Featured Artist

Matt Willis

Celtic rock piper Matt hails from Texas, USA and is Pipe Major of Metroplex United Pipe Band

What kind of pipes and chanter do you play?
For traditional piping (band and solo), I play Henderson PH01 with thistle engraving that I won at Winter Storm in Kansas City. I play Redpipes Caledonia and classic with my rock band Rathmore. I also enjoy playing my Fred Morrison Reelpipes, EJ Jones smallpipes in A/D, and Seth Gallagher uilleann pipes. I have several Michael Burke penny whistles in the keys of low D, A, and G.

Where do you hail from? Where do you live now?
I was born in California, and moved to Texas when I was 14. I currently reside in Carrollton, Texas, just north of Dallas.

Tell us about your piping career. When did you start? What bands have you played with?
I received my first set of pipes in 1996 on my 18th birthday. It was a Pakistani-made set, so they weren’t really playable, but that didn’t stop me from trying. A few years later I met up with Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums from Austin, Texas and began formal instruction. I started playing and competing with them in 2000.

In 2004, I was offered a chance to join The Killdares, a Celtic rock band from Dallas, Texas. With The Killdares, I was able to record three studio albums as well as a live DVD of one of our concerts. The Killdares retired in November of 2016, but two band members and I decided to form a new Celtic rock band called Rathmore.

In 2013, I formed the Metroplex United Pipe Band in Dallas, and it’s been great getting back into the competition world. Metroplex United was upgraded to Grade 4 for the 2017 season.

In 2015 I wrote/compiled two tune books “Tunes, Chords & Harmony Volume ONE” and “Tunes, Chords & Harmony Volume TWO: Christmas Edition”. All the tunes in the book have chords and instructions on how to get a guitar in tune with a bagpipe (or a bagpipe in tune with a guitar), so you can readily start playing with other musicians. The books also each contain a CD of me playing all of the tunes.

I have had the opportunity to record with several artists and organizations in the Dallas area, including Heather McCreedy, Floramay Holliday, and Rhett Clark.

What has been your proudest moment in piping so far?
I have had many great moments in my life because of the pipes. In my competition experience, winning second place with Silver Thistle in Grade 4 at the Bridge of Allan games in 2001 the weekend before the Worlds was an incredible feeling. Marching out onto the circle at Glasgow Green for the World championship was a huge rush, even if it was just for Grade 4. Most recently, leading Metroplex United Pipe Band to a first place victory at the Oklahoma ScotFest was fantastic.

What has been your most stressful moment?
Recording the DVD for The Killdares. We had just one chance to do this, so everything had to be perfect! I had my hands full tuning two chanters and a set of uilleann pipes, plus making sure all of the microphones were set correctly, and seeing to all the little details that go with a stage show.. It went off extremely well, but I was a nervous wreck the moments leading up to the curtain opening.

Who were you taught by?
Spent the first few years teaching myself with little success before finding a piper named Tom Campbell, who was playing with the Scottish Rogues. He helped me sort out my pipes and got me in touch with Wade Harper of Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums. In 2001 I began learning piobaireachd and solo competition tunes with Silver Thistle’s pipe major Ken Liechti who was taught piobaireachd by Donald MacLeod.

What do you do as a day job?
I am fortunate enough to be a full-time piper. I currently teach about 35 students in my Dallas metroplex location and over Skype. I also play solo events such as weddings and funerals, as well as recording and performing with my Celtic rock band Rathmore and other artists. I have also published two tune books, as mentioned above.

What other hobbies/pursuits/past times do you have?
New and classic Mopars (Dodge & Plymouth muscle cars) and auto detailing have become a passion of mine in recent years. I also have a Whisky Club that is a lot of fun and helped me and my friends taste dozens of fine single malt Scotch and Irish whiskies. Songwriting and arranging music also help pass the time when I’m not chasing my 4-year old son around.

Where is the most interesting place your piping travels have taken you?
Playing on a cruise ship in international waters about the Caribbean has certainly been the craziest place I’ve played yet.

What would your most perfect piping event be?
I think it has to be the Winter Storm workshop and concert in Kansas City. It’s a chance to learn from some of the best pipers in the world and then hear them live in concert. I hope one day to be of the caliber to teach and perform there myself!

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Metroplex United Pipe Band

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