least one serious true piping recital each year in the community. Much of my performances are somewhat ceremonial in nature Ė I get tons of funerals for these old Scots in this region who want pipes as a send-off, and I do a lot of church performances, particularly with pipes and organ. I do a lot of educational programs each year in the local schools, not only telling about the pipes but also representing the history of the Scots in the Carolinas. Last year, the college band did a major concert with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and that was a great success. I enjoy presenting pipe music in any way that I can that will increase the awareness and appreciation of the instrument and its music.
"My first instructor used to tell me, "Youíve got to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run." Iíve always remembered that axiom and try to relate it to students who get impatient with their progress as well as with the young kids who want to go off playing round hornpipes and the latest gimmicky tune theyíve heard when they still have fundamental issues regarding execution or expression to be resolved. You canít get from 1 to 10 without going through 2 through 9 as well.
"In lower grade band work, the "K.I.S.S" Method always works. Here at St. Andrews, we have always had success in creating our own musical style. I always have to base that on the ability of the weaker players, but also provide something that is interesting enough for the better players and the audience for whom we are preparing the music. Iím not one to try to emulate the latest recordings I hear. There is a lot of classic stuff out there that is not being heard. Bob Worrall once told me that he always enjoyed hearing our band each year because we always came out with something that was different and fresh. I think it is important to include older music in our band medleys. A lot of the lower graded bands are unsuccessfully trying to emulate upper grade bands.
"Faith and Determination can take you a long way. Iíve seen through my own life that faith in a Ďgreater powerí as well as faith in yourself can truly take one a long way in life. I think that my own piping career has been laid out by some divine power. Somehow I was led to my interest in piping and its pursuit as opposed to some other more mainstream hobby or interest. I donít know how it happened but it did. It was piping that led me to my choice of colleges, it was piping that helped lead me to my current profession, and it was piping that led me to meet my wife. I donít mean to come across as some sort of testimonial-spouting fundamentalist, as Iím not that at all. Nonetheless, I can only believe that the successes that I have had in life thus far didnít only come from what I put into them.
"As far as determination goes, Iím one that believes that people can achieve whatever good things they want as long as they are able and willing to put the time and effort in. I was handicapped in many ways in my piping career by not having the advantages that one might have if they were living in someplace like Toronto, Glasgow, or even Delaware. Nonetheless, I have tried to persevere and do the best that I could with the resources that were available to me. Iím probably never going to be a Gold Medalist or one of the luminaries of the piping world, but I can at least have some comfort and satisfaction in knowing that Iíve tried to make a difference in my own region and that Iíve achieved more than many would dream of achieving in piping. I canít imagine my life without piping."