The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, the only large association to allow pipe band judges to consult with each other following events, is surveying its members on their opinion on the contentious process, which the organization has kept in place since 2003.
The PPBSO adopted the practice of pipe band judges discussing their results and then having the ability to change their rankings if they desired after each grade’s event, with the ensemble judge managing the process. Consultative judging has been upheld by members and committees several times in the last decade, most recently by the PPBSO membership at large at the organization’s 2010 annual general meeting.
The society’s Board of Directors has distributed a survey to leaders of the more than 40 pipe bands that are included within its membership, asking for a Yes or No response to the question, “Does your Pipe Band want the PPBSO to use Consultative Judging for PPBSO sanctioned band competitions?” Confidentiality of specific responses is promised in the snail-mailed letter.
The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association used a consultation system for seven seasons until eliminating the practice in 2000.
The PPBSO has refined the consultative program over the years, with judges currently given 15 minutes to convene post-event, recording on a single spreadsheet both their original marks and any changes that might be made.
Proponents of the system often say that it allows adjudicators to compare notes with their colleagues, occasionally learning about matters that they did not hear during a band’s performance. Opponents of the practice often cite the potential for undue influence from stronger-will adjudicators.
Top-level solo piping competitions have traditionally had consultative adjudication, with benches of two or more judges retiring at the completion of an event to collectively determine the prize lists. Unlike the PPBSO’s system where bands can request to know what changes, if any, might have been made, solo piping competitions with more than one judge typically do not disclose any details about the consultation between judges to determine the prize-list.
PPBSO President Duncan MacRae did not respond to a request for comment.