Robert Crabtree

(1966- )

Robert CrabtreeRob Crabtree was born in 1966 in North York, Ontario, a suburb that is now part of the city of Toronto. Early musical influences included the classical and jazz music his parents loved, the sixties and seventies pop that dominated the airwaves in his childhood, and the folk songs he was exposed to in his French-immersion education.

At age seven, a year after his family relocated to the Ottawa area, his parents enrolled him for recorder lessons, and in these early years he showed enough talent in city-wide auditions to be chosen for some select ensembles. He was also a member of two winning recorder quartets at the Ottawa Music Festival.

Rob made up his mind to become a piper at age eight, although it took a while longer to convince his family to let him do it! Beyond the sound and spectacle of the instrument, Rob figures it appealed to him because of its connection to his mother’s home province of Nova Scotia and its connection to the military, which fascinated Rob the way sports fascinated many other youngsters.

By the time he was in middle school, Rob was a member of an Ottawa-area Grade IV pipe band led by Morag Jamieson, a pioneering female pipe major who developed the skills of her musicians through her high performance standards and the extra instruction she sought out for the band. This included trips to the Northern School of Piping in Timmins, Ontario, to be taught by luminaries like Jimmy McIntosh, Seumas MacNeill, Harry McNulty and, for drummers, the great Alex Duthart.

As a soloist, Rob scaled the amateur grades and in 1986 was overall North American Amateur Champion at Maxville. Throughout his eighteen years of professional solo piping, Rob was a regular performer and prizewinner at the world’s foremost competitions and reached some lofty peaks such as the 1997 Crystal Chalice, an invitational MSR competition held on the 50th anniversary of the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, and the 1998 Gold Medal for Piobaireachd at Braemar, Scotland.

A major goal of Rob’s piping career has been to extend the appeal of the bagpipe to new audiences. His Juno-nominated, Gold-selling 1999 album, The Piper’s Legacy, went a long way toward achieving this, with its unique brand of pipe music accompanied by piano, guitar, fiddle, bass, percussion and other familiar instruments. Rob went on to record three other popular albums in the same genre and, throughout the early and middle part of the past decade, he delighted many an audience with live presentations of his music at such venues as the River Run Centre in Guelph, the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford and the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto. Rob also authored, scored, co-produced and directed the music of the inaugural season of “Highland Storm” at the College of Piping in Summerside, PEI, which ran for 12 weeks at the College’s amphitheatre before moving to Charlottetown for a season finale performance at the Confederation Centre.

Rob cites two of Canada’s foremost pipers as his principal instructors and mentors: Jim McGillivray of Aurora, Ontario and Scott MacAulay, the founding Director of the College of Piping in Summerside, PEI, whose passing in the summer of 2008 was mourned across the piping world. Over the years, Rob became himself a leader in the instructional arena, co-founding and eventually directing the Ontario School of Piping and Drumming at St. Andrew’s College, co-authoring and producing the Rhythmic Fingerwork series of instructional DVDs with Jim McGillivray and teaching many private students in the Toronto area.

Rob has two degrees in engineering and currently works in the public sector in Toronto, where he also makes his home with his wife Dorothy Carson and their three children. Beside music, Rob has a parallel creative interest in creative writing and devotes much of his spare time to works he plans one day to publish.

August, 2009


  • Dave McGrath … Mandolin, Whistle, Electric Bass, Ankle Bells; SW Florida ÷ NE Ohio

    Rob: I happened to hear your version of Danny Boy on You Tube the other day and it inspired me to repurchase “The Piper’s Legacy”. I have been playing along with it on Bb whistle and want to introduce the arrangement to my medieval/Irish group. We have a baritone fiddler for the drone.
    Anyway, I love your music, and I love what you do for the music.

  • Hi Rob, I’ll never forget the splendid and inspiring rendition of ACDC’s “It’s a long way to the top” you performed at the infamous “Vortex 331 1/2” in Kingston Ontario back in 1988. For me it was the absolute benchmark for excellence in bag pipe musicianshipping. Keep up the excellent work!

  • Hi Rob, just over a decade ago i came across your great ‘Pipers Legacy’ album in a Beijing, China cd shop, and ive been enjoying it ever since. Bagpipe music is very popular in China possibly due to the similar sounding traditional reed instrument called the suoun. Later i managed to find your great Xmas album too! All the best!

  • Marianne Henderson

    I’m glad for the Christmas season for several reasons, one being that I listen to ‘The Piper’s Christmas’ cd again. I never tire of hearing the songs you chose and play. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  • Hi Rob! My name is Daisy and I live near Chicago, IL, US. You’ve had a huge impact on my life. 🙂

    When I was 9 years old, I completed a school project on a country of my choosing — Scotland (I’m part Scottish). I fell in love with bagpipes and the fascinating, beautiful, stirring music they create. They evoked such emotion from me. I wanted to play so badly! I found a mini set of pipes in a catalog and asked for them for Christmas. Christmas came, and my mom said, “Open this one last! It’s the best!!” I was so surprised my parents got me bagpipes!! However, they were mostly novelty, I couldn’t keep the bag filled (leaky, but I was none the wiser at the time), and the drones were solely decorative. I still carried them around and tried to play one or two notes on the chanter, bringing them to my grandma in her nursing home to show her, with me dressed in my red plaid pants to match!

    Around that age, I was in a craft store with my parents one day. We were checking out, and in the impulse-buy area near the register, I couldn’t believe what I saw. The Piper’s Legacy. I was like, what?! Piper?! Bagpipe and kilt on the front?! A bagpipe music CD, right here, right now?!? I got SO excited, showed my parents, and asked for it. Again, couldn’t believe they got it for me! I listened to The Piper’s Legacy on my CD player nonstop for the next I don’t know how long. I’d listen to it in bed at night, and fall asleep to it. I had never heard bagpipes like this before, maybe just at a parade?

    Greensleeves was, and is, so emotional for me. Your piping is just… leaves me speechless. I do think that being introduced to bagpipe music at a young age, along with my pride for being Scottish, really deepens the impact all of this has on me. Morning Has Broken and Duart’s Castle are another two favorites. The former felt so hopeful to me, as a young girl, like I could do anything I wanted, and to not be afraid. I could play bagpipes if I really wanted to! The latter, Duart’s Castle, is such a bouncy and joyful tune. It always lifted my spirits and is still so enjoyable and fun to listen to today! How fun it must be to play!

    Now, at 31, I am finally attempting to fulfill a lifelong childhood goal and dream of mine — to play the pipes. I started a week ago. I’m using a McCallum PC4 practice chanter. And my ultimate goal is to play those three songs from my childhood from The Piper’s Legacy by you, Rob Crabtree! The greatest piper in the world. 😀

    They say it takes seven years to make a great piper, so, I hope you’ll hear from me again in seven years. 😉


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