Amy McGlothlin makes her living as a saxophonist, but playing bagpipes was always her dream.
So a move from Virginia to New England several years ago was especially exciting as bagpipe bands were located here and McGlothlin wanted in.
An Andover resident for the past 11 years, McGlothlin is now driving almost three hours north to rehearse with the Catamount Pipe Band based in Montpelier, Vt. She’s the only female bagpipe player among her group’s 20 or so kilt-clad members.
“I just really like the bagpipes. ... It was a challenge to learn how to play them ... a lot of wind, they’re heavy, it’s physical ... but I was up for the challenge,” she said.
It was a neighbor involved with the North Andover-based Clan MacPherson Pipes and Drums that initially helped McGlothlin fulfill her dream of mastering the bagpipe.
McGlothlin joined Clan MacPherson and learned how to play. When the band took a year-long break from performing last year, she joined the Catamount Pipe Band.
Now she’s getting ready for an Olympic-like pipe band competition. Catamount, considered the top bagpipe and drum band in northern New England, is returning to Scotland in August to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships.
In 2011, before McGlothlin was a member of Catamount, the band placed 10th in the world championships, which are held every other year.
“I can’t wait,” she said of the trip to Scotland and upcoming competition.
One Saturday a month, McGlothlin makes the 2 3/4-hour trek to Vermont for a six-hour rehearsal with Catamount. In the summer, she also joins the band for its weekly Tuesday night practice sessions, and stays overnight with a band member before making the long trip home the next day.
The practices are just part of her busy music schedule. During the school year, she teaches saxophone to 55 students, giving lessons as part of after-school music programs in the Andover and North Andover districts as well as at Fenn School in Concord, Salem State, Gordon College in Wenham and Music Makers in North Hampton, N.H.
The hectic schedule clearly agrees with her. The 40-year-old does not look her age. In fact, she recently got carded, she said.
McGlothlin is not Catamount’s only devotee. Three bagpipers who fly up from Baltimore every Sunday share her level of commitment. Other members hail from eastern New York and throughout New England.
Some of the members are like McGlothlin and play another instrument, while others play only the bagpipes or drums for Catamount, which formed in 2001.
“I really like the cross-section of people in the band. There are doctors, lawyers, blue-collar workers ... just a wonderful group of people,” McGlothlin said. “That’s part of the reason why I enjoy this so much.”
In seven weeks, McGlothlin will be off to Scotland with bagpipes and a kilt hoping Catamount Pipe Band places well in the world competition. But, she said, having a dream and achieving it means a lot, too.