Peel Police look for big things in 2009
With a new Pipe-Major, an influx of talent and a localized approach to membership, the Grade 1 Peel Regional Police Pipe Band of Brampton, Ontario, is working towards a rapid resurgence of quality and commitment.
When John Cairns left the Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders in September of this year to become the Pipe-Major of the Peel Police, he brought with him 12 new pipers, bringing the section to a total of 25, after six of Peel’s previous pipers departed. Graham Brown leads a snare line of nine, and Andrew Elliott manages a six-member mid-section. Almost all of the band’s membership comprises people within an hour’s drive to practice.
Cairns replaced Glenn Brown, who ran the band for a year before deciding to move permanently to Scotland.
“We are trying to produce a world-class Grade 1 pipe band that is made up almost entirely of local players,” Cairns said. “For us, membership should be viewed as a privilege, not a right. Everyone in the band must be accountable, from the leadership to each member in the band. We believe that to be a member of this band, everyone must commit to the goals and work towards achieving a strong unified group. Being a team player is a ‘must-have’ quality to play with Peel.”
Cairns says that part of his approach is instilling a new teaching ethic to the band that includes working with players who can play to a world-class level to get them on to the competition field and, if a player is not yet good enough, but has the potential to play at the necessary level, the band will work with them to fix problems and motivate the player to eventually get him or her into the competition circle.
He stressed that, “as long as the player has the potential to make the field, we won’t impose any limits on their membership in the band. We want them to be able to participate as fully as possible while they develop their skills. Those that don’t have the potential to play, or who are far removed from making the field will be encouraged to play elsewhere while they develop.”
In terms of management, Cairns has initiated a new management team to take care of the band’s day-to-day operations and planning, in line with the group’s new “five-year plan,” a tack often taken by pipe bands.
“We are looking at being in a position where in five years we are ready to contend for the World Pipe Band Championship,” Cairns said. “We want to do this right and everyone is committed to the task at hand.”
Cairns said that the Peel Police will be run much like a sports team, with a September to December Training Camp on music, tempos, breaks, harmonies, stylistic issues; a January-April Pre-Season, in which pipers will be required to play one-on-one with Cairns ‘to ensure they [meet] the standard. The Regular Season lasts from May to July, where those meeting the standard will compete, and the band will be ‘fine-tuned to refine the standard; the North American Championship at Maxville, Ontario, will be considered the Playoffs in which only the players who have demonstrated a consistent ability to perform at the standard without errors will be allowed to play. The band will then travel to the World Pipe Band Championships for the final leg of the program.
Cairns stressed that all members of the band are member are aware of the plan. He said that Peel Police plans to start its season at the United States Pipe Band Championships at Alma, Michigan, in May.
“We know, with all of the talk about the band, that we will get one chance to make an impact,” Cairns continued. “We are committed to being ready at Alma to show the world that we are on the right track and working towards being a contending world-class band.”
Cairns said that two new competition strathspeys have been added to the band’s MSRs, and that the medley the band competed with at Maxville in 2008 remains as the band’s #2 selection, but a new #1 medley has been introduced, which has proven popular with the band.
When Cairns joined the band it had as many as five different logos, so a decision was made to submit a new logo to the Peel Regional Police Department for approval, and to use it exclusively.