Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat: Sep 21-23, 2018

We’re pleased to announce that the 2018 edition of the Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat will feature Joey Abarta as our uilleann pipes instructor! Joey is well-known nationally and internationally. He was featured in this year’s WGBH’s St. Patrick Day’s Celtic Sojourn. Dates for our retreat in the beautiful southern Rocky Mountain town of La Veta, CO are Sep 21-23. Stay tuned for more details, but get this on your calendar! For more about Joey see:

Joey Abarta & Owen Marshall

For instruction on Scottish smallpipes, Timothy Cummings will be returning following his introduction in 2017.  He was a big hit with both the Pipe Retreat and Celtic Harp Retreat participants last year and we’re so happy to have him return for 2018.  Timothy Cummings is a Vermont-based composer and multi-instrumentalist (chiefly a piper) who enjoys an uncommonly diverse repertoire.  His music spans from the contemporary and sacred to the traditional melodies of the British Isles, Appalachia, Cape Breton, Brittany, and beyond.  He is also a recording artist, writer, and publisher of piping music.

For more information on Tim, see:
Jerry O’Sullivan & Tim Cummings play Sandy Boys

The Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat is sponsored by the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival (  This Festival has garnered a reputation for providing the best in traditional Celtic Music performance and instruction, and has featured such artists as:  The Old Blind Dogs, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Eileen Ivers, Maire Ni Chathasaigh, Carlos Nunez, Jerry O’Sullivan, The Outside Track, Paddy Keenan, Alfredo Orlando Ortiz, Robbie O’Connell, Aine Minogue, Ed Miller and many more top performers in the Celtic music world.

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Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat 2017 – Bigger and Better Than Ever!

The Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat is sponsored by the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival (SPICMF).  For the last 12 years, the SPICMF has brought the best of traditional and authentic Celtic music.  In addition to the best Celtic entertainment, the SPICMF places great value on education.  This is in the tradition of Celtic music festivals in Scotland and Ireland.  In addition to the evening concerts by top-tier Celtic artists, daytimes at the SPICMF are filled with numerous workshops.  For instance, if you’ve always wanted to try a harp or bodhran, there are one hour classes just for you.  Join other absolute beginners and give it a try, in a class taught by one of the featured musicians.  Also available are 1-2 hour workshops for fiddle, mandolin, penny whistle, Celtic dance, storytelling, and singing.  If you’d like to experience a real learning experience and meet other players, sign up for a 1-2 hour class and sharpen your skills.  These classes are often taught by internationally-acclaimed artists who will be performing in the evening concerts.
For a few fortunate musicians, the SPICMF sponsors both a Celtic harp retreat ( and a retreat focusing on non-Great Highland bagpipes (  Included in this category are: Scottish smallpipes, shuttle pipes, border pipes, kitchen pipes, etc.  These 2 retreats feature in-depth instruction for multiple days and feature top-tier artists.  Thus, the harp retreat and the piping retreat, are sponsored by the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival, and feature multi-day education.
Alternative pipers are cordially invited to the 2017 edition of the Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat.  Our regular retreat, featuring top notch instruction in Scottish smallpipes (and other non-GHB pipes) features instructors Tim Cummings and Ben Miller.  As a special treat for 2017, uilleann pipers are invited to join for instruction by world-famous uilleann piper, Paddy Keenan!  Of Bothy Band fame, Paddy needs no introduction!  Paddy will be joined by Colorado’s own Dirk Mewes who will teach a workshop on uilleann pipe reed-making skills.  
Come to beautiful La Veta Colorado on Sep 22-24 for this unique experience with some of the best pipers in the world!!

Scottish Smallpipes Retreat Info


Piping Retreat Workshop: Video

 The Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat co-sponsored a one-day workshop and concert in Denver on Feb 25th.  EJ Jones, well-known professional bagpiper, and the Piper Jones Band, conducted the workshop with 16 in attendance.  Attendees came from as far away as Phoenix and Colorado’s Western Slope.  The day was spent learning some tunes and discussing the similarities and differences between highland bagpipes and Scottish smallpipes, focusing particularly on differences in the style of playing.  
Left to right in the video:  Wolf Loescher, percussion; EJ Jones, Scottish smallpipes; and Frances Cunningham, bouzouki.

