December 31, 2008

RSPBA rejects appeal of Best Bass-Section decision

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has denied the appeal to reinstate the Best Bass-Section awards at major RSPBA championships after the organization’s Music Board and National Council earlier in 2008 decided to drop the prizes. Among the Best Bass-Section awards was that traditionally presented at the World Pipe Band Championships, which is considered to be the ultimate prize for bass- and tenor-drummers.
The appeal included signatures of more than 700 of the world’s pipers and drummers via an online petition coordinated by Strathclyde Police Pipe Band tenor-drummer, Scott Currie.
After an inquiry by Currie to the RSPBA regarding the status of the appeal, Executive Officer Ian Embelton responded:
Dear Mr Currie
I presented your petition regarding re-introduction of Best Bass section awards at Major Championships to the National Council.
After careful consideration they have asked me to advise you that they fully endorse the Music Board’s original recommendation that no Bass prizes would be awarded at Major Championships.
Embelton has not yet responded to pipes|drums request for additional comment on the matter.
“I can’t think of any single topic in RSPBA history that brought together such a significant number of individual pipers and drummers to voice their opinion to the organization,” Currie said. “The membership has spoken, yet sadly, despite careful consideration, the RSPBA National Council has chosen not to listen.
“The Association’s decades-old outlook on bass sections is not consistent with what we see and hear in competitions today. The loss of the awards pays testament to that outlook. By ignoring the petition’s request to engage in dialogue over the future of what is without question, the most rapidly evolving discipline in our musical idiom, they have in my opinion backed away from a golden opportunity to align [the Association] with the present.”
The RSPBA’s Music Board originally cited time constraints at march-past awards ceremonies as the main reason for deleting the prizes.
Prominent tenor-drummer Tyler Fry of the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band, said, “What we were asking for in the online petition was to open up further debate and discussion in terms of the process of reinstating the bass section prizes at all Major Championships in Scotland. I am disappointed that this has not happened; especially given the current time and effort many of these musicians – often young players – contribute to the pipe band movement and their respective pipe bands.’
Fry indicated that the effort to reinstate the Best Bass-Section awards would continue, the next step being encouraging introducing motions at RSPBA Branch meetings. The motions, if carried, would be voted on by the RSPBA’s membership at the Association’s annual general meeting in March 2009.
“I encourage all band representatives to speak to their respective drum corps this week to find out where they stand on the issue,” Fry said.
As means of deciding the 2008 world’s Best Bass-Section prize, pipes|drums conducted a people’s choice award via its online poll, and subsequently announced that the Simon Fraser University gained the honour.
“Bass sections and pipe bands will continue to evolve and increase in sophistication, which can only be recognized by the Association moving with the times. Closing the door in the face of change will not prevent it from happening,” Currie added.


  1. If (I stress that first word) the object is to save time, then in all fairness it would be prudent to remove ALL Best….” awards. The most expedient use of time would be to call out the placement of the bands in each grade starting at the lowest grade and from 3rd to 1st in that order. After all

  2. My hat’s off to Scott, Tyler, Craig and the many others who put their time and effort into this. My respect for your commitment and drive. Curious outcome from the RSPBA, and the stated rationale of time savings” is completely bogus. As Bagpipermann says

  3. The phrase the day” keeps on coming up in these discussions because all is attempted in a single day. Piping Live! should include a band event with bass section adjudication and in the process trigger the beginning of the end of ‘The’ day. At the end of the day

  4. To be clear,with the following comments I am only refering to the competition side of the Pipe Band world, as i fully support innovative and new exciting ideas being used in concert format. Democracy in government is ok but not when it comes to traditional music in it’s purest form (Pipe Band competition at highland games). I believe that traditional art form such as ours should have gatekeepers” to preserve the art while slowly allowing evolutionary changes. If we were playing popular music then we would be doing what the “popular vote” dictates and we would end up catering our music to the masses in order to maximize record sales All this has done is produce short lived garbage ie Jessica Simpson. Even though we have some incredibly talented individuals playing Bass and Tenor drums

