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He will today become the first participant in the University of Otago's bagpipe performance programme to graduate from the university.
More than 310 Otago graduates, mainly in arts, music and theology, will graduate in person at a ceremony at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin.
''I'm really happy I'm graduating.
''I'm glad I came to Dunedin and had this experience.
''At the same time, I'm sad to be leaving my studies in Dunedin, because I have so many friends here."
Mr McLean, from Warkworth, north of Auckland, who will graduate in absentia, has strong Scottish roots and has played the bagpipes since the age of 8.
During a visit to Scotland five years ago, he attended a piping recital at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. That proved a life-changing experience and inspired him to devote himself further to studying the pipes.
After completing a two-year music diploma at Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, he applied to enter the recently established bagpipe programme at Otago last year but was initially ''devastated'' not to win entry to the limited-entry programme.
But, after beginning his bachelor of music studies at Otago last year, he was this year accepted into the first-year piping course, also winning a prestigious Alexander Leith Memorial Fellowship.
Critics have likened the pipes to wailing cats, but Mr McLean hears ''a very sweet sound'' in a well-tuned instrument.
Nevertheless, he has found it hard to find somewhere to practise and switched to more remote buildings on campus after practice at his student flat sparked an angry complaint from a neighbour.
Cross-crediting some of his earlier study means he has already completed his three-year bachelor of music studies.
He will leave for Scotland early next year and hopes to pursue piping study at the national centre.