As Robert Burns might put it: Gie me ae lad wi' ae song O auld; gie me ae man wi' pipes O guld.
Entrepreneurs march to the beat of their own drum, but for one CEO, it's the pipes, the pipes, that are calling.
Tom Reinsel, who heads Pepperweed Consulting, a $15.5 million IT services management company in Pittsburgh, was looking for a new hobby in 1999. He returned to his musical childhood but instead of the church organ, he found inspiration in the bagpipes. The soundtrack to many a Celtic party is achieved by squeezing bags of air to control pressure through pipes, and during a trip to the moors of Scotland, Reinsel says he "could feel the music, and how it was tied to battles and loss."
His first year at the acclaimed Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming in Pittsburgh had him fingering scales on the chanter (the piece that resembles a recorder), trying not to mimic the wails of dying geese.
Reinsel, 38, has since graduated to Piobaireachd, classical music for the Scottish Highland pipes, and is currently practicing the traditional Highland favorite "Glengarry's Lament" for his first competition later this year. He also attends pipers camps across the country for the chance to learn from world-class players every summer.
The instrument, which probably originated in Mesopotamia and made it to the British Isles through migration, can cost $2,000 or more. Any fees Reinsel collects from performing at weddings (he charges a $250 flat fee) are donated to the Balmoral scholarship fund; he recently played at the funeral of a family friend at Arlington National Cemetery, accompanied by a 21-gun salute. The self-declared "pipe evangelist" relishes performing because it's a link to his Irish heritage and a diversion from work.
He serenades neighbors during sunsets; and while he treated this reporter to a commendable rendition of "Amazing Grace" over the telephone, he admits the bagpipes "are best played outdoors."