November 30, 2008

PPBSO membership to consider big changes at AGM

In addition to the usual reports and executive elections, the annual general meeting of the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario on Saturday, November 22, at 1 pm in Milton, Ontario, some 21 motions from the membership will be tabled, including several that could result in substantial changes to competition format.
For band competition rules, a motion proposes, “Players in a lower grade band are permitted to play up in a higher grade band to a maximum of three times per season. Those lower grade players must be identified, prior to the commencement of the season as being on the higher grade bands ‘player development’ list band roster.”
Another motion suggests the adoption of a new Grade 1 “Premier Show” event: “All Grade 1 pipe band competitions will see each band perform both set and medley, in that order, with draw at performance pieces at the start line. Bands will be provided the option to use a tuning interlude that will not be adjudicated and will not exceed five minutes or face disqualification. The same set of judges will be used for the entire ‘Premier Show’ event with overall prize list determined by a combination of the eight sets of judges’ rankings (i.e., each section: MSR (2 piping, 1 drumming and 1 ensemble = 4) Medley (2 piping, 1 drumming and 1 ensemble = 4).”
Also on the table is a motion to extend the duration of Grade 1 medleys from five-to-seven minutes to six-to-eight minutes, and the Grade 2 medley requirement from own-choice to submit two medleys of five-to-seven minutes.
A motion to make the Grade 4 band competition requirement: “Grade 4 bands shall submit one medley of tunes of 3 to 5 minutes duration and one set consisting of one four-parted march, one two-parted strathspey and one two-parted reel.”
A change to the way band competitions are decided is proposed, with a move to an RSPBA-like even split of 25 per cent each between two piping, one ensemble and one drumming judge taking the place of the PPBSO’s current system in which each judge’s preference is ranked 1, 2, 3, 4, with the two piping judges’ ranks multiplied by three, ensemble multiplied by two and drumming multiplied by two, with final placings determined starting with the lowest total.
To accommodate larger band-sizes, there is a proposal to enlarge the competition circle: “The band competition inner circle radius be changed from 14 feet to 16 feet. The next circle to be six feet larger radius. The outside circle radius is an additional eight feet larger radius, where physically possible.”
Among the proposed changes to solo piping is the introduction of a “freestyle” competition in which a competitor plays between two and four minutes of “free choice tune selection.” The same motion calls for allowing competitors in March, Strathspey & Reel and Hornpipe & Jig events to perform the tunes in any order he/she desires.
Two motions propose altering how the PPBSO’s Champion Supreme aggregate awards are decided, one leaving it to the organization’s Music Board to come up with an alternative, while and another motion calls for making all contests but the North American Championships equal in weight.
Because the PPBSO does not have band memberships and instead calls for all competing participants to join the organization, individual members vote on various motions.
The annual general meeting is at the Milton Legion, 21 Charles Street, Milton, Ontario.


  1. RE the upcoming PPBSO AGM.. It doesn’t matter as to which particular band voted to play one medley vs two last year or who/what band put what particular motions forward this year. The important thing to consider is that the changes being proposed may cause progressive or degenerative affects to the status quo of the society as a whole. To that end, it is vital that all PPBSO society members have their say and vote as applicable. However, before casting that vote, please try toremove the emotion and personal agendas and bear in mind that The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few

  2. I have a major case on next week and I have to chose between the PPBSO AGM and practice. I’ve chosen practice. My position is that doing a Show Performance”….MSR…..5 minutes to re-tune….Medley is a bad idea and I don’t support it. And what we gain by it is a mystery to me. What we do presently is hard enough. We don’t have enough qualified and knowledgeable ensemble judges as it is

  3. It’s interesting to me that those who are saying that massive change is needed are folks like Jim and Bill and me who have been around for decades. I’m not hearing from 18, 19, 20 year olds that they’re bored and jaundiced. In fact, membership and competitor numbers continue to increase. The things that were alluring to us 30, 40 years ago are just as alluring to kids today, no? As for the product” being unattractive to games organizers

  4. One would expect the opposite, but perhaps it is the younger members of the PPBSO are more level headed that the older ones? Then again, perhaps it is some of the older ones going through some sort of mid life crisis and are trying to institute radical change as a result? Or maybe the older members have been there

  5. I agree that the young people aren’t bored, but it’s the wizened old veterans who are elected to lead, and lead they should, not follow the unbored. The unbored are having too much fun to look towards the future. The leaders should have the experience to see the handwriting on the wall and should move forward so that the dream doesn’t slip quietly away from the excited youth, as Chatham, Sarnia, Barrie, Dutton and numerous other venues have. Regarding participation, some of us who participated for many, many years now put effort into other important piping projects. That shouldn’t preclude them from expressing their rambling, Saturday-morning-coffee-addled opinions. Andrew, we have both talked about the sort of massive change required, and the fact that it probably can’t be accomplished by volunteers or under the current system. You can’t do this work, neither can I. Why don’t we see fundraising issues on the agenda that take advantage of the ever elusive ‘charitable status?’ Such initiatives could be geared toward putting a full-time person (or people) in place who can take us forward and involve the larger Ontario piping community, not just the competing community. The word competing” appears no where in the name “PPBSO

  6. And one more thing…the higher standard of play, concerts, DVDs came from the older” generation moving forward and bringing along the kids for the ride. I’m not too old that I want to just sit back and become complacent. I’m still willing to move ahead and find some adventure. Yes

