Scotland's piping pin-up Finlay MacDonald has had more than his fair share of 'pinch yourself' moments.

He's gone from collaborating with musicians in Algeria, to creating a storm at New York's Tartan Week to starring alongside Michael Keaton in Robert Duvall's film A Shot at Glory.

Yet his surreal career highs don't get much more dizzying than the call that came from rap impresario P Diddy's producer to join him on stage at the Old Fruimarket last September.

Just a few hours after a phone conversation to find out if he could accompany P Diddy (aka Sean Combs) at an MTV gig beamed to 640million viewers around the world, the 33-year-old was hanging out backstage with the music mogul - and teaching him the basics of playing the pipes.

"He was really into it," said Finlay.

"He wanted to make a good job of it and he didn't want it to be a gimmick."

The American hip hop icon changed wardrobe behind a Saltire flag to reveal a kilt as Finlay accompanied him on the pipes - before Finlay put a Scottish slant on the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' anthem Empire State of Mind.

"He was asking: 'Do you think this would be seen as me making fun of it?' And I said 'No'."

"He was cool - a nice guy."

Weeks later, Finlay joined Canadian rocker Bryan Adams on his acoustic Bare Bones tour date at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, performing Cuts Like A Knife on the pipes.

There's no shortage of international influence at rehearsals in Glasgow's National Piping Centre in Cowcaddens, where Finlay is head of piping studies.

A member of the Oman airforce band practises while students of the RSAMD's BA in Scottish Music specialising in pipes, and who learn at the centre, have travelled from as far afield as Germany, the United States and Japan.

Indeed, a veritable united nations of pipers have descended on Glasgow this week for the eighth annual Piping Live! festival ahead of this Saturday's annual World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green.

The National Piping Centre acts as a hub for the festival, in addition to regular performances and 'come and try' workshops every day in George Square.

Finlay works closely with festival director Roddy MacLeod to help shape the artistic direction of the festival, which attracts 30,000 spectators to more than 150 events.

He and fiddler Chris Stout played on the opening night of the festival with Edinburgh-based orchestral quintet Mr McFall's Chamber, while tonight both play with the ScottishPower Pipe Band at the city's Royal Concert Hall.

For Finlay, unexpected collaborations are key to the festival's success.

He said: "It brings people together and gets the music really inter-changing between not just pipers, but musicians from all over the world."

Born in Paisley, Finlay grew up listening to music played by his father, Pipe Major Iain MacDonald of the Neilston and District Pipe Band.

It was only on leaving school and securing a place in the RSAMD's BA in Scottish Music course that he realised he might have a career playing the pipes.

"You've got all these ideas about pipe music and then you're in a college where there's another 100 people who are all really into it, bringing ideas to the table."

Now that he's a tutor on that same course, he tries to bring a distinctive, individual quality out of his students' playing, just as he's been credited with bringing an innovative sound to the genre. That's the sign when someone has really grasped it.

"When someone can impart their own approach and style and sound on it, it's like a voice.

"If you hear Elton John, you know it's him. It's about working hard to express yourself in a way that hopefully makes people recognise your playing from your style."

Bagpipes aren't the most natural of beasts to master, with only nine notes and no scope in their volume levels. But Finlay doesn't see that as a limitation, merely another dynamic of the instrument that he loves.

Finlay says his two-year-old son, Elliott, loves hearing the pipes whenever he plays at the family home in Cathcart.

He and wife Jo – who works at Glasgow University, and is expecting their second child in November – have been married for four years.

Finlay's own outfit, The Finlay MacDonald Band, has taken a backseat for now as he concentrates on recording an album with Chris Stout, alongside stints performing with Scottish folk heroes Deaf Shepherd and La Banda Europa, a pan-European celebration of indigenous instruments.

"My whole take on music is that it survives by continually evolving," said Finlay.

"It changes and it develops all the time and we have to embrace that."

lPiping Live! runs until Sunday at various venues across Glasgow. Call 0141 353 0220 or visit Tickets from 0141 353 8000.