By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
Already being called a prodigy, 11-year-old Front Royal resident Jacob Loughlin will take the stage Thursday night at Shenandoah University along with legends of the bagpiping world.
The rising Warren County Middle School seventh-grader has been playing with and learning from his heroes all this week at the Institute of Piping going on at Shenandoah University.
It's the 10th anniversary of the piping and drumming school at the university, said John Taylor, pipe major with the City of Winchester Pipes and Drums.
Faculty from the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, have been working with 34 men, women and children from all across the U.S. who play the bagpipe or the drums, said Taylor, who has given lessons to Loughlin.
"The teachers give them new tunes to play, and then coach them in how to play them superbly," Taylor.
National Piping Centre principal, Roddy MacLeod, a champion piper, who has been made a Member of the British Empire, will perform at the Celebrate Celtic Connections at 7:30 p.m. in the Armstrong Auditorium, along with Stuart Samson, also an MBE from the Centre, and Glenn Brown, another champion bagpiper with the Piping Centre.
"Roddy MacLeod has won every major piping award in the world, and [is] arguably the best piper in the world," Taylor said.
There will also be Highland and Irish step dancers, Celtic harp music and a performance by the City of Winchester Pipes and Drums.
"And, this year, I'm proud to say we have a member of the City of Winchester Pipes and Drums who will be performing [a solo]," Taylor said.
That soloist is Loughlin, who first picked up the bagpipes about two years ago. His late grandfather, who was American, had played the pipes, and his grandmother, Anne Loughlin,hails from Glasgow.
His ability is so great he was awarded the most promising bag piper -- which came with a set of pipes -- at the piping and drumming school last summer, and will be attending bagpiping championships in Glasgow this summer in what will be his first trip to Scotland.
"It's really fun to play with them because as you go on, it gets more difficult and more difficult," Loughlin said of playing with pros. "You get better and better every time you play."
Loughlin hopes to study for a degree in bagpiping in Glasgow and play in the Glenfiddich Piping Championship.
"And, he's quite capable of it," Taylor said. "He is a prodigy. And, that coupled with very hard work, and most importantly, one of the nicest young men you would ever want to meet."
MacLeod said he's seen an improvement in Loughlin over the past year.
"Coming back this year, I can see that he's really progressed, and I think we were absolutely right to give him the bagpipes because he's a very talented young student, who I think will go far if he continues to practice the way he is," he said. "I'm just delighted that he's doing so well. I know he's looking forward to coming to Scotland in the summertime. I think that will just fire up his enthusiasm even more.
"I was saying to some of the other instructors some of the young kids that are being taught right here in Winchester are being taught very well. It's a pleasure to come back every year and see how they're all progressing."
Brown also had praise for the young lad.
"In a year, it's like a rocket -- sky's the limit," he said.
Tickets to Celebrate Celtic Connections are $20 for adults, $10 for students and free for children under 6, according to Taylor.