You can see Cameron Anderson wearing a kilt and playing his bagpipes all around our region. But there is a lot more to this young man.
Cameron grew up in Connecticut. Because he enjoyed outdoor recreation, and his father had spent summers at his grandfather's camp on St. Regis Lake, he enrolled in Paul Smith's College's outdoor leadership program. Later, he studied in North Country Community College's wilderness management curriculum. He soon realized college was not for him; he didn't complete either course of study. But he made some good friends.
While he was in college, Cameron's father presented him with a gift from a visit to Scotland: a practice chanter. Similar in appearance to a recorder, the chanter creates the melody of the Scottish highland bagpipe. A smaller version with a mouthpiece is used to teach piping, so the student can learn fingering before mastering control of the bag. Cameron enjoyed playing with it, annoying his roommates a bit.
Cameron Anderson plays the bagpipe in front of the
Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake.
(Photo — Yvona Fast)
Cameron is proud of his Scottish heritage - his mom is 100 percent Scot, his dad 75 percent.
"My dad went to some Scottish festivals, and I often accompanied him," he said. "Growing up, I became interested in the culture and traditions of Scotland. When I was asked to be the King of England in a high school Shakespeare drama, I came in wearing my Scottish kilt."
When his college experience didn't pan out, he moved back to Connecticut. His mother's friends introduced him to the Mystic Highland Pipe Band.
"This ancient instrument is special," he said. "I had always loved the sound. There is a drive about them; they make your blood boil. The sound is so stirring, it has been said that they can make a sick man rise from his bed. I thought maybe I could learn to play, and took lessons with Steve Ingram on the chanter. This proved to be a life-changing experience."
The friends he had made in the Tri-Lakes missed him, and asked him to come back. Cameron replied that he would only move back if he could find an instructor here to continue his training on the highland pipes. Such an individual was found, and so Cameron moved back to the mountains. Since then, John Radigan has become more than a teacher; he's a close friend and mentor. "For the past 11 years, he has been a great part of my life and my mastery of the Great Highland Pipes," Cameron said.
Cameron needed a job. After a few months working in maintenance at the Adirondack Mountain Club, he found his niche working with at-risk youth - first with the Mountain Lake Academy and then at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions. For the past three years, he has worked with the Adirondack Arc.
He was living with friends in Saranac Lake when his brother called to tell him Mom had a stroke. So he went back to Connecticut to be with her. It was a large aneurism; she got worse and died a week later.
After the funeral, Cameron returned to the mountains, but his world had turned upside down.
"I felt empty and lonely. It seemed every time I got close to giving up my drinking problems, they always followed me," he said. "Even though I wasn't very close to Mom, I could still see her on her knees praying for me back when I was in high school and began drinking."
While helping a friend take down goat posts, Cameron met some folks who owned a cabin in the woods, occupied by their daughter. He began teaching their son bagpipes, and a relationship developed. So when their daughter was getting married and moving out of the cabin, he asked if he could rent it.
"I loved the idea of solitude, not having to deal with people," he said. "My neighbors and landlords semi-adopted me, treating me like one of their own kids. I guess God had other plans for me than solitude and killing my troubles with a bottle of Scotch. Today I realize that it took Mom's eyes closing for my eyes to finally open, for God's truth and perfect plan. The pain of the broken relationships with my mom was washed away, and I had peace. God took away my drinking and made all that stuff unfruitful to me. To this day, I'm sober, thanks to God."
Cameron's true calling continues to be the bagpipes. "I studied at the College of Piping on Prince Edward Island," Cameron said. "I was also privileged to study under Gordon Webster, the Queen's personal piper and Pipe Major. I started traveling to Albany 2 1/2 years ago to work with Gordon Peters, the Pipe Major of the Capital Region Celtic Pipe Band and the judge at many regional piping competitions.
"Life is like building blocks. I feel I'm where I'm supposed to be. Many of the blessings in my life have come through playing the pipes. I met my wife Lindsay through playing pipes - although she's not a piper, she's a Scottish highland dancer. We met at the Southern New Hampshire Scottish Games. I was practicing at night by the light of my car; she heard me and came out with a friend to see. We continued meeting throughout that summer at other festivals. At the end of the summer, she came to visit. My friend asked when she was moving up here. Jokingly, she answered as soon as I find a job. Two weeks later, my friends found a long-term subbing position for her in the area."
While they were dating, Cameron saw a real estate listing for an old farmhouse. Under number of bathrooms, it listed two seater outhouses. Lindsay joked, "That is right up your alley." He bought the house (which had been used as a hunting camp) and land, and began demolition and renovation.
They were married in August 2007. That winter, while Cameron lived in one 13-foot-by-17-foot room of the old house, Lindsay was working as a teacher and houseparent. So for the first six months of their marriage, they couldn't really live together.
They're still renovating the old house. Because there are no power or phone lines that go out there, they installed solar panels and use cell phones.
"I've always had a conviction for conserving resources," Cameron said. "So has Lindsay; she's getting involved with the Adirondack Green Circle. We believe that we're called to be good stewards of God's creation. On the solar homes tour, we're often asked if it is hard to change. Because my mom was a stickler for not wasting energy - if you weren't in a room, the light wasn't on - I'm used to conserving. It's not that difficult."
Cameron plays at Christmas concerts, weddings and other events. He is also teaching the pipes.
"Psalm 150 exhorts us to 'Let everything that has breath praise the Lord Praise him with the strings and pipe Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.' I use the pipes to praise and honor God. It's not about me - it's about Him."