Sullivan County Democrat
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ROSCOE NATIVE TOM Burnham played his bagpipes at Carnegie Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. He is the Executive Assistant Director of Environmental Policy, at the Center for Discovery in Harris.

Roscoe native plays Carnegie Hall

By Susan Hallock
NEW YORK CITY — March 28, 2008 — Tom Burnham grew up in Roscoe and was drawn to his grandfather’s special talent of playing the bagpipes, and Tom never knew that his love for the bagpipes would have him playing them in Carnegie Hall in New York City this past Saint Patrick’s Day.
“When I was young my grandfather John Adams, who lived down the street from me, would play his bagpipes and I would go running down to listen,” noted Burnham. “Then at age 9 he began to teach me on what is called a practice chanter. The chanter is very similar to the mouthpiece that is on the bagpipes themselves. I would practice and practice. The chanter was great because it is quiet, it does not have all the parts of the bagpipes; it just allows you to practice.”
Burnham currently works at the Center for Discovery in Harris as the Executive Assistant Director of Environmental Policy, and lives in Goshen with his wife Liz and their two children Caroline and Tommy.
But he smiles and notes that he still has a piece of his heart in Sullivan County.
“I grew up in Sullivan County and I love the area and my family is still there. It is just a great area and it is where I got my official start with the bagpipes,” he noted. “I still remember sitting and listening to my grandfather – it was such a powerful sound when he played it and it was also a peaceful sound at the same time and I think I have accomplished that as well, and I know he would be proud of me for how far I have come with the bagpipes.”
Burnham is continuously practicing and noted that each piece of music has its own challenges.
“The sound you get out of the instrument is such a unique sound it takes a lot of practice and it is a physically demanding instrument. You have to remain focused and it works a lot of your body as well. I am also always learning something new on the bagpipes and I will team up with someone else and we will practice together. There are not many people in the area that play the bagpipes so sometimes I am traveling a hour or two to play and I have even traveled as far as Canada to learn and practice the instrument.
“I just enjoy playing it and when I was asked to go to Carnegie Hall, that was the thrill of a lifetime. I play at weddings, funerals and parties but Carnegie Hall – that was just awesome,” he added.
Burnham was approached by his friend Michael MacNintch, a member of the Highland Pipes who was playing at Carnegie Hall with the well known Irish band the Chieftains, and asked Burnham if he would like to play and there was no hesitation in his saying yes.
“I was thrilled to be asked to play at Carnegie Hall, and then with the Chieftains, that was a double boost. Many musicians have played with them including Sting, Ricky Skaggs, Van Morrison and even Mick Jagger and here I was going to play with them. It was great to be asked.”
Burnham buzzed as he explained his experience at Carnegie Hall.
“When I was on the stage it was just magical. It was so much fun and between the walls and the stage the way the music sounded was awesome; it just vibrated, it was enhanced and it was incredible.
“We had people dancing in the rows and it was just like I said, magical. My grandfather would have been smiling the whole time,” Burnham added.

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