It's true — musician is no pipe dream

Bagpiper traveling trails is school band director

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In recent weeks, users of the Highlands Ranch trail system may have noticed a new, melodic addition to their workout. That's because one resident, accompanied by his bagpipe, has taken to the trails and is playing mini concerts for anyone within earshot.

So who is this piper?

His name is Andrew Michaud and he's the band director for Chatfield Senior High School.

Normally, Michaud, 53, plays the trails by his home near the Town Center in Highlands Ranch, but after a Facebook post of one of his performances, folks have been asking him to come visit their neighborhood trails.

Gov. Jared Polis recently stated that it's “very unlikely” that the state's stay-at-home order — intended to halt the spread of COVID-19 — will end April 11. That means residents will presumably continue to be confined to their neighborhoods.

“The walls are closing in on people,” Michaud said. “For a lot of us, it has been three weeks. Never in our lives have we been in a place for three weeks like this.”

And that's part of the reason he's decided to spread his love of music on the trails.

“We all have to help each other out a little bit,” he said, “and that's just my little contribution.”

As he plays, people cheer, take videos and shout praises from their balconies and nearby trails. Sometimes, they thank Michaud for simply giving them something to listen to that isn't the news, he said.

“Everybody's bored out of their minds in their house,” he said. “(The bagpipe) is definitely different. You don't hear that every day.”

A pair of mountain bikers pulled off a trail at Dad Clark Park on April 1 to enjoy the music and take a few photos as Michaud passed.

“I don't think I could have asked for anything more,” said Jenn Cummings, one of the cyclists. 

She and her fellow cyclist, Susan Davis, started to notice the sound of the pipes well before they spotted Michaud. 

“Everything is so weird right now, I was like: 'There is a man playing pipes in Highlands Ranch. Because why not?” she said. 

Another resident, 4-year-old William Kingseed, was walking with his mom when he heard Michaud playing. It was the first time he'd ever heard the instrument.

“I want him to come back,” William said as he watched Michaud continue down the trail.

Introducing the bagpipes to people like William is another part of why Michaud is doing the tour, he said.

“Maybe I'll get some young pipers,” he said. 

Michaud started his performances at Civic Green Park, then went to Westridge, which led to more and more requests. Now, he estimates he's played on about 15 trails.

“I want to do all the trails in Highlands Ranch before this thing is done,” he said. 

On top of all the benefits for community members, Michaud also enjoys the relief the activity provides him, he said.

“Music has always taken me to a different place,” he said. “I'm staying on the computer for 10 hours a day doing remote teaching. Just getting away from that and shutting that world off is huge.”

On days when the weather is too bad to get outside, he tries to still play in his garage. If he doesn't, he finds himself feeling bummed out, he said. Not to mention, walking two or three miles while playing a bagpipe is a fantastic workout, he said.

“It's super demanding physically,” he said. “Especially when you go up those hills we have in Highlands Ranch.”

As the stay-at-home order persists, Michaud will continue walking every afternoon at a new trail, playing his bagpipe.

“We're getting into the numbness of it all,” he said. “Let's just go realize we're still alive and lift up our spirits a little bit.”

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