Self-taught bagpiper practices in local cemeteries and tours with national rock band
Marybeth Sullivan Dowdell of Medway taught herself to play bagpipes, now she performs with ‘Dirty Deeds The AC/DC Experience’. She is pictured here with Brian Johnson, lead singer of the original AC/DC rock group. Courtesy photo.
By Caroline Gordon
On warm summer afternoons, you might find Marybeth Sullivan Dowdell practicing her bagpipes in Millis, Medway, and Milford cemeteries, but you also might find her playing bagpipes around the country with ‘Dirty Deeds The AC/DC Experience.’
“I went to a Dirty Deeds concert six years ago,” says Dowdell, of Medway. “I asked them why they didn’t use a real bagpiper; they had that part synthesized in. They responded with ‘Do you know one?’ and the rest is history.”
She says the band performs a patriotic set before the song “We Salute You” and, in fact, there are a few AC/DC songs that include the centuries-old woodwind instrument.
“We’ve managed to squeeze bagpipes in a few different times,” she said.
Dowdell first became interested in playing the instrument when she performed as a singer at funerals.
“I’ve always loved listening to the pipers that were there.”
In 2008, she decided to take lessons after listening to bagpipes at a friend’s wedding in Scotland. Because she was just start ing to learn as an adult, she was told not to pursue her newfound interest but that made her want to do it even more.
Now she tours with an award winning tribute band.
Dowdell continues to play at weddings and funerals but she also likes to play in private because she finds it relaxing.
“To me, the rock music is fun, but it’s not the same; when you play a fast jig, it’s not relaxing.”
Dowdell said that playing the bagpipes has positively changed her life and has connected her with interesting people and venues. According to www.theacdcexperience.net, upcoming stops include theatres and amphitheaters, beaches, wineries, fairs and festivals.
She says, “We are playing for NASCAR up in Loudon - in front of 10,000 people. The band is amazing and everyone loves the band, but when I come out playing the bagpipes, people go nuts!”