If you aren’t a dweeb freshman, you have probably seen or heard of Bagpipe Guy, the once-beloved staple of Ohio State who played sweet, sweet music on the Oval for people going to class. Well, his name is Josh Whitson and he’s actually an awesome dude who has been doing some great things since leaving us, including continuing to play the bagpipes. In this interview, he also didn’t say anything negative about OSU students after leaving, so you know he actually liked us. What a man.
TBS: What have you been up to since your time working at Ohio State, and where do you see yourself going in the future?
BG: I left OSU to further my career in international education and also to return home to the Cleveland area. My passion (in addition to playing the pipes) is working with international students, and I plan to continue working in this field as long as I am able.
TBS: Do you still play the bagpipes? If so, where do you normally play?
BG: Of course, with no Oval to play on I had to find a new location and that happened to be Oberlin’s Tappan Square. I was only out for a few days before someone from the local Oberlin News-Tribune stopped by to take my picture and chat. Turns out the photographer was a recent OSU grad and asked if I knew the bagpipe guy from OSU!
TBS: You started playing the bagpipes in the summer of 2014—did you use the same bagpipes every year you were working or did you buy a new bagpipe every year?
I believe I started playing my set of circa late 80s Gibson pipes during my first summer at OSU and then transitioned to a set of circa 60s Robertson pipes that I am still playing. The Robertson pipes are generously on loan from a friend. Vintage pipes produce a rich tone that is hard to replicate in newer, younger instruments.
TBS: Now that you are no longer working at Ohio State, what was the strangest piece of feedback you got from a student during your time as “Bagpipe Guy?” Do you think that you’ll ever make a return to Ohio State to play again?
BG: All my favorite interactions with students can be seen in this video. I’d be happy to play on-campus again if I’m ever back in town and need something to do during lunch.
TBS: You were incredibly well known around OSU as the Bagpipe Guy—did you like this title? What were your favorite and least favorite parts of having a title on such a large campus?
BG: Being the Oval bagpipe guy was a perfect title for such a large campus — everybody knew who I was and it was funny to see tweets and campus stories about me, yet nobody knew who I was so nobody bothered me at all when I wasn’t playing. It felt a little bit like a Clark Kent/Superman situation. Stand out on the Oval with bagpipes and I was Superman, instantly recognizable; put the bagpipes away and just walk around campus and I was Clark Kent, nobody taking notice of me.
TBS: If you had one piece of advice for any future bagpipe players around campus, what would it be?
BG: For bagpipers, or really anyone, you do you. Don’t worry about what other people will think. If you need a spot to practice during your lunch break and the most convenient location is in front of thousands of people walking by, just go for it.
So there you have it—the life of Bagpipe Guy revealed. On an unrelated note, does anyone want to go to Oberlin’s Tappan Square soon?