January 31, 2009

RSPBA Music Board rejects bass-section proposal

At a meeting of the RSPBA’s Music Board on January 17th, a proposal from the association’s Glasgow & West of Scotland Branch to consider the addition of Best Bass-Section awards at major championships was dismissed.
The request submitted asked that the matter be opened and offered to member bands for their consultation and potential voting at the organization’s AGM in March. The items was reportedly debated, and then dismissed without a vote from Music Board representatives.
Tom Brown is the convener of the RSPBA’s Music Board, and other members are said to be include Jim Campbell, David Clarke, Arthur Cook, John Hughes and James Wark. The organization does not list Music Board members on its website.
The request stemmed from reaction in 2008 to the association deciding to eliminate Best Bass-Section awards at the three major championships at which they were traditionally offered, including the World Pipe Band Championships. There was never an official RSPBA rule calling for Best Bass-Section prizes. The organization cited time constraints at prize-giving ceremonies as the reason the awards were removed.
Six-hundred-eighty-eight signatures were gathered in support of an online petition to reinstate the awards.
“From start to finish, the RSPBA has been determined to keep the door firmly closed on the voices of their members,” Strathclyde Police Pipe Band tenor-drummer Scott Currie said. “We’ve exhausted every reasonable method at our disposal to oppose the removal of the awards and re-invent them, but sadly met with brick walls at every attempt.”
Currie said that the online petition was thrown out earlier by the RSPBA National Council “without reason,” and added, “We requested debate with the RSPBA Music Board over devising and implementing a standardized, transparent and accountable set of adjudication criteria for the presentation of Best Bass Section awards without reply. We made a number of requests to the RSPBA for copies of minutes of meetings and were refused. Finally, we tabled a new proposal which the RSPBA Music Board neglected vote upon to put before an AGM to be decided by the membership.
“Even the harshest critics of the campaign [to reinstate the awards] can’t ignore the inefficiencies and lack of transparency and accountability highlighted within the machinery of the RSPBA,” Currie added. “A group of adjudicators can table a Music Board ratified status quo-altering motion containing a hidden agenda to an AGM, yet a transparent proposal made and backed by members is dismissed at Music Board level without vote. Where is the parity in that? I have strong hopes that Kevin Reilly’s ‘Vision’ redresses this type of representational imbalance and takes a good look at how issues affecting the membership such as this are handled in the future.”
The RSPBA is reportedly considering a formal adjudication process for assessing modern bass-sections in competition. The project is said to be led by the association’s Adjudicators Liaison Group.
Tyler Fry, a tenor drummer with the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band, said, “Politics aside, I remain optimistic that the members of the RSPBA Adjudicators Liaison Group – the committee behind the abolition of Best Bass Section Awards – have a coherent strategy in place with respect to how they intend to fairly adjudicate and assess the modern-day visual, rhythmic and harmonic contributions made by the bass section. Despite the absence of bass section prizes at all [RSPBA] championships . . . I am looking forward to seeing the objective and detailed critiques this summer and beyond.”
Inquiries by pipes|drums to members of the RSPBA Music Board and the organization’s Executive have so far not been answered. When a response is received, those comments will be added to the story.


  1. And now, surely, we can all just get on with it and leave this beat-up behind us. btw – I note that a proposal for visual” elements in a musical performance has been submitted?? Err

  2. First we were told, by the self-appointed mouthpieces for the tenor drmmers/frustrated rythmic gymnasts (those who stood to gain the most from the one prize being debated), that the sky would fall in if ONE prize was removed – on the basis that standards and numbers would decline if there was nothing to play for…….ONE prize – one that some bands will never play-off for. Then we were told that it was about due recognition for the enormous contribution that the Mid Section” makes to the overall performance of a pipe band

  3. While I agree that in the modern pipe band, rhe bass section plays an important role, the competion is actually a band contest and the band should be judged as a whole. Many years ago, there was no ensemble adjudicator and even when one was brought in, initially it was of lesser importance. Seperate prizes for drum corps and bass sections may tend diminish the importance of judging the band as a harmonious (hopefully) whole.

