As the off-season presents itself in the northern hemisphere, select pipe bands that have had successful summer winning most of the prizes, or even dominating, their grade are hoping to make the leap up. The goal of almost all competing bands is to climb the grading ladder, but making the transition, no matter what the level, can bring substantial challenges.
While the playing standard might be there, the psychological hurdles are perhaps the hardest to overcome. Bands moving up are used to winning and, more often than not, they won’t be making the prize-lists in their new grade. In essence, the have to trade the thrill of victory for the pain of defeat.
Without doubt, historically the hardest jump is from Grade 2 to Grade 1. As Pipe-Major Robert Cupples of Cullybackey described it, “Grade 1 can be a graveyard for bands moving up.” A Grade 2 band can dominate their season, make the jump to the premier grade, and find themselves meeting the standard, but languishing for several years at the bottom-half of the results.
How do you keep personnel motivated? How do you prepare for not winning? What needs to be done over the winter? How do you ensure that that positive momentum is sustained into the next year, and that you attract the new personnel to become even better?
The Grade 2 Denny Dunipace Gleneagles Pipe Band of Falkirk, Scotland, enjoyed an excellent season in 2012, taking three of the five RSPBA major championships, including the World’s, and earning the Grade 2 Champion of Champions title. While the band won’t know for certain if it will be competing in Grade 1 in 2013, and has to wait for the RSPBA’s final decision, Pipe-Major Dave Clunie is already preparing mentally for the challenge.
Clunie, a veteran leader of Grade 1 bands in the now-defunct Tayside Police and Clan Gregor Society, has been in charge of Denny & Dunipace for two years. With him over the two years is Leading-Drummer Arthur Cook, a winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship and the former L-D in Grade 1 for many years with the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band.
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Pipers: Never remove a chanter from the stock by grabbing the sole even if it’s plastic. It’s habit forming and you might one day change to a wooden chanter.
Stuart Shedden, Glasgow, 1998 Northern Meeting Gold Medallist