  7. Just a comment on the second last paragraph regarding individual members voting on various motions. I believe there are Band votes in the rule book. It just needs to be administered properly the day of the meeting. A-7.4 Votes at Meetings. Subject to Rule A-7.5, each member individual shall have one vote on each motion before each meeting of members of the Society or a Branch. A-7.5 Band Votes at Meetings. Notwithstanding Rule A-7.4, the Chairman of a meeting of members of the Society or a Branch may rule any motion to be of relevance solely to bands, in which case the Chairman’s ruling shall be final, binding and unappealable, each band shall have one vote on such motion, and member individuals, as such, shall have no vote on such motion. Band votes may be cast by the registered pipe major, drum instructor, band manager, or band member holding written authorization signed by the registered pipe major, drum instructor, or band manager authorizing the member to vote on behalf of the band. [Supplementary Letters Patent, 2002 AGM]

  8. Bagpipermann, great points/questions. If you’re from Ontario, please come to the meeting and raise them there as well. And to all PPBSO members, come vote this Saturday. This is an important AGM.

  9. In Ontario we have the problem of our grade 1 drum corps not wanting to learn the second medley because it’s not required in Scotland. I have played in these bands and watched the pipe Majors get together and decide to go with 1 medley because they are afraid to rock the boat with their drum corps. I applaud Michael’s efforts to make the medleys longer, but i would still prefer 2 separate ones. As a piper i appreciate the sets but i find myself getting really bored with just one medley. Quite frankly at this level, if you can’t perform 2 polished Sets AND Medleys you should reconsider playing in another grade.

  10. I hesitated sending a comment on here and I do plan to attend the AGM on Saturday, after reading Jim’s comments I have to agree with him. It should be so simple yet we as a society make it so difficult. Now because I do not play in a band I cannot comment on Medleys and such but I find it crazy how difficult they make it for solo players, I would elaborate more but was told to do so at my branch meeting which I will also be attending the next time it rolls around in 2009. Attending this AGM I am problably going to regret as I doubt any changes will occur that will benefit me. but if I want to comment on here than I guess I have to contribute some time to go to these meetings, however I do hope that something is accomplished that will benefit the performers. It should be interesting and I hope Jim and all the other guys that have been around over the years are there so they can help make it the way it should be, a Highland Festival and much more about the Music or art form as some call it. I really hope that these games will be around for my kid, but the way it is going she will be lucky to see it or even be apart of it.

  11. Jim McGillivray! Great to see you engaged! See you at Saturday’s AGM – bring your fire hose! (and I have room on my dance card)…MG

  12. Michael: We tried to make the big changes required a few years ago when we created the Music Board. Remember how that went??! I lost faith at that point. I believe at the time we agreed the neccesary changes can’t be made as long as they can be voted down on the floor of the AGM. It’s a waste of time as long as the guys elected to run the show aren’t actually allowed to run it! Have a nice time at the AGM. jm

  13. Jim: I do remember. I remember our disappointment. Hope springs eternal, as you know …and there’s more than one way to skin a cat (should I stop now?) … will be thinking of you on Saturday. MG

  14. Thanks Mike. But really, you won’t be thinking of me at the AGM — you’ll be thinking of your pipe band! That’s what everyone thinks about at the AGM!! 🙂

  15. Well, Perhaps I will see if Brock Lesner will accompany me to my first AGM. I hope you are wrong Jim about the focus of this meeting but I have a feeling that you will be right.

  16. Bill Livingstone’s comments are right on the money. If I was still an active member of the society and was going to the AGM, my comments would have centered around these points along with an added section regarding a discussion of the definition of a grading system and what it is supposed to represent. As part of this, synchronization with the rest of the world would have been included in the discussion. For reference, consider the Royal Conservatory Of Music and how that organization works for most of the other musicians in Ontario at the very least. For everyone attending, take out the emotion and idealism. Replace this with a well grounded sense of reality. Good luck…..and have fun.

  17. Jim McGillivray: Not a lot of hope in your comments Bill Livingstone: You have misunderstood my motions for change. First, there is no call for 8 ensemble judges (though that’s a very appealing idea). The motion calls for the same old 4 judges, divided along the same old breakdown, 2piping, 1drumming, 1ensemble. The intent of the motion is to look to provide a more appealing event for listeners, for the audience. We have so few grade one bands, it makes sense to me that we showcase their abilities to listeners as much as possible. Yes, it won’t be easy for bands. It’s hard. A real sweatfest on games day. Perhaps the endurance element is one presentation positive I hadn’t considered! One of the issues at the heart of our problem of shrinking numbers of games is the way we present and what we present to the ticket-buying public. Making our product more engaging, more magnetic is our challenge. Yes, we need to work with games committees to manage costs; we also owe it to everyone to create the best, most appealing product possible. What we do today is clearly missing the mark. The medley time frame change is a non-event for current competing grade one (or two) bands. No grade one band that I know of in Ontario plays a competition medley under 6 minutes. My intent, in the name of transparency, is to see our competition presentations evolve to something more, to something better. This motion is a very small step in that direction. I am genuinely surprised to see you voice concern at being out of lock step with the RSPBA. Seriously. We need to do the right thing for us – whatever that is. My original motions sought far more dramatic changes. But having a sense of the degree of change membership might allow I hugely watered down the motions. These motions for change are far from dramatic and are modest in the extreme in their aim of having us try and do things a little differently. It’s great to see Obama’s Rahm Emmanuel frequently quote Milton Friedman’s line of thinking: “Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”. Challenges and problems do bring great opportunities for change. I’m turning up at this AGM to provide a few practical ideas to kick around. One can only try. Michael Grey

  18. I’m tired of having to eat hotdogs and cheeseburgers at the highland games year after year. Time to put something else on the menu perhaps? And no, I’m not talking about food.



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