Minnesota Sounds and Voices: Macalester bagpipe director Mike Breidenbach

Macalester College Pipe Band
Mike Breidenbach, Macalester College's dirctor of piping, plays the bagpipes on campus Tuesday, March 27, 2012 in St. Paul. The Macalester College Pipe Band will play a spring concert on Saturday evening at Celtic Junction.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

The penetrating wail of a Scottish Highland bagpipe doesn't leave much middle ground. Either you're a fan of the stirring, toe tapping tunes the instrument can produce, or its sounds send you racing for cover.

Macalester College piping director Mike Breidenbach audibly falls into the fan category, although it took a while for him to master the instrument. He recalls that when he first picked it up more than 20 years ago, he could barely summon enough wind to play a note, let alone the coordination that keeps the contraption humming along.

But he stuck with it, and now he passes along his love for the instrument through lessons to as many as 30 students, and playing with the City of Chicago Pipe Band. Minnesota, as it turns out, is something of a hotbed for bagpipe music. There are hundreds of players, and Saturday in St. Paul the state's oldest bagpipe band holds its spring concert.

Breidenbach spoke with Minnesota Sounds and Voices reporter Dan Olson about the instrument and its variations, and its growing popularity among students. Click on the audio link above to hear the story, and the sounds of those penetrating pipes.

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