  5. HOSS summed this up nicely – you don’t need silverware to enjoy what you do….surely? As a piper, I’ve never seen such a thing as ‘best pipe corps’. Do I care? I’d take any band win over a corps trophy any day of the year! Get over it and go on and play for the team – a thing of which you are a part of. Some comments on here would indicate that some feel they are super special and worthy of a separate prize for a section within a section. Some of the high profile protagonsists (agitators) have come across as petulant and selfish. Carry yourselves a bit better. There are cries on here about this being an attack on democracy. Well, who voted you guys kings and the mouthpieces? Seems like self-promotion and egomania to me. You are a part of team. A whole band. Tenor drumming is a good ensemble tool but I think some people wish to see it elevated to a level that it just doesn’t deserve in the scheme of things. It is there for ensemble effect, not the be-all of the band. Certainly not the pointy end. The notion that ‘no recognition’ (what rot, by the way) will lead to diminishing numbers and progression is so flawed. Look at the history of pipe bands if in doubt. On that premise, pipe bands should have been extinct for decades! How silly would a show/brass band, for example, look if one of the sections within it threw their tricycles in the bushes because they had a prize taken away from them. Surely it is a team effort? I can hear many of us saying ‘suck it up, toots!’ Forget the democratic” process. Since when has democracy reigned in pipe bands??? Enjoy the music and the art of creation

  6. Scott, Scott, Scott. Just a little precious aren’t we? If you read my post, I’m actually supportive of what the newly called mid-sections” do. Some of my best pipe band friends play tenor and bass. It sounds great and

  7. The RSBPA is so stupid for doing this.I don’t see why they removed it int the first place…..They say it had something to do with time of the marchpasts right? I am a piper and enjoy the visual element, and depth in the sound they produce. All the other sections in the pipe band get recognized, the best pipes award, best drum core, why not reward the Mid- Section?? Stupid… Kyle Coughlin

  8. And to answer your question Seamus, about what do you think the RSPBA would do if all the tenors and bass drummers refuse to participate in the Worlds or majors?” 85% would probably buy beers for all of Scotland and throw a party. hence no award.”

  9. Nice try fellas. I, being a drummer, might be in the minority here but I believe the Drum CORPS prize should suffice. There is no award for the Pipe section or the Snare Section so why the Mids?? I agree the reason given is a loose link at best but I’ve also gotta say that the prize giving at Majors drags like a Seals *** so if the process is speeded up then why not. I love the work being done in Mid-Sections but don’t agree in prizes for just one part of a whole… Regards Daz

  10. Hi Daz, I agree…in an ideal world it should suffice. However… 1.) The fact remains that the current adjudication process does not currently assess or reflect the modern-day tonal, rhythmic and visual contributions of the midsection despite the fact that the bass section is brought under the umbrella of what constitutes a drum corps. 2.) Ask any modern Pipe Major or Leading Drummer: The bass section is an essential component of a modern pipe band’s ensemble sound. In many cases today, the midsection makes up 50% of many drum corps, yet only constitutes no more than a brief point or sentence amongst an entire page of critique. Ask some of the Novice Juvenile/Juvenile tenor drummers in your country how they feel after seeing their drumming scoresheets at the end of the contest and you’ll get the idea that there is still a lot of room for growth on this front. 3.) On many occassions the presence of the bass section award gave the drumming adjudicator the unique discretion to recognize high quality performance within the drum corp, even if the drum corps as a whole wasn’t quite up to standard on the day. In my opinion, it’s a real shame that drumming adjudicators have been stripped of this discretion. We have some serious education to do first before this ‘ideal’ becomes a proper reality Daz. If it was indeed a holistic ‘drum corps’ being assessed, we would also probably see a proportional number of bass and tenor drummers as ‘drum corps’ (and even ensemble) judges as we we do snare drummers. I guess that the bottom line is that if it truly was an entire drum corps’ that was being assessed in Scotland, this entire debate would likely not even be going on. Until this actually happens, the bass section prize was all that the art form really had. Sincerely, Tyler