This video features the Piper Jones Band playing a traditional tune from the type of traditional music known as “mouth music”.  Mouth music, or “music from the mouth” was frequently used for dancing when no instruments were available. Usually, the genre involves a single performer singing lighthearted, often bawdy lyrics, although these are sometimes replaced with meaningless words or phrases.
It was an informative and fun day and we look forward to the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat to be held in La Veta, CO on Sep 22-24, 2017.  Smallpipes teachers for this retreat will be Ben Miller and Timothy Cummings.  Both Ben and Tim bring their unique backgrounds and styles of playing to the retreat.  Registration information will soon be posted, so keep an eye on this page.

February Concert and Workshop!

Happy New Year to my Scottish Smallpipe friends:

You might recall our brown-bag lunch discussion at the Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat last September.  We discussed ways to “grow” this unique pipe retreat.

Following up on your suggestions, we’ve arranged to have EJ Jones appear in Denver on Saturday Feb 25th for both an all day workshop and concert!!  

Many of you know EJ.  A professional piper, EJ is based out of both Asheville NC and Houston TX.  EJ plays highland and alternative pipes.  Add a bouzouki player and a drummer and you have the Piper Jones Band.  Check out his website at:

Here’s what we have scheduled for that Saturday.

1. Introduction to Scottish Smallpipes Workshop at the Lakewood United Church of Christ.  This runs from 9 am – 4 pm.

2. Piper Jones Band will perform a concert at the Englewood Civic Center, from 7 – 9 pm.

We will be targeting the highland pipe community in Colorado.  Ads will also be running in the monthly Celtic Connections newspaper!  We’re hoping to draw in a number of highland pipers, and perhaps some others who are just interested in Celtic music or a different instrument.

Please see attached copies of the flyers.  The workshop flyer has registration information included.  If you’re interested in attending, please get your registration in early as we’ll have limited space.  For the concert, tickets will be sold at the door, only.

I owe a tremendous debt to those of you at our brown-bag lunch!  Thanks for your encouragement and suggestions.  After that initial meeting, I had the good fortune to meet Carolyn Elliot, Ken McIntosh and Chuck Quimby with the Scottish Lowlands Families and Clans of Colorado!  As they led the effort to put this together, we received support and encouragement from David Kolacny at Kolacny Music, Pat McCullough with Celtic Connections, and the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival.  This truly is a team effort!

If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.  I hope to see you on Feb 25th!


jim conley

Spanish Peaks Pipe Retreat

2016 Piper’s Retreat Success!

A handful of fortunate pipers gathered in La Veta, CO on Sep 23-25, 2016 for the 3rd annual Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat.  This retreat focuses on “alternative” bagpipes, commonly known as Scottish smallpipes, border pipes or lowland pipes.  These pipes were predominant in the Scottish border (or lowlands) region with England.  We generally refer to them generically as “smallpipes”, but there are distinctions which we won’t attempt to cover at this point.
The smallpipes are similar to their big cousins, the Great Highland Bagpipes, but also very different.  Great Highland pipes are typically found in military-style marching bands.  We’ve all watched these awesome sounding pipes, and colorful pipers, in parades and at special occasions.  Smallpipes share the same musical “fingering”, that is, a person who plays Great Highland Bagpipes will use the same finger movements to create similar notes on the smallpipes.  Great Highland pipes are typically in the key of B flat.  Smallpipes are also generally powered by bellows.  That is, a bellows provides the air for the pipes, vs. mouth-blown as is found with Great Highland pipes.
Smallpipes are typically played either solo, or with other instruments.  They are found generally in the key of A, C or D which makes them compatible to play with fiddles, guitars, whistles, flutes, etc.  And, their volume is much lower.  They’re made to play indoors, seated with a group of other musicians.  Smallpipes have been experiencing a resurgence over the past few decades and a number of excellent smallpipe makers have carved out a niche in this market.
The Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat is, to our knowledge, the only “alternative” pipe retreat between the east and west coasts.  Sponsored by the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival, the Pipe Retreat brings the best of traditional musicians to teach students who want to expand their skill.  Most smallpipers start out as Great Highland pipers, but find that they’d like to play at home, alone, or try their hand at playing with other instruments.
At the 2016 edition of the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat, instructors (and phenomenal artists) Jerry O’Sullivan and Ben Miller taught two groups of students.  Both worked on technique, tips and increasing tune repertoire.
The 2017 Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat is already in the planning stage!

