The teachers file one by one into the auditorium. The student body stands, and the bagpipes play. At convocation, graduation, and varsity lacrosse games, the tradition of the distinct harmonic drone of a bagpipe weaves into the tradition of the green and white. But who is the man behind the kilt?
Music instructor Eric Goodchild has been “playing the pipes” since he was 14 years old. “When I was young I listened to a record of the 1972 Royal Scots Dragoon Guards play ‘Amazing Grace’ and couldn’t get enough of it,” Mr. Goodchild explained. From then on, he continued playing the bagpipes, until after “selling cars for a number of years, I realized there had to be an easier way to starve.”
In 1991 Mr. Goodchild started teaching his first student how to play the bagpipes. Finally, offered a job in the music department because of student interest in the bagpipes, Mr. Goodchild became involved on campus.
“The bagpipes are pretty hard to play. You have to combine breath, pressure with your elbows, and then hitting the right notes on the chanter (which is kind of like a recorder), but I really enjoy lessons. Mr. Goodchild is a really nice man,” commented bagpipe student Woodson Miles ’13.
Mr. Goodchild enjoys teaching students. “We all strive for some form of immortality,” he answered when asked about the most rewarding aspect of teaching, “to feel like we’re fitting into a bigger picture. For me it is the realization that…in 100 years, there may be someone playing bagpipes because I was teaching.”
Apart from caring for his garden and sheep in Shelburne Falls, Mr. Goodchild plans to continue his role as a carrier of a vessel of tradition and pass his knowledge of the bagpipes on to generations to come for “as long as the Lord gives me breath and allows me to wiggle my fingers!”