Houghton bagpiper

Houghton student Andrew Hutton (left) receives his award at the Balmoral Classic.

Andrew Hutton, a Houghton College student, certainly knows how to toot his own horn. Well, in his case, it would be a bagpipe.

As a college freshman, he was recently awarded high honors for bagpiping, placing first in the March, Strathspey and Reel event at the Balmoral Classic — an annual amateur bagpiping competition — held in Pittsburgh.

The Balmoral Classic, held late last year, is the only solo bagpiping and Scottish snare drumming competition in the United States exclusively for those ages 21 and under. The event requires its entrants to apply and meet strict standards based on success in amateur upper-grade competition.

A field of 15 pipers qualified to compete at the event.

“There is a lot of preparation that goes into competing in this event. It’s a year-round commitment,” Mr. Hutton said, noting he regularly performs with the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band in southern Ontario as a way to maintain his piping skills. “Most of the music I perform at competitions, I’ve played for the past three or four years.”

Mr. Hutton and the other contestants were required to present two styles: pìobaireachd — the classical music of Highland bagpiping — and March, Strathspey and Reel — the traditional bagpipe competition medley. He explained that each of the competitors were awarded points for tempo, tone, rhythm, execution and expression.

As winner of this event, Mr. Hutton received a set of McCallum bagpipes.

“It’s taken a lot of dedication to perform at this level, so it’s quite an honor to place in these competitions,” Mr. Hutton said, noting he’s also fared well while performing with Paris Port Dover Pipe Band during a competition in Scotland. “We won second place in the World Pipe Band Championships in Grade 4B, which is the lowest grade, but it’s still an accomplishment. We competed against 50 other bands.”

Mr. Hutton was also a contestant at the 18th annual George Sherriff Memorial Invitational Competition held Nov. 15 in Hamilton, Ont., earning second place in the March, Strathspey and Reel competition.

This event is regarded as one of the top amateur invitationals in the world for pipers, Mr. Hutton noted.

For those who didn’t see him perform during the invitationals, you may have heard him play if you attended Houghton’s Kerr-Pegula Athletic Complex dedication ceremony in October or if you’ve been to one Houghton College’s recent commencement ceremonies.

He said he started performing at the commencement ceremonies while his brother, Alastair, was attending Houghton. He graduated from the college in 2010 and is also an accomplished bagpipe player.

Mr. Hutton will also perform at a Tattoo — a military concert — this summer in Switzerland.

He said bagpipe playing is popular in his family — he has a pair of cousins who also play the pipes.

“We have a bit of Scottish blood, so playing is sort of a heritage things, but my grandmother also liked listening to the pipes,” Mr. Hutton said. “She had some influence over having some of her family members learn to play the pipes.”

Mr. Hutton is in his first year at Houghton College and is majoring in biochemistry. He is a Bradford, Ont., native.

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