Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies is a piper whose name has become a legend in his own lifetime, both in his native Scotland and his adopted country, the United States. He has the advantage of having been solidly and soundly taught by his father, the late and much missed Pipe Major Norman Gillies. The family hails from the Western Isles, the heartland of the Noble Instrument, and has close links with the Isle of Raasay, home of the MacKays of Raasay, from whom our knowledge of the ancient art is derived. Alasdair himself had long service in the regiment of the Northern Counties of Scotland, the Queen’s Own Highlanders, and was its last pipe major, at a time when by common consent its pipe band was admitted to be the finest in the army. It was here that Alasdair’s ability as a teacher first became evident, as his pipers strove to emulate his enthusiasm and skill, several going on to forge successful careers on the competition circuit. On his retirement from the army Alasdair emigrated to the United States where he has continued his successful career as a teacher and as a performer.
Alasdair has a record of success in competition unequalled at the present time both in Scotland and in America. It is however possible to amass an impressive list of the glittering prizes through luck, supple fingers, and a good memory, and many a piper has acquired a corresponding reputation without really getting to the heart of the instrument, or, more importantly, to the soul of its music. Alasdair excels in both fields of endeavour. He can win on the competition platform with a solid display of sheer skill in the traditional interpretation of the classics, ceol beag and ceol mor alike; he can charm a ceilidh audience with a demonstration of virtuosity and brilliance in the less formal type of music with its intricate and demanding technique.