Great Scot! Oklahoma Paleontology Professor Plays Pipes with Passion

Article excerpt

Cindy Gordon didn't think she was making such a ruckus. Her audience obviously had no musical taste.

"That's one of the problems with finding somewhere to practice," said Gordon, a paleontology professor in the University of Oklahoma's zoology department. "I don't practice at home late at night. I might drive up to the parking lot of the Lloyd Noble Center where I'm just annoying the birds.

"But this one time someone even drove up to ask me what I was doing there. I wanted to ask back, 'What does it look like I'm doing?' But I guess I sounded so bad that he just wasn't sure," she said. "There's nothing subtle about the bagpipes."

Gordon, like other members of the Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums band, is comfortable with jokes about her instrument of choice.

"You've got to have a sense a humor," said Stew Joslin, OSPD band manager and information technology specialist at Tinker Air Force Base. "It's been said that the bagpipes are a crude instrument played by crude people."

The OSPD band has about 20 regular members who practice and perform at special events and music competitions. There are about six such bands across the state; most pipers are associated with a formal band.

Joslin, who has been playing since the early 1990s, said culture usually plays a big part in the desire to learn to play bagpipes.

"The pipes are a really interesting instrument, because you either hate them or love them. You're beckoned to play, almost like a genetic imprint," he said. "In my case, my mother told me about my grandfather emigrating from Scotland when he was young, and that piqued my interest."

Joslin was involved in traditional Scottish Highland heavy athletics for several years, such as the caber turning and hammer throwing events. Bagpipes seemed a natural evolution from that.

Band members Paul Roberson and his brother Keith Roberson knew about their family heritage, but it took longer for them to embrace the bagpipes. …