July 31, 2010

Las Vegas to implement conflict of interest rules for judges at April 2011 event

When the words “Las” and “Vegas” are put together most people don’t instantly think of ethics and fair-play, but the organizers of the April 2011 Las Vegas Championships have established strict criteria for adjudicators to help ensure that the results are considered fair and equitable.

For what is believed to be a first in pipe band competition history, judges at the April 2011 event will not be involved in the manufacture of instruments used by pipe bands. Among other stipulations, the Las Vegas committee has met this long-time contentious issue head-on, turning a clear eye to a problem that has traditionally been conveniently ignored in all forms of piping and drumming competition.

Not only will those invited to judge the championships not be allowed to manufacture reeds, drums, bags, chanters, drones and other products played by bands, they will also have to be “unattached” in other ways, including “not being an active playing member of any band from Grade 1 to Grade 4.”

In addition, the Las Vegas organizers have decided that judges cannot have served as a “regular instructor” for any band competing at the Las Vegas Championships. The organizers did not immediately clarify its definition for “regular instructor” – what constitutes “regular” and what comprises “instruction.”

The competition committee comprises committee representatives from the host Western United States Pipe Band Association, the BC Pipers Association, the Midwest United States Pipe Band Association, the Pipers and Pipe Band Society of Ontario, the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association and the Manitoba Pipe Band Association.

The April 2011 competition has earmarked US$2-million in funding for the competition and tattoo performances. Among the pipe band competitions possibly will be a “concert” event in which bands perform for up to 15 minutes each.


  1. Before I go anywhere, as the owner of a brand/company that manufactures for pipe bands I want to make it clear that I support the intent of this initiative 100%. I can with certainty say that I have never called a contest based on who was playing my product or who was not: my job is to call what I am seeing in front of me for what it is on the day and I can only hope that others in the same position do the same. To be honest, I don’t have time in a 5 minute performance (or shorter in many cases) to think about whether or not someone is playing my product. I think that Doc raises an extremely important point that has been going through my mind since first hearing about this initiative: a band playing my physical goods is no different in terms of a real or perceived bias than a band using another judges’ musical goods (or their tunes/arrangements/compositions they sold to the band in the form of their published books, digital media or simply being hired to write music). It’s simply unfortunate that some of the best judges in the world are also some of the best pipe tune and drum score composers and arrangers out there – in addition to being the best manufacturers, teachers, lecturers, Music Board members, School organisers, clinicians, endorsees etc. etc.. In other words, the people I would deem my favourite judges out there today are simply all of the above – they have devoted their lives to the betterment of piping and drumming throughout the world and this passion is exemplified on the scoresheets they write for my band or students. I simply hope that these other variables outlined are looked at as closely as conflicts of interest” and I am sorry that perhaps a few bad apples along the way have ruined it for everyone. That being said

  2. I say well done. This is the direction things should be heading – it will not be easy to find judges with no ties but it is possible. Sounds like this may be an AWESOME event. Good luck.

  3. Applause all round for this one and its about time someone stood for what is right. That fact of matter is you you just can not appear to be unbiased with all that hanging over you as a judge no matter how honest you might be and it is just not fair to them in the prizes to have that tainted cloud hanging over their win. Be intresting to see if some of these guys choose to not do band workshops in order to get this gig.

  4. it’s not really fair to say that everyone who makes a product or plays in a band is crooked.” Sorry piperjde but I read the article twice to make sure and NOWHERE was there a comment that said ANYONE was crooked. “

  5. Although I applaud the attempt to provide unbiased judging, it’s probably impossible. Along with commercial interests other biases and prejudices come into play. There is really no way to insure fair judging by excluding certain individuals. The best way is to select a balanced mix of individuals with known cultural and commercial affiliations.

