Bagpipers hope to share love of music, multi-colored tartans



Michael Dalton, left, and David Spurlock are members of the Space Coast Highlanders.

VIERA VOICE Photo

Bagpipers David Spurlock and Michael Dalton know that the future of the Space Coast Highlanders depends on young people who would like to learn to play the prestigious instrument. New members always are welcome.

“We’re always on the lookout for new members,’’ said the 72-year-old Spurlock, who lives in Titusville. “At the entry level, it will cost $1,000 for a quality instru-ment. You can probably find something cheaper, but it might not be as good.’’

Spurlock and Dalton are eager to share their wisdom.

“Our band teaches people who would like to be a part of our band,’’ said Spurlock, a native of Maryland who also is an accomplished metal sculpture artist. “It can be a tremendous, physically taxing instrument. That’s one of the hurdles in learning how to play. You have to get your body to adapt to playing the  instrument. If you don’t keep at it, it goes away.’’

Dalton, a 1973 graduate of the Florida Institute of Tech-nology, learned how to play the bagpipes as a 15 year old in Miami. His father was from Scotland. The 64 year old worked for NASA for 31 years before retiring at 55.

“You get such an adrenaline rush when you play,’’ said Dalton, who has written extensively about  blackjack through his website bjrnet.com. “We have all-day events that can go from 9 a.m. to almost  10 p.m. By the end, the experience can be quite an indoctrination for new members.’’

St. Patrick’s Day is a busy day for the Space Coast Highlanders, who spend a lot of the day at Meg O’Malley’s in Melbourne and other local Irish pubs.

“Just playing is what builds up the lungs,’’ said  Dalton, who has a second-degree black belt in  Taekwondo. “If you don’t play for a month, it can  become a struggle. You’ve got to use your lungs to keep the bag full. It takes a good year to learn. It’s such a unique instrument.’’

Spurlock, who keeps active with his 10-acre tract of land in Titusville, also writes a lot of original music.

“The bagpipe is very fulfilling if you’re musically inclined,’’ said Spurlock, who was introduced to the bagpipes in junior high school. “It feeds both the body and the soul. It can bring a tear to your eye or a dance to your foot.’’

As a third grader in Maryland, Spurlock happened to see a bagpipe band. He liked what he saw and the memory made an impression when, years later, a principal wanted to start a bagpipe band in junior high school. 

“Had I not seen those bagpipers in third grade, I would not have known what that principal was talk-ing about,’’ Spurlock said. “Once I heard what the principal was doing, all the memories came rushing back. I remembered the wonderful sound and the full regalia. I had to do it.’’ 

As with many pursuits, it takes time.  

“The first couple of years, it took a little while to get it together,’’ Spurlock said. “By that time, I was in full swing.’’

For information on learning how to play the  bagpipes and to join the Space Coast Highlanders, go to spacecoasthighlanders.com