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Old 01-26-2020, 03:37 PM   #1
EquusRacer
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Default Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

I'm curious what members are observing in the numbers of pipe bands competing in games in their areas. In other words, say, in the past five-ten years, are the numbers decreasing, increasing or remaining pretty static?

And what would you reckon to be the reason for any decrease or increase?

Perhaps, related to that, would be if the number of games/competitions are doing the same in your region. I'll weigh in, later, on impressions for the NW U.S. and reasons.
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Old 01-27-2020, 10:06 AM   #2
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

In the US Mid-Atlantic, there are many fewer bands, and the ones that survive are bigger. The standard is definitely higher, nationwide, than it was 30ish years ago when I entered the scene.

I don't believe that there are fewer pipers (in fact, I suspect quite the opposite). I think that there are fewer bands primarily because of the size that's considered "competitive" at any given grade level. It costs more to transport a bigger band, and it's harder to get all your personnel in place at the same time, so bands are more selective about where they travel. As a result, a lot of local games have seen smaller entries.

I don't think this is a terribly good trend for piping and drumming; just reporting what I'm seeing.
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Old 01-29-2020, 04:27 PM   #3
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

Thanks for what you're observing.

In the NW, I think there are several reasons for a decrease. Some have to do with timing, particularly with those bands planning on going to The Worlds. While some use the local games for 'warming up', I think they're choosing less of them.

Then there are the changing rules within BCPA, particularly as they coordinate with RSPBA. Succinctly put, their demands on performing in a number of games, and placing, have sent a message of wanting only primarily competition bands on the field. That means that some 'performance bands', who still want to compete to keep a level of skill, are not as welcome. So some of those are passing...or they're choosing games not sanctioned by BCPA.

In addition, I wonder about those crossing the border with pipes with ivory. Are some saying, "I won't chance having my pipes confiscated."? I don't know.
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Old 02-01-2020, 05:59 PM   #4
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

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Originally Posted by EquusRacer View Post
the changing rules within BCPA...some 'performance bands' who still want to compete to keep a level of skill are not as welcome.
Interesting! I don't quite follow.

Here in WUSPBA territory it's gone the other way, adding a Grade Five in order to encourage as many bands as possible to compete.

I wonder if there are stats to show whether or not this has worked as intended.

Here locally my impression is that a number of bands have ceased competing and that there are fewer bands at our Games.

On the other hand there seem to be more Service Bands than back in the day.
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Old 02-01-2020, 06:34 PM   #5
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

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Interesting! I don't quite follow.

Here in WUSPBA territory it's gone the other way, adding a Grade Five in order to encourage as many bands as possible to compete.
It would take too long to describe, and there have been several years of debates, phone calls, etc. But as an example, some things started when BCPA sent letters out to bands in certain grades that had not been placing, suggesting that they drop down a grade. Later on, some rules changed that indicated that bands had to compete in a certain number of games, and at least place, or they would be dropped a grade.

The point, in part, is that if bands were on the field in a certain grade, and weren't placing, they didn't belong on the field. I challenged that, unsuccessfully. I understand if judges believe that a band may be playing in a grade where they don't belong; but not placing in a certain number of games--particularly when there are a number of good and/or dominant bands--doesn't necessarily mean they didn't belong on the field.

In any event, a number of bands who are not necessarily 'competition' band, yet use competition to focus and keep up a certain standard, felt that they were being told to go away. Yes, this is a contentious and debatable situation. In any event, it's only one possible reason for fewer bands; but there are many others, without question.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:13 PM   #6
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

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I understand if judges believe that a band may be playing in a grade where they don't belong; but not placing in a certain number of games--particularly when there are a number of good and/or dominant bands--doesn't necessarily mean they didn't belong on the field.
I’m in agreement here. Imagine the uproar if some of the G1 bands that fail to unseat bands that are consistently placing in the top 5 at the worlds were bumped down to G2.
While they’re not placing, they’re still probably leagues ahead of the G2 competitors, and it just creates a situation where bands get bumped.. and bumped... and bumped, until they’re in a grade that’s probably too high for them. It’s not a situation that’s fair for other bands.

For the bands that are simply entering competition to ‘hone their skills’, if the intention is to get feedback, then surely the feedback should be essentially the same at any level?
Maybe an open grade for these kinds of bands is something associations could introduce, with the intention of judging and giving feedback to bands, rather than offering scores or placings.
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Old 02-02-2020, 10:10 AM   #7
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

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I’m in agreement here. Imagine the uproar if some of the G1 bands that fail to unseat bands that are consistently placing in the top 5 at the worlds were bumped down to G2.

Maybe an open grade for these kinds of bands is something associations could introduce, with the intention of judging and giving feedback to bands, rather than offering scores or placings.
Precisely. There are bands that do tend to dominate, especially in Gr 3 and 4. So if there are, say, eight bands in Gr 4, does that mean that the five who did not place did not play at Gr 4 level?

An 'open' grade (similar to 'adult' in some solo comps) might be an answer for some bands, as you say, who simply want feedback. But those who are playing at the appropriate level, that might be an insult to all the hard work they put in to play in their 'perceived' grade.

All that said, I would support judges telling a band, as they might a solo competitor, that they do not belong in a certain grade. That's part of the process with BCPA and other bodies' nominating committees. However, that decision should not be based solely on a band's placement or not.
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Old 02-03-2020, 09:51 AM   #8
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

There's an array of reasons why competition prizes shouldn't be the sole measure of a band's success or level of play. Maybe the standard in their area is particularly high or low. Maybe they only enter large competitions (where the standard is high). Maybe they win all the time in a small field because they CAN'T afford to travel.

IMO, grading only makes sense if you are going to try to uphold a standard for each grade that is both consistent within your organization, and consistent worldwide. I realize that it'll never be perfect, but the should be the goal. Bands should be evaluated against a STANDARD, not purely against the other bands on a given day.

If a band is playing at the standard, it shouldn't matter how often they get a prize or how often they compete at all. If I decide to take a band to only one contest every year (say, a local championship, or even the World's), the band's grading should still be correct and meaningful. It's unfair to the other bands if this isn't the case.
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Old 02-03-2020, 10:38 AM   #9
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

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Originally Posted by Dan Bell View Post
There's an array of reasons why competition prizes shouldn't be the sole measure of a band's success or level of play. Maybe the standard in their area is particularly high or low. Maybe they only enter large competitions (where the standard is high). Maybe they win all the time in a small field because they CAN'T afford to travel.

IMO, grading only makes sense if you are going to try to uphold a standard for each grade that is both consistent within your organization, and consistent worldwide. I realize that it'll never be perfect, but the should be the goal. Bands should be evaluated against a STANDARD, not purely against the other bands on a given day.

If a band is playing at the standard, it shouldn't matter how often they get a prize or how often they compete at all. If I decide to take a band to only one contest every year (say, a local championship, or even the World's), the band's grading should still be correct and meaningful. It's unfair to the other bands if this isn't the case.
I agree totally with all that. I'd say the standard here in the NW (including BC) is relatively high. Thanks for your thoughts, Dan. Cheers, Michael
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Old 02-04-2020, 09:09 AM   #10
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Default Re: Pipe Band Numbers in Competition

I can understand a proposal to regrade bands that are hibernating (or hiding...) in order to preserve their grading if they aren't able to compete; I wonder how many registered grade 2 and 3 bands there are around the world who haven't competed since receiving their current grade. I certainly know of a few.
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