  11. On the serious side, this award, in and of itself, stands for something much larger than sectional self-importance. In my opinion it is about advancing the art of bass and tenor drumming across all grade levels. The intent of an award that recognizes a band for having the best bass section is to promote musical and artistic excellence. Those who see it as an attempt for sectional aggrandizement are missing the point. While some argue that a pipe band contest should not be compartmentalized into sectional awards; the fact remains that it takes all parts to create an ensemble. It is common practice for different sections to work and practice separately…for the greater good of the band. Again, a separate prize should serve to promote excellent and set higher standards for all players. It could be argued that the standard, as it is now, might be at such a high level that the R.S.P.B.A. needs to offer some workshops for their judging panel. That, in my opinion, is looking ahead. The elimination of these prizes, and the R.S.P.B.A.’s reluctance to engage in an open discussion with ALL (there are a few overseas bands unable to attend meetings) concerned parties, seem to indicate a very narrow view of a much larger picture.

  12. So, the gulf between the organisation and the needs of its members further widens… I’m curious to know which ‘pipe band world’ the RSPBA thinks it is at ‘the heart of’. How many member-based organisations ignore their members… and survive? The members are the lifeblood of the RSPBA. Ignore those members, and one day that ‘heart’ will stop beating. This whole episode from start to finish has created so many questions in my mind pertaining to integrity, accountability and transparency. For example, why was the Adjudicators Management Board/Music Board Liaison Group able to make recommendations in relation to award policy? Those recommendations were endorsed by the Music Board, yet why were their intentions hidden from the membership in the AGM order paper? Why did the National Council feel that it could dismiss the concerns of 700 pipers and drummers that the organisation purports to represent? Is the organisation so tied up within its own rules and bureaucracy that it cannot exercise common sense and discretion? I for one joined pipe bands to compete; it’s what you do as a member of the RSPBA. So if we are going to compete, let’s remember what we’re about – competing for awards, not showing up to put on a ‘streamlined’ spectacle for the dignitaries at 6pm!

  13. Tyler, Mike & Scott – Guys I have the utmost respect for what you are ALL trying to achieve within the world of Pipe Bands. Some of the work you produce is truley awe inspiring BUT – I just can’t sign up to (IMVHO) awards that serve no place on the day. I know it’s one that’s been shelved” but so was the M&D and BOB awards……not the same i’ll grant ye but surely to start awards for each “section” would start life down a very competitive road to no good in my eyes… YES you deserve huge recognition for leading the charge in Mid-Section developement (Mike – watched you tune a Mid like no other..) but Surely the greater good is the band and that’s all?? Respectfully yours Daz “

  14. Nice one Duncan – Piping Live could hold such an event but I fear the masses will give it a big thumbs down….only because it’s not at the Worlds. The Hoss trophey was given out this year ( great idea, good take-up..) for the girls and guys doing their thing and was rightly awarded. Perhaps a lead-up competition could decide the winner…after all it’s all about the Mids and Bass and no one else right….?

