Missouri Military Academy’s Cadet Mason Brooks ’25 from Henrietta, Texas, has become the first cadet from any high school or college-level military school in the United States to win a National Progression Award for piping. After years of practice in bagpipe theory, practical skills and performance, Cadet Brooks successfully passed level 2. Feature photo above, from left to right: Music Department Chair And Bagpipe Instructor Stuart Mackenzie, Cadet Mason Brooks and MMA President Brigadier General Richard V. Geraci USA (Ret).
“I am extremely proud of the effort that Brooks has put in to be ready for the exam,” says Stuart Mackenzie, music department chair and bagpipe instructor. “I am also very proud that he is the first student from any military school in the U.S.A. to sit and pass a National Progression Award exam — and the fact that he is an MMA cadet.”
The National Progression Awards for Piping are exams that are carried out by approved assessors through the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board in conjunction with The Scottish Qualifications Authority and the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. There are five levels to the awards from 2 - 6. The exams are based on national standards of teaching assessment and enable a consistent approach to the study of Scottish Bagpipes in Scotland and internationally. The National Progression Awards in Scottish Bagpipes cover the practical skills and knowledge of theory that pipers need for performing on Scottish Bagpipes.
Cadet Brooks came to MMA as a freshman and joined the piping program because it “looked like a fun and unique opportunity,” he says. His unique opportunity led him to a historic win.
To begin his journey to the National Progression Awards, Cadet Brooks had to be registered with the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Once an exam date was decided, Cadet Brooks took his exam via Zoom in front of an approved assessor. Then, he completed a written theory exam, which was immediately scanned and sent to the National Piping Centre. Next, he took a practical exam where he played various embellishments and exercises and then played two tunes from memory.
“On completion of the exam, all recordings are validated by the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board and the Scottish Qualifications Authority before a result is given,” Mackenzie says. “The process takes up to six weeks to complete.”
Mackenzie says Brooks learned bagpipe theory and how to read and play new music through bagpipe lessons. He prepared for the exams during his bagpipe lessons, and he did extra study hours for a few weeks before the exam.
“The exam required me to study and understand the theory and music of the instrument, but I was well-prepared and able to complete it successfully,” Cadet Brooks says.
So successfully, in fact, that he is the first cadet from a United States military school to do so.
Cadet Brooks is involved in many activities outside of piping, including Boy Scouts, varsity swimming and NHS. After graduation, he plans on commissioning in the Army and getting a degree in economics.
His advice for anyone interested in playing the pipes? “Practice consistently,” he says. “Although it may be difficult at first, it will quickly become easier.”
Congratulations, Cadet Brooks!