MANY high school students pick up a musical instrument during their studies, but few choose one as unusual and potentially divisive as the bagpipes.
“You either like them or you don’t,” said Orange bagpipe teacher John Tallis.
Mr Tallis has been a highland bagpipe teacher for nearly 20 years, and taught at Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange for 10 of those.
Since 2009, he’s been the instrument’s tutor at the Orange Regional Conservatorium.
On Friday, Mr Tallis and two of his bagpipe students, Daniel Cortes and Max Eastwood, played at the Orange Anzac Day march down Summer Street.
“It’s an honour to play in the Anzac Day parade,” Mr Tallis said.
“The sound is synonymous with the army, and [Anzac Day is] one of the only times you see them.”
Bagpipes may date back to as early as 1000 BC, and became associated with the military in the 19th century.
Today bagpipes are most often used at formal military ceremonies like marches and funerals.
Mr Tallis says that while he doesn’t consider interest in the instrument among younger people to be in decline, he’s always on the lookout for more students.
“The only way it happens today is word of mouth,” he said.
“We don’t have enough students to form a band yet.”
Don Peck is the pipe major of the Canobolas Highland Pipe Band, which plays at Anzac Day events in the towns around Orange.
He’s well acquainted with the quirks of the instrument.
“It’s just an instrument that you just don’t get to pick up and play,” Mr Peck said.
“The tune has to be memorised, and there is no provision to carry the music anywhere.”
But Mr Peck says that for anybody interested in picking up the pipes, the teachers are there.
“To me it’s like any instrument you take up or any sport you take up. It depends on how much time you are prepared to give it.”