About Melissa

The Early Years: 1986-1997

Melissa started playing bagpipes in 1986 in Claremont, California.  She took half-hour, weekly, group lessons  at a small Scottish import shop called "The Victoria Shop".  Her instructor, Mike Williams, suggested she start competing in solo bagpipe contests in 1987.  She won the aggregate for Grade 4 solo piping in the Western United States Pipe Band Association (WUSPBA) which led to her upgrade to Grade 3 for 1988.  Also in 1987, Melissa joined the Anderson Royal Canadian Highlanders Pipe Band which was a VFW Pipe Band located in Burbank, California).  The Anderson band competed in several Grade 4 pipe band contests in 1987.  

Melissa and the other youth pipers and drummers in the Anderson band formed a new pipe band under the instruction of Pipe Major Alan Weidlich in 1988 : The 53rd Street Pipe Band. Pipe Major Alan Weidlich and Drum Sergeant John Davis led the 53rd Street Pipe Band in all the major California pipe band contests from 1988 - 1991.  The 53rd Street Pipe Band competed at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland in August 1989.  

Also in 1988 Melissa started competing in Grade 3 solo piping. In 1989 and 1990 Melissa began winning aggregate prizes in southern and central California as well as Arizona.  By the end of 1990 Melissa was upgraded to Grade 2 level solo piping.  

In April 1991 Melissa competed in the Junior Amateur division at the British Columbia Pipers Association (BCPA) Annual Gathering and took home the following four trophies: 1) MacIvor Memorial Trophy (for the most aggregate points among all competitors), 2) the William Lamont Memorial Trophy for MSR, 3) the Gordon Sinclair Memorial Trophy for Piobaireachd, and 4) the Rod Macrae Trophy for Aggregate.  Melissa also won the 1991 Aggregate at the Caledonian Society's Grade II Aggregate Trophy in Grade 2 piping.

On the Pipe Band front, by 1990 the 53rd Street Pipe Band was performing and winning contests in Grade 3.  At the end of 1991, the 53rd Street Pipe Band merged with the Grade 2 Cabar Feidh Pipe Band.  Melissa continued to play in solos and as a member of the Grade 2 Cabar Feidh Pipe Band until 1997 when she took a hiatus from piping to attend Graduate School in Missouri.  From 1997-1999, Melissa played her pipes minimally (a couple times each month) while she finished her Master's Degree in Structural Geology .

Melissa's early-year piping instructors included Glen Thompson, Jimmy MacColl, and Ian Whitelaw.  Melissa is eternally grateful to the positive influence of these instructors!

The Middle Years: 1999 - 2015

After completing graduate school in 1999, Melissa relocated to Lander, Wyoming.  Lander is located in the middle of Wyoming in the lee of the Wind River Mountains, part of the Rocky Mountains.  In 1999, Lander was essentially a piping "desert".  There had been a pipe band in the town in the early 20th century and there were people present in 1999 who had played in a small band from the 1980s to the mid 1990's.  But there really was no active piping occurring.  Melissa's piping challenges upon arrival in Lander were to:

1) to resume competing in Grade 1 solos and

2) start teaching students (to hopefully form a new band).  

Anyone who has taken a long break from bagpiping knows how challenging it is to return to the same level of playing achieved before the break.  Melissa competed at larger WUSPBA solo contests in 2000, 2006, and 2008.  This was done in between pregnancies! It was a challenge, but worthwhile.  Melissa taught beginner piping students during this time as well as intermediate piping students.  

The Recent Years: 2016 - present

In Summer of 2016, Melissa attended the Piping Hot Summer Drummer (PHSD) school in British Columbia, Canada; along with her two daughters and 14-year-old  bagpipe student, Hank.  The goals of this trip were 

1) to help Melissa re-engage with piping after 17 years of focusing on family and career, 

2) introduce her young student, Hank, to the bigger piping scene, and 

3) to introduce her daughters to snare drumming and highland dancing.  

Attending Piping Hot (PHSD) led to a resurgence in Melissa's piping as well as her student's.  It fueled the most recent build-up of membership in the Lander Pipe Band.  Since then, the band has grown from 2 members to 18 members.  The band's youth education program involves twice weekly band practices with free bagpipe instruction for the pipers (provided by Melissa), fundraising to help pay for online lessons for the band's 6 drummers with world class drumming instructors, Blair Brown and Christina Hanks, and >50 public performances and pipe band contests annually to help build performance skills.  Melissa and 6 other band members attended PHSD again in 2019 and the results were stunning.  In 2023, Melissa and 5 other band members attended PHSD and the benefits to the band's musical quality have been tremendous. The band continues to grow.  Running the pipe band has evolved into a life's work and a way of life; as Melissa's sons (Henry and Andy) are also band members.  

For more information, email Melissa at melissa@melissabautzbagpiping.com, or complete the Contact Me Form.