Only 16 bagpipe players from around the world were invited to enter this year’s Pipe Idol competition in Glasgow, after submitting audition recordings – one of the lucky ones is 17-year-old Orewa College student Anna Smart.
Pipe Idol is a showcase for the world’s top young piping talent. It takes place August 13-16 and involves four days of heats, and a final held in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.
However, Anna’s commitment to her playing saw her fly to Scotland in early June so that she could also compete on the solo circuit against her piping peers.
The circuit involves 14 competitions – so far Anna has won four out of six, placing second in the remaining two.
The circuit ends with “the big four” – the Argyleshire, Cowal and Braemar Gatherings and the Northern Meeting. Anna says the standard of piping at these events is the best there is and less than 30 players are invited to take part.
Anna was born in Scotland and started playing the bagpipes at the age of seven. She says even though she is originally from Scotland she was not exposed to a lot of piping.
“I’m from a sporting family and grew up doing football, swimming and dancing,” she says.
It was hearing a piper at a party who happened to have long blonde hair like Anna’s, that inspired her to pick up the pipes. “I couldn’t stop talking about it and my family took me to a band to learn how to play.”
Bagpiping has been Anna’s ticket to international travel and experiences. She was accepted into the NZ Foundation National Youth Pipe Band in 2014, which took her to Vancouver and Los Angeles to compete and be taught by international tutors. The band won the ‘juvenile’ grade of the Australian Pipe Band Nationals in 2016 and last year Anna was invited to play with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band in Vancouver and then Scotland, where they came 5th in the World Pipe Band Championships.
She received the William Boyle Scholarship, which aids the best U21 players to continue their piping in Scotland.
Anna says she has met many inspiring people in New Zealand and overseas through piping. She is currently passing on her experience, teaching an eight-year-old boy.
She says her family are well used to the sounds of bagpipe practice.
“My family are so used to hearing the pipes for over 10 years that it is part of every day listening for them,” she says. “I am very fortunate to have neighbours that also enjoy the sound of the pipes – they even held a fundraising party for me to help me travel.”