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Published: Wednesday, 3/20/2002

Area piper plays for the President


Jean Gunn opened her newspaper last week and did a double-take.

A Reuters photo, transmitted worldwide, showed President Bush, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

And leading the way down the Capitol steps, playing bagpipes?

“I thought, `Oh, my gosh! That's Scott!'” the South Toledo woman said.

As in Scott Gunn. Her son. Formerly of Rogers High School and the University of Toledo, now known as Tech Sgt. Scott Gunn and a pipe major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Pipe Band and woodwind player in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command Band at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

“I'm very proud,” his mother said.

Sergeant Gunn got to shake the President's hand - he's shaken hands with three commanders in chief - but in some ways it was another day at the office, another day in a job that has taken him around the world.

“There's nothing too big because it's what you're used to doing,” he said in a phone interview with The Blade. “I've been performing all my life.

“When playing, you can't think about what's going on around you. I have this music. I have to get this groove. I have to remember what I'm doing. It's almost like turning the pages in your head. And you have to play and march at the same time.”

He was the only piper in the photo. But just outside the frame was the rest of the Air Force pipe band, made up of nine bagpipers and at least three drummers, which has played the last seven years at the Speaker of the House's annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon for the Irish prime minister.

Sergeant Gunn's musical journey began in the fourth grade at Walbridge Elementary School. He was proficient with any instrument he tried and there was a need for oboists, his mother recalled, so he was taught to play the double-reed woodwind.

He attended Rogers, at the behest of his oboe instructor, and played first oboe in the Toledo Youth Orchestra.

“Back then I really wanted to teach music and went to the University of Toledo,” Sergeant Gunn, 40, said. When money got tight, he joined the Ohio Air National Guard, which paid his tuition, and played in the 555th Air Force Band, he said.

He and his wife, Cheryl, 42, married March 20, 1982, and she persuaded him to join the active duty Air Force band. His first duty was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and moved to Robins about seven years ago.

Their son Andrew, 19, is a Marine lance corporal. Son Ryan, 15, is a freshman in high school.

Sergeant Gunn had a bagpipe lesson in high school. Otherwise, he learned from one of the older pipers in the Air Force band.

He has the requisite military training, but his duty is music - oboe and English horn in the command band; tenor saxophone when marching, and bagpipe in the pipe band.

The air force pipe band has taken Sergeant Gunn across the United States, twice to Australia, to Japan, to France.

His mother said: “I think it's great. He does what he loves, and he loves his music.”

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