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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 12-11-2017, 09:25 AM   #1
HighlandPark
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Default Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

What is the health of pipe bands, competitive or performance (i.e., street)?

I only ask this after hearing a journalist present a radio program, Making Bagpipes Great Again (A Big Noise), suggesting that "pipe bands are in serious decline". The program outlined how a competitive pipe band in Ontario decided to address the fact that their membership was aging without replacement. They collected unused pipes from the community and actively solicited new and much younger members.

The enthusiasm of the new members, high school kids, was inspiring, as was some of their playing. One lad stated that girls loved that he was a piper! However, the program ended with, perhaps unfortunately, a parody on bagpipes, Music Appreciation: The Bagpipes, by British entertainer Anna Russell from the 1950s (though she skewered more than one musical genre in her time).

We have recently heard that some grades are suffering, e.g., grade 3, and that travel costs have placed greater challenges on bands wanting to compete. However, from my viewpoint, in a city with upwards of 10 pipe bands, three of them competitive, and in a country with with a rich piping tradition, pipe bands and their membership, competitive or performance, are not in serious decline! What say the rest of you?
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Last edited by HighlandPark; 12-11-2017 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 12-11-2017, 02:44 PM   #2
johnsog
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

I've only belonged to my current band, a social one, and it seems to be quite healthy. We have grown quite a bit since I joined and our annual beginning piping classes have more people sticking it out through the year than they did before. Most are adults taking it up but there have been a few young ones as well.
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:56 PM   #3
CalumII
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

More to do with journalism than an informed survey of the global pipe band scene. Individual bands rise and fall for all sorts of reasons, and if part of this band's revival included obtaining some free publicity, well, you accept that comes with the risk of a journalist completely misinterpreting what you tell them.
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Old 12-12-2017, 09:44 AM   #4
Nathaniel
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

Does it match the aging and interest in the local St. Andrews Society?
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Old 12-19-2017, 11:59 AM   #5
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

There are a lot of factors, and the landscape is always changing, but my impression is that the pipe band scene is NOT in decline. Events like Maxville and the World's are as big or bigger than ever before. There might be fewer bands in any given "catchment" area, but the size and standard at which competitive bands are playing is definitely higher than ever. Membership in pipe band associations doesn't seem to be declining either, which would tend to suggest that there's no decline in the number of people playing the instrument. If we're only measuring by number of bands, the number will have gone down in some areas, but 20 years ago, you'd never have seen a grade 4 band go to the line with 15 pipers...
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:11 PM   #6
Texas Gael
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

In 1982, when I started taking lessons, there was only one pipe band in my home town of Austin, Texas, a Grade IV competition band. Today there is a Grade III/Grade V competition band, a Grade IV competition band, a street band, one police pipe band, and three fire dept pipe bands in the greater Austin area. The police and fire bands also play under a regional umbrella organization as a massed band. Individually, there is a struggle from time to time as members leave, but over the years there has been a large increase in the number of bands.

Cheers -

Wes
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Old 12-19-2017, 09:18 PM   #7
Pip01
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands



Greetings to All,

As I made mention in an earlier Post... there are sooo many
more pipe bands... and not to mention single pipers... than
there were when I first began... in the now... Long Ago... :)

Presently... I have no band membership... but over Time...
I have enjoyed full membership in four... scattered about...

But... and as for health... (and I hope not to open a large
can of Greasy Green Nasties here)... it has been my view
and my observation... and with bands in general... that the
seemingly inevitable frictions... that develop between some
members... bringing unhappiness to some bands... and the
dissolution of others... would appear to be a major factor in
the comings and goings of some pipe bands.(Sigh and alas.)

Though... and other than that... all things... rise and fall... in
their turn... and Time...

Still and all... many more now... than back when... :)

Fear not!! We may well be... rather like a blue-green fungus...
and they ain't gonna get rid of us... any time soon. :)

Regards to All,

Pip01


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Last edited by Pip01; 12-19-2017 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 12-21-2017, 09:00 AM   #8
Pppiper
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pip01 View Post

... it has been my view
and my observation... and with bands in general... that the
seemingly inevitable frictions... that develop between some
members... bringing unhappiness to some bands... and the
dissolution of others... would appear to be a major factor in
the comings and goings of some pipe bands.(Sigh and alas.)
I couldn't agree with this more. Too often I've seen, what appears to be a massive band organization, fold in a heart beat due interpersonal squabbles and politics. Whole drum corps jumping to another ship, staged walkouts forming splinter groups, and so on.

If one were to measure the growth of a band on what competitive level they achieve (and plenty of people do, if they're being honest with themselves), then it's fair to say that it's clear these displays of petulant behavior are an ever-present road block in the growth of bands, and the vitality of the piping community.

But that's the lowest form of success, really. We should all aspire to win something far greater ... the public.

I don't wish to get all didactic here, but I do dream of the day when the grand-majority of musicians happily assemble under the same banner, united in their love for the music, and culture they claim to represent. Doing so creates awesome displays of wondrous music, that would undoubtedly drawn in the public in new ways.

To me, that is the REAL prize ... powerful (in sound) groups, continually engaging the public to watch and listen with awe and glee. Kids begging their parents for piping and drumming lessons, generation after generation.

Work together, play together .. win (the public) together.

So "eye on the prize" ladies and gentlemen, "eye on the prize."

Cheers,
~Nate
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Old 12-22-2017, 09:34 AM   #9
HighlandPark
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

There are many truths in Pppiper and Pip01's posts. I have seen the same dynamics in our local bands (recently, a drum corp walked out en mass to join our band, only to walk out en mass a few months later to join another band!).

That said, it's also a symptom of being human, particularly being a human in a volunteer organization. Having been a member in various capacities of a number of volunteer groups, the turnover rate seems to be relatively steady. I believe that it's due, in part, to members feeling unappreciated and by poor people management skills, unconscious or conscious, on the part of others who lead; membership ebbs and flows with the dynamics of the current cohort.

Twas ever thus, will ever be...
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Old 12-22-2017, 10:41 AM   #10
Pppiper
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Default Re: Health of Pipe Bands? Competitive & Performance Bands

Quote:
Originally Posted by HighlandPark View Post
There are many truths in Pppiper and Pip01's posts. I have seen the same dynamics in our local bands (recently, a drum corp walked out en mass to join our band, only to walk out en mass a few months later to join another band!).

That said, it's also a symptom of being human, particularly being a human in a volunteer organization. Having been a member in various capacities of a number of volunteer groups, the turnover rate seems to be relatively steady. I believe that it's due, in part, to members feeling unappreciated and by poor people management skills, unconscious or conscious, on the part of others who lead; membership ebbs and flows with the dynamics of the current cohort.

Twas ever thus, will ever be...
Well stated.

If anyone ever wonders the source of band leadership's stress, this is a big part of it, in my book. It's a very difficult walk on a tight-rope, asserting appropriate authority in a band, all while ensuring the membership feels involved and appreciated.

Looking back to when I was pipe major for a time, I hope that I managed that balance with some semblance of success. I don't know .. I sincerely hope so, but I don't know. I can say this, it was a taxing job, and the responsibility (at times) weighed on me quite heavily.

As ever, there're lessons to be learnt and remembered on all sides. Leadership, don't let the pressures of authority force you to forget the importance of both effectively and demonstratively contributing to the morale of your members. Membership, don't underestimate the difficulties your leadership endures in their positions.

Cheers,
~Nate
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