Definitive Info for the 2016 Pipers Retreat!

The Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat  is sponsored by the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festivaland will be held Sep 23-25, 2016 in La Veta, Colorado.  The Retreat  focuses on bellows-blown smallpipes or border pipes and brings top traditional artists to share tips, techniques and tunes.  Highland pipers who have attended previous retreats have remarked  about the freedom they find in playing smallpipes for musicality and expression, as well as the opportunity to play pipes with other instruments. 
Instructors for this year’s Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat will be Jerry O’Sullivan and Ben Miller.  Jerry, known worldwide for his uilleann piping, and a regular at the Festival, is no less talented on smallpipes.  Jerry is certain to share a special Irish tune, or two!  Ben Miller, from upstate New York, is charting his own path as a top-notch musician and piper.  These top-tier players will provide instruction for intermediate and advanced classes. A new experience, initiated at last year’s retreat, was the opportunity for members of the Piping Retreat to join with attendees of the Spanish Peaks Celtic Harp Retreat, and play a few tunes together.  It was a hit, so we will do it again this year.  
The Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat starts at 9 am Friday Sep 23 and wraps up at noon on Sunday Sep 25, 2016, with a free concert, featuring Jerry O’Sullivan and Ben Miller on Sunday afternoon. The fee for the Piping Retreat is $250. The Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival features a wide array of workshops and concerts, so feel free to bring family and friends who can participate in, or observe, a number workshops ranging from singing to dancing, to cultural and historical presentations.  Evening concerts rock the house!  This year’s headliners are Altan, The High Kings and Outside Track!  Late night sessions are held after the evening concerts, so the music almost never stops!!  
Email for more information.  

Piper Retreat Lineup for 2016!

11th festival logo
The 2016 Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat is taking shape!  We’re really excited to announce that we will focus on bellows-blown smallpipes (or reel pipes) for 2016!  We’re the only piping retreat in the Rocky Mountain region to do so!  If you’re a fan of bellows-blown smallpipes or border pipes, this is the place to be!!
Dates: September 23-25, 2016
Location: La Veta, Colorado
Building on last year’s piping retreat, we’ll expand this year and will have 2 instructors so we can work with pipers of different abilities.  Here are our instructors:
Jerry O’Sullivan:  Yes, we know Jerry and has appeared on more than 90 albums, ranging from the Boston Pops to Dolly Parton, and is considered America’s premier uilleann piper!  But, Jerry is no less talented on highland and smallpipes!  Jerry will bring his unique Irish perspective to the smallpipes and a few tunes that are outside the traditional piping repertoire.  Jerry has played from Israel to Japan, and most countries in between!  Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from this master of the pipes!  Jerry’s website is:
Ben Miller: His youth and energy is infectious!  Ben hails from upstate New York, but has spent a number of years in Scotland.  He recently completed graduate studies in The University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies.  Ben started on highland pipes, and later expanded to smallpipes and border pipes.  His repertoire and style draw mainly from the Gaelic traditions of western Scotland and the Canadian Maritimes.  Ben will be accompanied by Anita MacDonald.
Ben has been an instructor at The Piper’s Gathering, The Maine Pipes and Fiddle School, Ottawa’s Cape Breton Session, PEI Fiddle Camp and the Edinburgh Scots Music Group.  As a performer, he’s played in Germany, Denmark, Scotland, England, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the northeastern US.  Ben’s website is:
Ben Miller
We’ll have Registration information up soon.  Keep checking back for more details.  Or, email us at: for more information.