It is an image that has stuck in Victor Welsch's mind.
He remembers as a child seeing a cartoon character playing bagpipes. It had such an impact on him, he asked his mother at the beginning of his eighth-grade year whether he could start playing the instrument. She told him she would allow him to try.
"I stuck with it," he said.
Victor Welsch, a Calvert High School senior, performs on his bagpipe.
Welsch, a 17-year-old senior at Calvert High School, said it took him a long time to find an instructor. He has been taking classes with Ken Bather, an instructor in Upper Sandusky who originally is from Scotland.
Welsch said he learned about Bather from his brother's friend, who gave up lessons.
"Most people do give up," he said.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Victor Welsch (left), a Calvert High School senior, listens to his instructor, Ken Bather, during a lesson in Upper Sandusky Feb. 13.
Welsch usually meets with Bather once a week but had been meeting him twice a week in preparation for a college audition at College of Wooster. The school's mascot is the Fighting Scots, and the college has a bagpipe band that travels with sports teams.
"It's a big scholarship," he said.
Welsch said the audition for the scholarship went well, although he won't find out about whether he receives the scholarship until March or April.
Hear them play
To hear Victor Welsch and Ken Bather play the bagpipes, view video at www.advertiser-tribune.com or attend a talent show in Calvert High School's gymnasium March 25. The time has not been set. Welsch and a classmate are raising money for Calvert Catholic Schools through a talent show for their senior project, and Welsch and Bather are to play a duet.
"I really think that's the place that I'm going," he said.
Bather accompanied Welsch to the audition. Although it was a closed audition, he said he could hear Welsch through the wall because the bagpipe is a loud instrument. Bather said in his opinion, if Welsch doesn't get the scholarship, it is not because he didn't play well.
"I was very pleased with what I could hear," he said.
When first learning, Welsch wasn't able to play much longer than 10 or 15 minutes, but because he has been playing for several years, he now is able to play longer. A bagpipe player must build endurance, he said.
"It's almost like training for a sport," he said.
Welsch said playing the bagpipes is physically demanding.
"It's really hard. It's a lot of work," he said.
The bag acts as a second lung because the noise never stops. The player has the bag under his or her arm and pushes it when wanting to take a breath.
"You have to find a balance of breathing and pushing with your arm," he said.
Welsch had his own set of bagpipes shipped to the U.S. two years ago. He said his set is handmade, and there is not another set like it. Bagpipes must be handmade because machines cannot reproduce them, he said.
"There's not too many people that make them," he said.
Welsch has played "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to a Calvert basketball game, and the baseball and softball teams have requested he play at some of their games. He estimated he has 25 songs memorized and said he can read bagpipe music.
"It's a different style of music than almost any instrument," he said.
Bather, who has been playing bagpipes for 38 years, originally is from Greenock, Scotland, and came to U.S. in 1981 because of high unemployment in Scotland. He said he has been teaching bagpipe lessons seriously for about 30 years.
Welsch is his only student now, although he is taking more students. He said anything Welsch does, he takes seriously.
"He is really a great student. ... I'd love to have a pipe band and have him as a piper in the band," he said.
Welsch said he plays all of the instruments in Calvert's band. He plays the tuba in the pep band, although the specific instrument he plays on a particular night depends on what the band director asks of him. He said his best instruments are bagpipes, flute, guitar and piano, and he said it is his hobby to learn how to play instruments.
Bather said when he has had students playing several instruments, they have had a lot of problems switching over to the bagpipes because it is a different kind of instrument.
"I'm impressed that he was able to make the transition back and forth as well as he has," he said.
Bather described Welsch as well-behaved, well-mannered and nice.
"He works hard," he said.