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Beer Tent The general discussion forum, and the place to start a new "beer-tent-like" Piping Related discussion...

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Old 06-09-2019, 01:57 PM   #11
Kevin
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

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Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
I pay as much attention to them as I do the conspiracy theory people.

The things these people say are almost never interesting, or true.
"Nothing to see here folks!"; sounds like a cover-up to me

Seriously though, I agree. Things come and go in waves. If there is anything to the reported decline, I would suspect it has something to do with baby boomer demographics and time elapsed since the last Braveheart movie. The most populous part of our North American population is reaching an age when a stroll in the woods sounds a lot more appealing than blowing pipes all day in the hot sun. Perhaps this results in fewer youngsters taking up the pipes at the same time as boomers are retiring from them (or at least from the competitions)

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Old 06-09-2019, 10:31 PM   #12
piper909
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

Has anyone noted the profusion of police/fire department bands in the USA sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the room for civilian bands? And these publicly subsidized bands (I mean to say, taxpayer money usually supplies some of the kit and instruments as well as paying for the time spent away from regular duties) almost never compete -- in my experience, American PD/FD bands are way too content to learn a couple of tunes for their ceremonies and seldom venture outside that comfort zone. It's not at all like those type of bands in the UK or Canada. Few individuals in these bands are interested in competition or even that into the heritage and tradition of Scottish piping beyond the dressing-up aspects and the old romantic glamor. In workshops I've attended, they seem distraught when faced with higher-level tunes, complex gracenotes or settings, and the mention of piobaireachd makes them blanch or yawn.



This is a broad characterization and not meant to offend those individuals who are the exceptions to my own experience.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:37 PM   #13
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

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Has anyone noted the profusion of police/fire department bands in the USA sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the room for civilian bands?
I have noticed an increase in the number of police and fire bands.

I don't know what you mean when you say "sucking the oxygen out of the room".

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Originally Posted by piper909 View Post
these bands almost never compete...content to learn a couple of tunes (and) the dressing-up aspects...few are interested in competition...distraught when faced with higher-level tunes...
Wow that's pretty harsh, and condescending.

Having played in a fire department band for a few years that was strongly competition-oriented, being Grade 3 for some of that time, I have a different perspective.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:40 PM   #14
piper909
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

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Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
I have noticed an increase in the number of police and fire bands.

I don't know what you mean when you say "sucking the oxygen out of the room".







Wow that's pretty harsh, and condescending.

Having played in a fire department band for a few years that was strongly competition-oriented, being Grade 3 for some of that time, I have a different perspective.



I mean, taking gigs away from civilian bands but operating as "closed shops", not mixing with civilian bands and taking a, shall we say, superior attitude toward them. They do not teach outsiders. They do not compete (not here, anyway). They do not evidence much interest in the heritage of the instrument or in mastering more complex forms. What they *are* interested in is ceremonial duties and putting on the kit.



I would answer to this by saying, then, that your experience has been very different from mine and others who feel as I do, based in our region. You have been fortunate. I would ask if this is the norm? Because that's not the way it has been in this part of Texas.

I wish these comments were not "harsh," but these are based on personal experience and decades of performing as a soloist and with (civilian) bands. I take no pleasure in saying this. I have attended workshops where professional pipers and instructors from out of state were dismayed at the level of non-competence accepted as the norm among police band players and also the lack of motivation to either improve or learn. I have spoken with competition judges and professional pipers who echo these concerns.

Texas police/fire/EMS pipers/drummers, please feel free to add your comments and observations.

Last edited by piper909; 06-12-2019 at 09:48 PM.
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Old 06-13-2019, 01:09 AM   #15
Chris C.
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

I have been out of the competition scene for over two decades.

When I took the pipes back up over a year ago, I looked into local bands, and found there are less of them than there were in the 80's and 90's -- maybe half as many as there were when I was competing.

I don't know why that is. Changes in demographics, less parades in the area to provide a reason to perform, maybe the BCPA thing mentioned by the Oregon posters here?
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Old 06-13-2019, 04:56 AM   #16
DNorwood
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

Perhaps there is room for you to adjust your thinking.
Not everyone wants to compete. Is it not possible for them to fill a gap and provide the service and/or entertainment value without living up to your expectations?


