When the Dicker family does something, there’s nothing halfway about it.
So when Jacob Dicker and his father Lloyd, his aunts, uncles and cousins attended an open house for the Sarnia Legion Pipe Band, no less than eight of them signed up and learned to play the bagpipes or drums.
For Jacob, it was a commitment that would eventually make him one of an elite group of pipers in Canada.
“I was five when I started learning,” he says. “I was too small to play on a full-size bagpipe. That’s a lot to co-ordinate until you get bigger.”
So he learned to play on the practice chanter, a double reed woodwind instrument that taught him to finger the melodies.
Dicker, now 29, was seven years old when he began playing a full-sized bagpipe and could participate in parades and competitions with the local pipe band.
“I was immersed in it. We all were,” he said. “Because of the number of my family that took it up and my Scottish ancestry, it became an innate part of my life that I remain immersed in.”
Dicker went on to play with the Windsor Police Pipe Band, the pipe band at Queen’s University where he studied history, and then joined the elite Ottawa Police Pipe Band, where he was recently promoted to Pipe Major, the band’s musical and administrative leader.
Along the way, he became very adept at the bagpipes, collecting awards and being invited to prestigious competitions, most notably the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland.
He has earned trophies at every amateur level, won the prestigious Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal at the Glengarry Highland Games in 2014, and has been repeatedly invited to compete on his own in Glasgow.
In fact, he’s gone more than 15 times and this year placed 4th in his class at the Worlds in solo competition.
Dicker spends countless hours recruiting, practicing, competing and performing in Ottawa, and continues to be a visiting member of the Sarnia Legion Pipe Band. He says he’s proud to be part of such an ancient tradition.
“I like contributing to a historical legacy brought to Canada by Scottish migration,” said the history major and St. Clair Secondary graduate. He currently works as program officer at the philanthropic J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in Ottawa.
Dicker likes the traditional stories behind many bagpipe tunes and, of course, there’s the appeal of the highland bagpipes themselves.
“Pipes are very fickle. They get out of tune easily and it takes a lot of practice, time and energy to lock a tune down,” he said.
“When you do, it’s very satisfying.”