  4. Oh me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me. Get over yersels Tenor drummers. To paraphrase Shakespeare ‘Methinks yon Scott Currie and Tyler Fry doth protest too much’ As I remember and maybe somebody can confirm this, this move was to remove an anomaly where not all Majors gave this award, so to level the playing field Bass section awards were removed. Furthermore, the adjudication panel , or someone else, can’t remember, had proposed removing ALL drumming prizes and to revert to just the Band prize. Now if certain persons are going to protest too much then I think there is a real risk of this actually happening – so come on guys, stick a sock in it or the drummers will just get nothing at all!

  5. Paragraph 9 of the article states: The RSPBA is reportedly considering a formal adjudication process for assessing modern bass-sections in competition. The project is said to be led by the association’s Adjudicators Liaison Group. This is encouraging. To me, a thorough evaluation of bass/mid sections with insightful comments on the sheets is more important than reinstating the Best Bass Award. Everyone gains from this.

  6. I agree. Get over it. The thing that is more interesting to me is how the rspba are dealing with it and not only that the information must a come from a leak inside the music board. I don’t want the prize but if most members do then shouldnt they at least give them a listen put to a vote and either do it or not.

  7. It stuns me how many individuals still have refused to make the effort to even understand why the RSPBA’s elimination of the Best Bass prize has angered the midsection community. Principled, reasoned disagreement is one thing, but many contributions – see for example the responses below me – are nothing of the sort. While numerous valid explanations have been produced to explain why midsection players find this move irritating, allow me to provide one more that might finally make it through the thicker skulls out there. Because the respective roles of the drumming and ensemble adjudicators remain ill-defined, it is unclear which of them is supposed to judge the relative performances of different bands’ midsections, and consequently, it also is unclear how their efforts are factored into the overall band result. Is it so difficult to understand? Midsection players around the world simply want it specified how their performances will influence the prize list. As the moribund RSPBA Music Board has claimed this power of specification but never assumed responsibility for executing it, the Best Bass prize had been the only official recognition that the midsection had appeared on the field; not ideal, but at a regrettably basic level, it was something. This issue is not complicated. Midsections want good performances to be rewarded and bad performances to be punished. Is there a competitor out there who cannot comprehend this? If you require further clarification, you can reach me at -Matthew Drecun

  8. We should also enlist the help of the Snares Only Drummers Union for Mid-sections/Bass (SO DUMB) and Judges Against Criticizing Kinsmen And Societal Superiors (JACKASS)…..

  9. Matthew, people do understand why SOME tenor drummers are annoyed. I’m also sure another sector/percentage outside the vocal few are also ‘annoyed’ (because their populist messiahs have told them to be annoyed). Matthew, what you are conveniently overlooking, as have others, is the fact that many would like to propose that the drum corps is one unit – radical as that may sound – to be judged as such in terms of all the usual criteria. Having a stand-alone prize for an element within a supportive corps is a distraction. Whereas having meaningful comments on the sheet (as a requirement) is far more worthwhile and useful. I don’t begrudge people who are calling for that – makes sense. However, the motivations for re-instating the prize itself are clear to see (if you can open both eyes), and are peddled by the few who stand to win it. Can’t blame them for that, but it is bad form for these people to dress up their personal agendas as ‘common good’ issues, galvanize the minions and then storm the Bastille. If anything, the net result has been a hardening of stance by the RSPBA. It is hrad to not appear disrespectful, but tenor drumming has far exceeded its natural limit in a pipe band setting. I have recently taken to some older 80’s recordings of bands – the great Strathclyde era, Boghall, 78ths, Vale et al. Whilst enjoying the musicality and ensemble of these performances, it never occured to me once to think; gee, this wouyld sound so much better if I could hear multiple pitched tenors – hmmm, maybe 9 of them!! If anything, such performances highlighted to me that change does not automatically equate to progress.

  10. I am a bass drummer and also serve as one of the directors of the annual Midwest Highland Arts Fund-Winter Storm Events each January. A few years ago we created an opportunity for solo bass and tenor drummers to play for prizes and world-wide recognition. The Winter Storm Gold Medal Bass and Tenor contests in Kansas City, along with the amateur contests, are fairly unique and afford solo bass and tenor players to compete and be showcased in front of a panel of expert World Champion adjudicators. Winners of the Gold Medal events receive beautiful gold medals, prize drums, and cash. There are few, if any, events like it in the world and the winners of these events are clearly at the top of their game. I would urge those players who are discouraged with the lack of the current best bass section awards to consider making the trip to Kansas City for contests, concert, workshop and fellowship, in what has evolved into the offical start of the pipe band season in North America” each year. Cliff Davis”



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