I bet bands likes Albannach, Clan an Drumma and others just send you into an emotional tizzy.


Perhaps if you really care, you will volunteer your time to help. I have never known a non-competing band who refused help from a high-level player such as yourself. Yet, I have known - from my experience, that most competing bands 1) Don't like to teach adults, 2) Are pipe snobs.

It's a system of dysfunction hardly created by Police / Fire and non-competition bands.

I have spoken with many adult students who echo these same concerns.

Does that mean much? Meh.







Quote:
Originally Posted by piper909 View Post
.... were dismayed at the level of non-competence accepted as the norm among police band players and also the lack of motivation to either improve or learn. I have spoken with competition judges and professional pipers who echo these concerns.

.

Last edited by DNorwood; 06-13-2019 at 04:59 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old 06-13-2019, 07:27 AM   #17
Texas Gael
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

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Having played in a fire department band for a few years that was strongly competition-oriented, being Grade 3 for some of that time, I have a different perspective.
I, too, have gained perspective by playing with several Fire Dept bands in the area the past few years, and I'm also playing with two competitive pipe bands (long story), and started my piping career 37 years ago with instruction from a professional piper and playing in a competitive pipe band. My observation is that the overwhelming majority of pipers, whether civilian or in a service band, do not care to compete, either solo or band, and that's fine. Most want to learn the GHB because they like the instrument and they like the functions the instrument plays for. Nothing wrong with that.

There is a downside, though, if you cannot or will not get good instruction, or just never get things figured out. Last Fall I attended a workshop held by the local FD band, which brought in Ian K. MacDonald as instructor. The first afternoon's massed band was a disaster tone-wise, so the second day Ian had every piper take their bagpipe completely apart so he could check the pipe bags for leaks. There were quite a few leaking bags, mainly from being poorly tied in, but also a couple of pipe bags which needed to be replaced. Ian then had us re-assemble our bagpipes and he went around the room getting the reeds set up properly. Needless to say, the massed band sounded a lot better and had few problems.

The fire bands I've been playing with may not want to compete, but are making a genuine attempt to improve their playing.

Cheers -

Wes
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:33 PM   #18
Nerdypiper42
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

Speaking from the perspective of a very new piper, there can be what feels like some huge barriers to entry when it comes to trying to compete even at the beginner levels. I understand that performance metrics are important to being able to gauge one piperís playing against anotherís in a given competition, but seriously...

I came into piping in a world where bands like SFU, FMM, Inveraray and District, etc are the gold standard. When a player starts when they are older, or has economic or personal circumstances that interfere with the ability to work to get to any sort of advanced level, it can feel like a fruitless task to even try to compete.

Iím just young enough to understand where younger generations might be at when it comes to taking up (or continuing to play) this amazing instrument. Itís EXPENSIVE, both in terms of financial investment and in terms of time devoted to learning to play, let alone obtaining any sort of higher level of skill at it. Folks in my generation...many of them are drowning in school debt and earning wages low enough that theyíre barely getting by, let alone having the financial or temporal leisure to learn an instrument. I have been VERY fortunate to be able to do so, and even so Iíve been on a very limited budget to make it work and without some very lucky breaks it wouldnít have happened. I guess what Iím getting at is that there are a lot of factors that donít have much to do with whether a person desires to learn the pipes/drums that are likely affecting the numbers of those able and willing to play, let alone compete.

There is little that makes me happier than playing and learning piping and pipe music, but there are times when even someone with the relative privilege that I have struggles to make it work.

So, thereís more to it than lack of desire. I would absolutely love to find ways to make this amazing art form more accessible to more people but would have no idea where to start 🤷*♀️

Change does not mean the end of a thing.
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Old 06-15-2019, 11:51 AM   #19
piper Q
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper909 View Post
Has anyone noted the profusion of police/fire department bands in the USA sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the room for civilian bands? And these publicly subsidized bands (I mean to say, taxpayer money usually supplies some of the kit and instruments as well as paying for the time spent away from regular duties) almost never compete -- in my experience, American PD/FD bands are way too content to learn a couple of tunes for their ceremonies and seldom venture outside that comfort zone. It's not at all like those type of bands in the UK or Canada. Few individuals in these bands are interested in competition or even that into the heritage and tradition of Scottish piping beyond the dressing-up aspects and the old romantic glamor. In workshops I've attended, they seem distraught when faced with higher-level tunes, complex gracenotes or settings, and the mention of piobaireachd makes them blanch or yawn.



