March 31, 2011

All about communication at 2011 PPBSO Judges’ Seminar

Spirited and lively presentations, dialogue and debate primarily on improving communications between competitors and judges were the order of the day at the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario’s 2011 Adjudicators’ Seminar held March 26th at the Best Western Hotel in Milton, Ontario. Thirty-eight accredited judges coming from as far away as Florida attended the event.

The seminar is an annual full day of professional development for those on the PPBSO panel, and also welcoming adjudicators from any other piping and drumming association. The event is organized by the PPBSO’s Music Committee, and this year’s seminar was coordinated by Bill Livingstone.

“If you think about it, after a judge’s central task of ranking competitors, how we communicate with bands and soloists is the most important thing we do,” Livingstone said. “The seminar looks at various aspects of communications, from score sheet comments, to body language, to verbal feedback at the table or at the beer tent. There is so much more importance placed on effective and constructive communicating today than ever before.”

Among the sessions was a Livingstone-led discussion “What we do, how we do it, how we communicate that, pitfalls and language.” Southern United States Pipe Band Association adjudicator Sandy Keith presented “Score Sheets – the view from outside Canada,” which prompted constructive conversation on various perspectives on judges providing written feedback and to what extent.

A panel discussion – “Score sheets and communication as these issues arise in the context of judging ensemble” – was led by Andrew Berthoff, Greg Dinsdale, Keith and Bob Worrall, in which Dinsdale in particular opened eyes regarding the “Six Deadly Sins of Pipe Band Drum Corps.”

Another illuminating session was by Michael Grey, which deviated from the communications theme slightly. “Looking in by Looking Out: a comparative look at pipe band ensemble” drew from the worlds of competitive orchestras, jazz and show bands, choirs and British brass bands, and investigated the similarities and disparities between them and the pipe band. In the research that he presented Grey discovered that several other musical associations that run competitions have familiar challenges when it comes to judging, and most have a common thread of assessing “artistry” and “musical intent” in the competition pieces of orchestras and brass bands.

The day concluded with Ken Eller running a session the looked at the PPBSO’s consultative pipe band judging process, and data from the 2010 showing, among other things, that only three per cent of nearly 150 separate judging elements were adjusted in the 15-minute post-contest session among the four pipe band judges. Eller reviewed actual examples of spreadsheets from competitions showing where judges made slight moves and possible reasons why. It was revealed and met with enthusiasm that the organization’s Music Committee had determined that added transparency was needed to improve communicating the consultative process to bands, and competitors starting in 2011 will receive spreadsheets indicating adjustments made, if any, by judges.

The PPBSO expects its accredited judges to attend at least one professional development seminar every two years. In accordance with what was agreed to by all members of the Alliance of Pipe Band Associations at the 2006 ANAPBA Summit, the PPBSO credits attendance at formal seminars organized by other associations towards the policy.

Attending the seminar:

Tom Anderson

Scott Bell

Andrew Berthoff

Dan Bist

Lauren Bonnett

Gail Brown

Hugh Cameron

Terry Cleland

Greg Dinsdale

Drew Duthart

Ken Eller

John Elliott

Tyler Fry

Hugh Goldie

Dave Goodall

Eddie Gorman

Michael Grey

Steven Hill

Sandy Keith (SUSPBA)

Graham Kirkwood

Bill Livingstone

Bob MacCrimmon

Michael MacDonald

Calum MacDonald (EUSPBA)

Iain Macey

Lynda Mackay

Glenna Mackay-Johnstone

Doug MacRae

Ed Neigh

Geoff Neigh

Scott Nicholson

John Recknagel (EUSPBA)

Ron Rollo

Al Savage

Peter Sinclair

Brian Williamson

Larry Willis

Lori Wilson-Gaudet (ACPBA)

Bob Worrall


  1. Interesting and encouraging. One professional development seminar every two years seems a bit infrequent–every year would seem better but hey, great that it’s happening at all.



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