Doc John

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John Holcombe, MD, is currently a diabetes research physician at Eli Lilly and Company. Since he had always enjoyed the variety of music the bagpipe offered, at the age of 55 John decided to try his hand at learning to play the pipes. With no musical experience whatsoever, unless strumming a 5-string banjo during high school counts, and unable to read a single note of music, John chose to learn what many consider to be the most difficult instrument in the world. The “why” behind that decision remains a lingering mystery. Sure enough, John quickly confirmed that learning to play the bagpipe was a serious challenge that offered any number of humbling experiences, but with a superb and patient teacher in Craig Waugh, along with focused and frequent practice, steady progress soon followed. John recalls his early frustration of being unable to tap his foot and simultaneously play the practice chanter! The nerve connections between the fingers, brain, and feet were simply not there, at first. But perseverance paid off, and within about 2 years he was playing with the Indiana Caledonia Pipe Band.

He plays a set of Dunfion bagpipes, made by Henry Murdo on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. In 2009, John met Henry and toured his one-man pipe manufacturing operation. John also plays a Fred Morrison-designed set of smallpipes made by McCallum Bagpipes. While Craig has been John’s primary teacher for years, John also has attended Piping Hot Summer Drummer for two weeks each summer. PHSD is an intense and fun learning experience, led by Jack Lee and members of the World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. In addition, John and other members of iCal usually spend a weekend each January learning piping or drumming at WinterStorm in Kansas City.

John’s favorite tune is always the one he’s learning at any particular time. In addition to piping, John is an avid woodworker and commercial licensed pilot.