History PhD student wins world bagpipe competition

Posted on October 11, 2021

young man in glasses and suit

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Stuart Marshall is a UNC Greensboro history PhD student who, in 2019, was named a Minerva scholar, the highest recognition a UNCG doctoral or MFA student can receive. Yet when he’s not teaching his course on the early British empire or conducting research on Eastern Cherokee sovereignty during the Civil War era, you can often find him engaged in a unique hobby – playing the Scottish bagpipes.

The talented piper was recently named the overall winner at the CLASP World Solo Amateur Piping competition, in the highest grade an amateur player can receive. While ordinarily held in Glasgow, Scotland, this year’s competition was held virtually and attracted players from across the U.K. and Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

young man in glasses and suit
Stuart Marshall

He won for his performance of “Alba Bheadarrach,” a tune that full translated means, “Beloved Scotland, I Leave Thee Gloomy.” You can watch his performance in the video above.

“Scottish heritage was always big on both sides of my family,” said Marshall. “I started piping in 2009, a few years after a family trip to Scotland.”

The opportunity to travel, he said, is his favorite aspect of competing. He has received invitations to play in South Carolina, New York, and Ontario, to name a few.

“Another thing I love about piping is the rich overlap of music and history, particularly with the piobaireachd or ceol mor (“big music”) tradition,” he said.

As a historian, Marshall plans to continue his research into Native American history in the South, particularly in illustrating what the Civil War meant to the generation of Eastern Cherokees who lived through the Removal era and the Civil War.

As a musician, Marshall plans to go professional in piping, a step he’s been working hard to achieve with his home association, the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. After UNCG, he hopes to find a position that allows him to blend his dedication to his research and his music.

“In an abstract way, there is is a kindred connection between my love for Highland piping and my fascination with Cherokee history – I am inspired by stories of people who survive and maintain their traditions against all odds.”

Story by Elizabeth Keri, College of Arts & Sciences
Photography and videography provided by Stuart Marshall

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