  6. The very limited judging panel will be a problem; and we haven’t even addressed the issue of bands playing a judges’ composition. The other option to restricting the judging panel is to EXPAND the judging panel, like they have in Olympic sports. If there are 10 piping judges, the Lower Slobovian judges’ biases and excentricites get drowned out, or made so obvious they are professionaly humiliated. cheers, Doc

  7. Goodness. Do you not think that these organizers would simply do a quick count of judges to determine that there IS in fact enough that are not in conflict??? I think we should give this courageous group a little more credit. This tired old argument that there won’t be any one to judge” is a total myth invented and constantly put out there by those judges in conflict or the bands that year after year after year benefit from their judging because they play their products..”

  8. The Las Vegas organizers are breaking a lot of new ground and for that they should be roundly applauded. There are always glitches when new ideas are implemented….but these are bright people and I’m sure, at the end of the day, will be successful. cheers, Doc

  9. Very interesting. It’s impossible to remove all bias, real or perceived, from pipe band judging as it is a subjective art based on personal opinion. Granted, the accredited judges are selected for their experience, knowledge, and demonstrated ability, which would help mitigate the bias issue, but can it truly ever really be eliminated? As far as a judge who manufactures chanters or drums, it would be difficult for them NOT place a band high in the rankings in relation to the quality of their instrument/sound vs another brand. To do the opposite…what would they be saying about their product? Best to remove this source of possible bias, real or perceived, and not select these individuals as judges for band competitions at least. Other sources of bias would still remain (teaching, compositions, etc.), but to try to eliminate all of it?..a daunting task, for sure.

  10. All this leaves me wondering whether after a season’s contests and results, the associations have a system whereby all the results are collated and looked at, to ascertain what happened where, and to check that judges’ scores are standardised. It would be reasonably clear, you would think, to spot discrepancies, or glaring differences, and then to think about why that is. A year or two ago I heard a judge of the Grade 1 (Worlds) talk about a few of the bands. It was clear who he was friendly with, and who he wasn’t, on a personal level. I wondered whether this would show in the markings and sure enough there it was! No big surprise there I guess, and it may even have been an unconscious thing, or maybe even nothing at all to be read into it. But I have a hunch at least one of the top six Grade 1 bands have to work a heck of a lot harder for their scores, and if they ever do get to the first place it’ll be because it has simply been impossible to ignore the music itself. But that would be good news indeed, after all, isn’t the music what it’s meant to be about?

  11. Not all ‘products’ sold to pipe bands are tangible in nature. The same conflict of interest could be implied through provision of compositions, instructional services to pipe bands, teaching at workshops or editing a blog as the physical supply of a chanter, bag, drone reed or drum stick. Will all the adjudicators selected be able to demonstrate they have never provided their services (product) for a fee?

  12. I’ve observed that often those who lobby for invitations to judge are often those who have something, beyond the fee, to gain. The majority of judges never *ask* to judge; instead they are *invited.* I am a bit suspicious of any adjudicator who actually lobbies for a judging job.

  13. Nothing wrong with dreaming of utopian-like conditions but it won’t calm the waters altogether. Competitors will still find reasons to subjectively disagree with a result, so the problem never fully goes away, but at least some perceptions can be removed. A nice gesture all the same but probably impractical given most judges try to remain active in a number of areas – perhaps also to maintain their skills, not just to make a quid. Also, TyFry, you mentioned you call it based on what you’re seeing” in front of you. Could it be possible that you forget to include “hearing” as well….? “

  14. Hopefully all will be fine. Tyler probably has the best writtne opinion on the article, but then again, unless the judge has a keen eye, or the PM has wirtten a letter to the manufacturer, how do they know what you are playing? Aside from Shepered having some yellow lettering on their new chanters, how would a judge be able to tell what brand you are pplaying once you turn in? It should be about the music and music only. If a judge prefers the way on chanter or drum sounds to the other, hopefully it’s because thatcompany has made a tops sounding drum or chanter. Good luck to the group picking judges, and good lusk to all the bands.

  15. @Lawrie. Of course Tyler can’t quit hearing. That is part of the reason why manufactures can’t help being called biased. When you hear something you like and you are manufacturing something that can produce that sound chances are that you pick someone playing your own product. Having said that, some people can pick chanters by a quick glance at the bottom.



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