  15. Any suggestion that the prizes (bass section/drum corps) are meaningless would be coming from a misinformed perspective to say the least. Mike Cole has already laid this out beautifully. The prizes are not meaningless. To truly understand their raison d’être, you have to go back to the late 1950’s to realise that the awards were devised by the likes of the late and great Alex Duthart and Paddy Donovan, not for the sake of patting themselves on the back, but to improve standards because the quality of accompaniment in the era was so poor. Nobody could argue that this move did not put pipe band drumming and the overall ensemble of pipe bands on the road to excellence that we currently enjoy today. The former World Championship Best Bass trophy from Cowal Highland Gathering, established in 1936 – the dawn of what we now recognise as a bass section – was also created with similar intentions. If the state of piping today was so bad that a ‘Best Pipe Corps’ prize was deemed necessary to improve piping for the sake of that ‘greater good’, I doubt there would be any argument. If the decision to bring about drum corps awards was not made for the ‘greater good’ of pipe bands, then could someone please put me out of my misery and explain how removing the prize was for the ‘greater good’? The simple fact of the matter is that the pipe band movement is getting further and further out of touch with other forms of competitive music, like Brass, Bagad and DCI. Take Bagad for example, where more individual sections than exist in a pipe band are rewarded for performance as part of the big picture and overall assessment. One could argue they produce some of the most sophisticated music to be appreciated within a competitive and controlled environment. If bass sections were properly assessed under the umbrella of the entire drum corps, there would be no reason to argue against the loss of the awards, but I hate to break it to you, that just doesn’t happen and never has. If the ‘greater good’ is all about musical appreciation and nothing else, then why are we wasting our time competing and not just playing in concerts? People have a unique opportunity to turn around a wrong decision by supporting their remaining Branch meetings this weekend and tabling motions proposing the establishment of new Best Bass Section awards at Major Championships. If that opportunity is lost, then I have to agree with Duncan, market forces will prevail in the end.

  16. Good Shot Scott! Sorry for provoking a response but that was what I was after. I still disagree with the whole prize giving business but your argument is totally compelling and would make me think otherwise were it not for the fact that: We are not Bagads – however much you like them and the way they are judged I just don’t think you could bring that model to the PB world. It is a truly unique form of music (IMHO) and has a lot of judges because there is alot going on! Yes so do PBs BUT until the likes of YOURSELF, TF, MC, KM etc are judging the thing then it will never have credability because nobody understands it like you guys. Education will bring about change but it will take time…..time I hope you guys spend spreading the word and maybe gaining a judging qual in there aswell. I wish you guys only good fortune and hope the art continues to flourish” ……Oh yeah end on a good pun………Daz”

  17. I could be wrong but I believe that the RSPBA perhaps feels that it is not yet in a position to adequately assess bass/mid sections and therefore has decided to take the position they have. I think the discussion should be what is the RSPBA doing to include judges on the panel for bass/mid sections. Has there been any talk of having a judge whose role is specifically to assess the performance of bass/mid sections? Has there been any discussion amongst the association as to what types of things such a judge would consider in their evaluation? Has there been any discussion on how to prepare such a judge through workshops or training sessions? Having the award is one thing, but having people in place to make a fair assessment is in my mind of greater importance in this whole issue.

  18. Surely the best thing to do would be to introduce a bass section judge and then get rid of all ‘best corps’ prizes? I know some people will argue that a bass section’s contribution to an overall performance is not equal to that of the snare line etc, so the scores may need to be weighed (ie place every bass section 1st to last and divide each score by 2) then add to current totals. Ideally, more judges for every corps/ensemble would be better, but this will never happen.

  19. I agree with Andrew. From my perspective as a bass player, I want to see the contribution of the mid-section appropriately judged and the contribution it makes reflected in the scoring. This I believe would encourage the advancement of this component of the pipe band art. With standards in place, consistent instruction could be developed as could consistent judging. Now I signed Scott Currie’s petition at the time as I saw the RSPBA’s decision as an affront to mid-section players, particularly using the lame reason of saving time in the march-past. I support the reinstatement of the prize, but I don’t think the prize in and of itself will achieve the objectives I stated above. I don’t think it is necessary. I think eventually this action by the RSPBA will spark a movement to establish, mid-section standards and promote the addition of a mid-section judging. I am optimistic that mid-section players and other supportive members of bands can initiate something that will eventually lead to change. I think I have the origins of a new motion for my local pipe band association AGM next year! Cheers, Iain Ricketts-Moncur

