Like most children, Kevin McLean starting playing musical instruments in elementary school.
What was different about McLean, however, is that he went on to play the bagpipes at age 13.
Now 22 years old, the lifelong Maple Ridge native is bringing a new perspective to his nearly decade-long love of the ancient instrument known for its role on the battlefield.
Part of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, McLean has lots of experience.
And it was those skills that landed this young piper a gig playing in the unusual setting of the former battlefields of France for a week in early June.
"Well, it definitely made me have a whole new respect for the instrument," McLean said of the experience.
"It pretty much changed my perspective of the instrument."
The trip to France was a tour for retired military leaders, historians, and business people to expose Canadians to the sites that helped form much of Canada's reputation in Europe.
McLean played his instrument and spoke about the history and importance of the bagpipes when the group toured.
"I gave a 10-minute talk," he said. "Many came up and thanked me. It was fantastic. Such a great experience."
The group visited the grave of Canadian James Cleland Richardson, a piper of the Seaforth Highlanders. McLean found this grave site as moving as that of his great uncle.
"It really put an individual story to the war for me and made me realize that every grave I saw had a story just like my great uncle's," McLean said in an email to The TIMES. "It made me so proud to be a Canadian."
In August, McLean returns to Glasgow,Scotland with the SFU Pipe Band.
This is his fifth trip to the city, and his third competing with the Grade 1 band.
Of particular note this trip is McLean's involvement in raising funds to get there.
"I've been doing a lot of fundraising," he noted. "It's been amazing seeing the reaction from supporters. It's given everyone a boost of adrenalin."
McLean also takes part in the band's social media activities, and said it was great being able to see the fan base of the band online.
With six world championships behind it, the pipe band is pursuing a seventh in Glasgow where members will perform in two events.
When competing in Glasgow, McLean will have something extra. Motivation coming directly from the resting places of other Canadians.
"It was amazing," he said. Not bad for a guy whose interest in bagpiping came courtesy of watching the movie Braveheart.
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