December 31, 2008

Band Club Sydney makes sweeping changes

In a move that may mean the end of the Grade 1 Band Club of Sydney, Australia, as a top-tier competing band, pipes|drums has learned that the band’s parent organization has dismissed Pipe-Major Scott Nicholson, as well as the band’s entire organizational committee.
According to sources who wished to remain anonymous, a memo was distributed to members and other interested parties after a Board meeting on November 27th. The St Marys (Band Club) Pipe Band – the official name of the band – had for a number of years worked to attain competition success, and part of its strategy was to bring in non-local pipers and drummers.
In terms of competition success, the strategy paid off, with the band sailing through Grade 2 and achieving a place in the Grade 1 Final of the 2008 World Pipe Band Championships in the band’s debut season in the top grade.
The pipe band is part of a larger organization called St Marys District Band Club Limited, which organizes musical social functions and operates a restaurant in Sydney.
The memo stated that the Board “for some time has been concerned about the way the Pipes and Drums Band has been conducted.” Specific concerns outlined were that the majority members reside outside of the Sydney area and travel expenses for members were high.
The memo also contended that the “main focus of the Pipes and Drum Band seems to be about winning competitions rather than being community minded.”

Lack of interest in local tuition was also cited, and the Board ultimately concluded that the affairs of the pipe band had “not been conducted in accordance with its by-laws.”
The source said, “Based on the comments in the memo, it appears to have deteriorated and reached a point where intervention was the only option left. This is an extremely disappointing situation but one that was inevitable.”
Details of The Band Club Sydney’s leadership and future are not clear, but another anonymous source said that the organization intends to down-scale the pipe band and instead focus on the local community. The concept of promoting a “big international band” would appear to be off the table. 
It was alleged that the organization had difficulty fielding a pipe band for local engagements because of the preponderance of out-of-town players.
A comparable situation occurred in the late-1990s when the 1998 World Champion Victoria Police Pipe Band, also of Australia, was reconfigured, with a de-emphasis on competition and long-distance travel. The band did not return to Scotland to defend its title.
After finishing third overall in Grade 2 at the 2007 World Pipe Band Championships, The Band Club Sydney was promoted to Grade 1, finishing 14th in the 14-band Grade 1 Final at the 2008 World’s.


  1. I think the issue, KMackenzie, is that the Board appears to have been unable to make ANY ground (much less find a middle ground”) for some years. It has clearly all come to a head. The mail doing the rounds down here is that the organisation has posted some big financial losses in recent times. Read into that what you will. That aside

  2. What a shame! It’s unfortunate that the two sides couldn’t work together to hammer out a deal that would satisfy both the competition and community commitments of the band, rather than handing down a decision like this. I know nothing of the situation over there, but this type of interventionist” strategy may cause the St. Mary’s Club to be without a band at all. “

  3. It is a shame to see the band in turmoil like this. Other bands out there that are in a similar situation regarding sponsorship and membership logistics should heed the warning given here. Make sure that you honour the conditions and commitments of your sponsorship. It’s too easy to accept the freebies and not give back. I’ve seen it happen in every band that I’ve played in and had the sponsorship removed from two of them for similar reasons IE not fulfilling parade obligations or acting inappropriately in public. Everyone that is an active member of a band should think about this the next time they want to skip a practice or scheduled event.

  4. Your right RWilson it is a shame. However if you are set guidelines from the beginning of your Leadership and you continue to dishonor them, surely it wouldn’t come as a surprise?? Although the written article on P&D did not mention a few other facts of the letter issued by General Manager Marlene Shipley, it must have come as a shock to band members to read the letter. Hopefully they can move on and continue to contribute to the Australian Pipe Band scene.

  5. Jimmy / Lawrie, sounds like you guys have some more insight into the situation down in OZ, care to shed some light as to what was in the memo, re. specific failed obligations.

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