  20. The Grammy Awards. The most coveted award in the Music Biz. Is everyone aware of how the VOTING process works for those awards? I worry that a TON of effort is being bashed up against a brick wall. Take the music beyond the boundaries with new ideas. The actual advancement of the bass and tenor art is all that matters. Keep working hard to make the most of your music. Prizes/Smizes? They don’t measure up against the rush of making great music. I didn’t join Pipe Bands to compete. I joined Pipe Bands because the rush from the 3 or 4 minutes a year that you get when the stars all line up is the greatest drug in the World. HOSS

  21. I really feel for the frustration of all tenor and bass drummers. I am more concerned however, about the lack of democracy that seems to be characteristic of many of the decisions of the RSPBA. The RSPBA Music Board has made an arbitrary change to the rules without bringing it forth as a motion for debate or vote by the membership. Although I am not a voting member of the RSPBA, I would encourage those of you who are to take an interest in what is going on. Go to your meetings. Read the rule book. Make motions that reflect the wishes of the COMPETING membership. Organize a democratic take-over if necessary! Hopefully this situation will get people fired-up enough to become more involved and perhaps seek leadership positions on the board or executive. Please go for it and try to get rid of the pipes down/ pipes up thing while you are at it…we just did in the PPBSO and we think it will help shave a significant amount of time off the day.

  22. Great ideas are coming out in this forum, many make me think of larger fundamental issues we need to examine. Obvious and simple as they are, here we go: DO people believe that opinions of the majority will ruin our art form? WHO decides what makes it tradition when in fact pipe band competition is baby brand new in the grand scheme of most musical forms? DOES 78 years of world pipe band competition make it set in stone that this is the best way our art form should be presented? IS it okay that those at the top decide a course of action for the masses based on their opinion without consulting those affected? IS it okay that a ruling body states the reason for cancelling a major award is a time saving measure instead of being honest with their rationale? Anyway there are many other questions of which others will think…I look forward to hearing what is said here.

  23. Scott, thanks for letting us all know where you live. Point taken, mate. Nope, not insecure. Just trying to put another perspective forward on an open forum. But you seem to have the impression that you’re some sort of custodian who is here to stamp out, or howl down, anything that you don’t like. Like most forums etc on the net, I could be getting a very wrong impression of you (as I suspect I am). I’m sure we’d get on just fine in person and have a laugh about all this. Mate, I suggest you take your medicine on this latest setback and maintain the rage in the right direction, not at the people who are invited, by P&D, to comment on this topic. Trust me, the RSPBA will re-instate it one day. But they won’t be seen to buckle just now, you know what they’re like. I still say it’s a storm in a tea cup. You’ll live and things will roll merrily forward regardless. Regards ps – go tune your note!…..kidding. 🙂

  24. Now you boys, that’s quite enough!. I want you two to bury the hatchet (preferrably not in each other’s heads), kiss, shake hands and make up. I used to think that I had played with a couple of Large Mouth Bass’ over the years, but I must say that this forum puts those two to shame (believe me, that’s quite a feat. I otta know…..). If you don’t tone it down a bit (no pun intended), I’ll put a call into Dana White and book ya’ll for a spree on UFC 93! It’s coming up in Jan ’09. There’s still lots o’ time!

  25. ha ha…..yes, Bagpipermann, its all a bit silly. I don’t think UFC is on the cards, but thanks for the offer! I’m sure Mr Currie and I would get on just fine over a beer. Its all tongue in cheek, most of it. He seems passionate about what he does – a good thing. I appreciate that there aren’t the same, or as many, outlets for tenor drummers as there are for pipers and snare drummers, so the removal of a major trophy would sting, especially for someone who is competing at the worlds every year. I don’t begrudge them all that disappointment, but it gets a bit boring after a while when the umpire has made a decision and isn’t going back for a replay in the foreseeable future…..rightly or wrongly.



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