For most pipe band organizations, the collapse of its flagship band might negatively or even catastrophically impact the rest of the group. So when the Grade 2 Hamilton Police Pipe Band of Ontario imploded after the combined resignation of Pipe-Major Pete Aumonier and Lead-Drummer John Gaudet, those in the piping and drumming world couldn’t be faulted for expecting the worst for the organization.
But rather than suffering, the remaining bands in the more than 100-member Hamilton Police organization have held strong and have even continued to flourish, according to Don Forgan, the head of the operation and Pipe-Major of the Grade 3 band.
“The Hamilton Police Pipe Band is still a very vibrant and healthy teaching organization,” Forgan said. “The decision to stand the Grade 2 group down was a very difficult decision to make, and not popular with some, but it was the right decision to make at the time with everything considered. Looking at the big picture and to put the loss in perspective, we still have three quarters of our big organization intact.”
The Hamilton Police organization actually added a band, and still nets out to three competing units in Grade 3, Grade 4 and Grade 5, after the Grade 3 was created and approved for the category by the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario.
While the Grade 2 band is no more, Forgan says that the ultimate goal of the organization is to have bands all Ontario grades but Grade 1, and so the push is on again to reach Grade 2.
“Our ultimate goal is to provide every level of play for our students from parade/show band to grades 5 through 2,” Forgan added. “Hopefully we will see another Grade 2 group on the horizon to bridge the gap between Grade 3 and 1. The current Grade 3 group is a great close-knit bunch of people and I would expect to see them move up to Grade 2 when they are ready, together.”
With the Hamilton Police organization’s affiliation with the 78th Fraser Highlanders that was struck in 2008, Forgan said that “A Grade 1 band in this organization was never and will never be our goal. We encourage students who have the ability and desire to move up to the highest level, but not until they are ready to make the leap.”
He added that, despite the dissolution of the Grade 2 band, the relationship with the 78th Fraser Highlanders has never been impacted, although “it may be some time before we have a fresh crop of players to send their way, but we are working on them and would like nothing better than to see the product of our teaching playing with them.”
Several members of the previous Grade 2 band joined the Grade 3 band, a few had their jump to the 78th Fraser Highlanders expedited, while others have gone to other bands. Aumonier and Gaudet are each reportedly taking a sabbatical from competing.
The Hamilton Police pipe bands are definitely benefitting from its strength-in-numbers, and Forgan says the organization continues to enjoy “a steady flow” of new students to its youth-teaching program.
“Our philosophy is to teach, mentor and help students reach their personal goals,” Forgan said. “Whether that be to play in a parade band or with the 78th Fraser Highlanders.”
When speaking with pipes|drums, Forgan made a point to acknowledge and thank Aumonier and Gaudet for the great jobs that they did over the last decade.
All three Hamilton Police bands are entered to compete at the Georgetown Highland Games on June 12th, the first sanctioned outdoor event on the Ontario schedule.