January 31, 2009

PPBSO rolls out Education & Theory program

The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario will introduce the first stages of its Education & Theory program at an introductory seminar for teachers and pipe band leaders on January 31st at the organization’s headquarters in Milton, Ontario. The program has been in development with the PPBSO’s Music Board for longer than a year.
“The program is designed as a general music theory course for all pipers, snare drummers and mid-section drummers,” Doug Stronach, director of the initiative, said. “All disciplines will study and sit the same exam together. The goal is not only to improve our understanding of traditional music theory, but to also improve communication and understanding between pipers and drummers.”
The initial program addresses an introductory level, and ultimately there will be three levels to the program overall. The Education & Theory Program is designed to address a perceived shortfall in learning with many pipers and drummers, with a further aim of attaining approval with the Ontario Ministry of Education to extend high school credits to those completing the various levels.
“There are lots of benefits and on different levels,” Stronach added. “Musically speaking, I think it’s obvious that if pipers and drummers can learn and share information in a way that’s common to both instruments, then the communication gap that exists between them will improve. That should equate to better and more interesting ensemble performances and musical arrangements, as well as strong leadership and musicianship within all sections of a pipe band.”
The curriculum employs standards and texts used by the Royal Conservatory of Music. While it focuses on piping and drumming, the program integrates information from the musical world outside of Highland piping and pipe band drumming.
The PPBSO’s Education & Theory Program may eventually be combined with the organization’s Adjudication and Teaching programs, conceivably as a prerequisite for sitting the judging exam and, potentially, a new accreditation program for piping and drumming teachers.
The program may also be integrated eventually into the actual assessment of solo grades, so that pipers and drummers progress not only by demonstrating playing prowess, but by proving their knowledge of music theory.
“The adjudication exam might then become focused on situational-type questions and practical training specific to becoming a judge,” Stronach said. “In time, we hope that most players will have all three theory certificates completed by the time they reach Grade 1 band or Professional solos.”
PPBSO President Bob Allen said that the program fits with his organization’s goal of expanding its objectives beyond the promotion of performance skill and competition.


  1. Finally! Pipers (in my experience) tend to have some of the worst musical theory skills that I’ve seen and it leads to a lot of confusion, especially in bands and in situations where music is being arranged to suit a medley. I’ve often contemplated writing my own book of music theory for bagpiping based on the RCM’s methods. Let’s bring this out everywhere!

  2. This is an essential and brilliant step forward imho, that will surely bring the whole standard of musicianship up, and show itself in all areas of the art. It seems it has been desperately needed for a long time. Brilliant news!

  3. Hmmm, I hope it works, I personally would love a chance to learn more drumming speak, purely for the advantages of understanding the ensemble better. My only concern is that after several years of being an examiner for the institute of piping, and trying to convince people why they should learn the required elements for testing, that we still do not have enough people walking around with their level two or three or higher certificates. These certificates are based, basically, on a person being taught properly and students progressing through the grades should know this material, I believe. This could be a good step forward, education wise that is, but I would like to hear some background on how it came about and why more workshops were given or not given on the institute syllabus to start with instead of developing a whole new program . Sorry, I’m just out of the loop now I believe and may have missed this. Bruce

  4. I have to add to the article that the PPBSO Theory Exam would not have been possible without the support and hard work of Rob Crabtree and Tyler Fry, and the entire Music Board of the PPBSO. The initial idea was perhaps mine but the finished product is a group effort. doug stronach.

  5. I commend our friends to the north for taking on this endevour. We put this exact process in motion the day I was elected pres of the EUSPBA back in November. I’ll bet we did it for the same reasons as well. Forward thinking from the North Americans. Now, if we could just get the Yankees back in the Series all would be well. Jimmy Bell

  6. I hope whoever wrote the course content has got the 3/4 barlines in the right place. For me that spoils the credibility of the PDQB theory component. I think the practical side is great, but is let down somewhat by the theory side of things.



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