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Music for the Mourning & Surprises for Seniors: Bagpiper Don Ross Plays On

Music for the Mourning & Surprises for Seniors: Bagpiper Don Ross Plays On

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 17, 2020)

Berkley, MI – Times have changed for everyone, including musician Donald Ross who would normally be booked solid playing bagpipe for weddings, festivals, and funerals.

The void is not only economic, but emotional.  However, the challenges make the bright spots matter even more, and Ross is seeing his work in a new light as he’s been surprising seniors who have been isolating to stay safe from the COVID-19 spread.

Ross has been well-known for decades for his participation in events and ceremonies.  A video of him made the online rounds in late March after a friend enlisted him to surprise his father at American House in Hazel Park.  Neighbors at the senior living community and beyond were excited, and word spread about the unique idea.  He’s done several performances since, mostly in similar situations.

Recently Ross was at Oxford Park Towers in Berkley, which has 216 apartments and approximately 230 residents.  “I was amazed from the residents’ participation. The waves and clapping and shouting thank you. Some even had made thank you signs. I was very well received,” he said.

Veronica Marlo, Property Manager for Oxford Park, had heard about Ross through a friend, and knew that residents would get a kick out of some live music.  “I decided to do this to lift their spirits, to bring them some joy, and selfishly, I wanted to see their faces!”

Marlo said “I have received so many phone calls, emails and cards of thanks!”

The bagpipe concert happened from a distance, and residents came to their windows to watch.  “First and foremost, I am committed to the health and safety of all of our residents and I am also trying to come up with new and exciting ways to engage my residents in activities while at the same time practicing social distancing,” Marlo said.

Ross has been bagpiping for 50 years, and has been doing so full time since 2006.

The seniors he visits are treated to popular Scottish and Irish pieces.  Some favorites are Scotland the Brave, Irish Eyes are Smiling, Loch Lomond, and Amazing Grace.  He also does an interesting bagpipe rendition of You Are My Sunshine.

The economic shut down has impacted his gig-based business like many others.  “This all started the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day which is the busiest time for all pipers,” he said.  However, he’s been using the time to adapt. “Most of my events with been these cheer up events for our seniors. I’ve performed for a few birthday parties with the guest of honor in their home and I’m playing outside.”

Those performances bring a joy that helps, as Ross also is steeped in the saddest part of the outbreak.

“The hardest are these funerals. Not be able to have a church service, and limited people at the funeral home. So hard for big families,” he said.  “I’ve been piping off in the distance at the cemetery.”

Whether it’s adding joy to someone’s day, or soothing their hearts with the mournful tones echoing through a cemetery, the music is Ross’s liefe-longway of sharing his love with the world.

“I can’t take credit for this, but one of my friends said that I have a bagpipe ministry,” he said.  “That’s what I enjoy. Bringing joy and comfort to individuals or groups of people.  I pipe for a lot of funerals and the sound of the pipes brings a certain kind of peace to everyone.  Then when I pipe for weddings, it joyful and happiness. Really any event I do makes the event that much more special and memorable.”

To learn more about Don Ross and his “bagpipe ministry” visit

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