PORT ST. LUCIE PEOPLE
Legend says that in the ancient British Isles, when old
religions flourished, of all the sounds men could make,
only the bagpipes could be heard in both worlds.
But bagpiper David Lairson of Tradition has a more modern
saying: “There are two types of people in the world —
those who love bagpipes and those who hate them.”
Lairson’s love affair with the pipes began at age 13. His
mother is a native of Leeds, England, and when his family
lived in Dayton, Ohio, they attended an expat club on
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that hosted Scottish country
dancing. When the group’s elderly Scottish piper wanted to
quit, Lairson’s mother said her son would do it. And he did.
How long does it take to learn to play bagpipes?
“I still have an instructor,” Lairson says, “who is literally
one of the best in the world.”
He also has students he meets with every other week over
Skype, due to the pandemic.
“I tell them they must always be learning.”
Lairson has learned well. He is ranked among the top five
pipers in Florida and the top 15 on the East Coast.
Fingering technique is essential, as is air pressure.
“Once you start playing, there’s no real break,” he explains.
“Over the years, you build up lung capacity. It’s kind of a
After he underwent gall bladder surgery, a nurse brought
in a device to test Lairson’s respiration, telling him to blow
into it so that the air would raise the three small balls in their
respective chambers. He kept all three at the top for so long,
“She called other nurses to come look.”
Because bagpipe gigs typically involve funerals, weddings,
parties and restaurant events, COVID-19 definitely hurt business.
However, canceled vacations turned into an unexpected
“People who’d been planning to travel to Ireland or Scotland
booked me for birthday parties instead.”
One year, he played five funerals in four days.
“I tend to get emotional,” Lairson says. “You have to disassociate,
not get too close. It was rough.”
The mindfulness he acquired through Buddhism helped.
Lairson says he had anger issues as a child as well as “a
weird religious upbringing.” His mother was Protestant; his
father, Southern Baptist. As a teen he was not only the sole
blonde student in a predominately Italian area, he was also
the only non-Catholic and prohibited from receiving commu-
40 Port St. Lucie Magazine
Bagpiper David Lairson plays with several pipe and drum groups along the Treasure Coast and in Palm Beach County, but also dons one of his kilts to play
the bagpipes at funerals, weddings and other special occasions.
BY ELLEN GILLETTE