This is a broad characterization and not meant to offend those individuals who are the exceptions to my own experience.
While I understand it as a broad characterization, and even a bit satirical; from my experience has been it is profoundly off the mark for where I was in the Northeast, and where I am currently.

The Pipe Major for the Police Band I was with in New York traveled extensively and was introducing many of us to more than just parade standards, and not just party sets. A good half of the band was school aged youth, from about 9 years old to mid teens, with a break for the late teens and 20 somethings before you came into the adult pipers. Yes, a Pibrock would make a few of us blanch a bit, but that doesn't mean we didn't attempt to learn one.

As for Taxpayer Support. Zero, none, nope, nada, zip, zilch, ye olde goose egg. That would of been a big issue in any village, town, or city. Let alone county or state. The band I was with, was organized under the auspices of the Fraternal Order Of Police, while the local Lodge allowed us use of the hall for practice, the bagpipes were the pipers own purchased by them selves, and the drums belonged to the band/FOP. Where any taxpay dollars may of entered the equation it was through the Payroll, or Retirement Incomes, of those Civil Servants who were members of the band.

Yes, Police and Fire Pipes and Drums may have a price list for the functions they support, but they are purely social and musical organizations separate from the Jurisdictions which they may be chartered in. and monies earned went to purchase uniforms and specific items which belonged to the band. There was an audit each year to show what was brought in and expended.

As for a Fire Department Pipes and Drums event in my current region of residence. This past June 14th, Flag Day, Pipers representing the Gulfport Mississippi Fire Department gave support to the events at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. of the Pipers there, all 3 were doing so voluntarily and without reimbursement, 1 is a Civil Engineer, 1 is a Retired Ship Builder, and Myself also a retiree. The three of us and a few others get together to practice, and we all support functions of the Police, Fire, and local Military and Veterans Organizations as we can. As for affiliation with the Fire Department, we were recruited to support their events and any items we were provided are maintained from our own funds and were not purchased by the Governmental Agency we support.


Your experiences may vary.
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Old 06-21-2019, 10:43 AM   #20
Dan Bell
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Default Re: The end of the world as we know it...really?

I agree with the comment by Callum: there are more pipers than ever before, playing at a higher standard. The competition bands that we do have are bigger and better than at any time before, but there ARE far fewer of them.

I think there are several factors:

- Yes, we are competing against lots of other things that kids could be doing aside from learning pipes/drums.

- The size of bands is a big factor, at every level. When I was a kid, 8 pipers would have been perfectly adequate for a good grade 3 band. A given geographic area can support a lot more bands at that size than when "adequate" is considered 12, etc.

- There are follow-on effects from the size thing: it costs a lot more to transport a band that has 30+ players. Wrangling that many people's personal lives, work schedules, etc, so that the whole band can travel is a big logistical challenge.

- Because of the cost and difficulty involved, bands are probably playing fewer contests (they want to travel to where there will be the largest entry/highest standard, to get the most bang for their buck, so that sometimes means that local events lose out even if they're closer).

- Bands tend to have much less of a local identity than they used to. At the high levels, most every band has long-distance players, and far fewer players stay with their local bands for their whole careers. That may be better for individual player development, as players can travel to play with better, but it's a real mixed bag for the development of organizations. Constant turnover complicates the development of middle- and lower-level bands.

- Prestige within the pipe band world has gravitated to the big events. If a band wants to be seen as an "important" band, it's the major prizes that count. Events like the World's and Maxville become the focus of the limited resources. It's a self-reinforcing cycle: winning a local contest is never going to generate the reputation, buzz, fundraising and recruitment opportunities that coming home from Glasgow Green with a prize will. Everyone wants to be part of a winner.

- My personal opinion is that some North American "pipe band" associations put a lot more effort and emphasis on supporting their solo players than they do into developing high-level bands. I'm going out on something of a limb with that statement; I'm sure it will offend some, and it's purely my personal opinion.
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