May 31, 2011

Rocky Mountain low; band decides to take a break in 2011

The Rocky Mountain Pipe Band of Calgary is the latest Grade 2 band to struggle with numbers, and has decided not to compete in 2011 despite being able to field minimum numbers. The band opted to abstain from competition and rebuild rather than try to go head-to-head with much larger groups.

“The Rocky Mountain Pipe Band had to make the unfortunate decision last night to put the 2011 season on hold for this year,” said Pipe-Major Sean Somers. “In short, we’ve lost a significant number of players, and over the last few months haven’t been able to rebuild to a point where we’d be a competitive Grade 2 band in terms of numbers.”

Rocky Mountain was formed in 1998 and was promoted Grade 2 in 2008. Last year the band gained a fourth in Grade 2 at the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario, including a first in piping from one judge.

“It’s a bit disappointing doing as well as we did in Maxville for our first time out last year, but it is what it is, as they say,” Somers added.

While the band’s local association states minimum numbers for Grade 2 as six pipers, two snare drummers, two tenors and a bass, the band was the smallest in the Grade at Maxville by a wide margin with 13 pipers.

“For us, competing against other bands that take up significantly more real estate in the circle – double in a few cases; upwards of 25 players – it’s hard to compete against that alone. Visually speaking – before a note is even played – it’s hard to compete with an eight-wide swath of pipers four rows deep,” Somers said. “We bailed-out this year, because if we showed up with eight or 10 pipers to Maxville again this year, I think we’d get laughed out of the park. And it’s not just pipers either. Mid-sections, especially, are under the same pressure.”

He chalked up the loss of personnel to a variety of circumstances including retirement, school, work and family commitments, as well as a number of players jumping to the Grade 1 Alberta Caledonia Pipe Band, including Pipe-Sergeant Andrew Smith, who became pipe-major of Alberta.

“Like all bands, there are ups and downs, and at this point, the band needs to focus on re-building for the fall,” Somers concluded.


  1. It’s a shame that another pipe band is choosing to take the year off citing low numbers. Being close to the same result years ago, I can truly feel for Sean and the members of RMMB that have stayed true to the organization. I find the comment-thread interesting. I totally have to agree with Piobmoore – it really is about the best fit. Why would an organization turn down interested parties because they already have enough” players

  2. This is bad news for the prairie scene, and I know I can speak for our band when I say we hope so see the band up and competing again next season. With only three Grade 2 prairie bands, and only two of those willing to travel to compete regionally, it makes it hard to develop a vibrant Grade 2 contest. Rocky Mountain PB was a welcome addition to Highland Games in Saskatchewan, and it was fantastic for the City of Regina to be able to compete with them at Calgary/Canmore Games. Good luck with recruitment over the summer. We had to take a break in 2007 for similar reasons, and the seasons since have been the best in 20 years in many respects. Look forward to better news down the road.

  3. Yet another example of how the quest for ever-larger bands may not be all good … 13 pipers used to be a good size even in Grade One, and they were the smallest band at Maxville. Time for some rethinking.

  4. How many articles like this citing small numbers or bands disbanding because they just cannot recruit enough players to make that magic 20-24 player corp do we need to read before the big associations decide to put a cap on the size of bands. Maybe it’s 20 pipers, maybe it’s 16 or 18, who knows, but if they had a cap on it, then we’d all know what we’re facing. It may not totally fix the problem but it would be a start. Hell, if there was not a cap for players in the field in Pro sports, George Steinbrenner would have had 40 players out in the field for the Yankees if he could. Just saying. Bruce

  5. Sorry to hear what’s happening with Sean and his team. I’ve agree with brucegpiper: Competitive pipe banding needs a cap when it comes to a maximum number of players allowed on the field. If we prescribe minimum numbers then why would we not do the same with the maximum?

  6. It’s always sad news to hear of a band having to take time off due to any reason, not just because of numbers. However, in my PERSONAL opinion, I don’t think a band that can get large numbers out to play should be punished because of that. There are reasons that a band can draw a larger crowd to work with, whether it’s the music the play, style, or the organization, etc. It is completely unfair to say a band should be capped just because they have a large amount of players wanting to play with them. Should we put a cap on sponsorship money bands are allowed to receive also? It is just as conceivable that in one jurisdiction a band could not compete due to lack of funding, while another band is able to continue because they have good sponsorship money. The point I am trying to make is I don’t believe it is fair to say a band should be capped just because that organization is a popular destination for players.

  7. but when is big enough , enough? And I don’t buy the comparison between attracting players to your fine area versus gaining sponsorship money at all, that’s apples and oranges. With the right connections, a good team of two or three people in a band could potentially raise a staggering amount of money, while the band still cannot field enough players. Again, I refer back to the baseball anaolgy, or whatever team sport you like, it’s not about who has the money ( that’s a different argument) it’s about the teams being fair, which, by the way was one of the reasons pro sport teams now have a salary cap.

  8. The biggest band is not necessarily the best band, or the one that goes home with the prize on the day. That has been proven more than enough times at both Maxville and Glasgow. The onus is really on players to choose the right band for themselves, and when doing so to take into account the band’s talent and potential instead of just sheer numbers.

  9. I think rosters should be submitted a month or two before the each event, and everyone on the roster must then play. If your going to be cut from a grade one band at 50% of the contests, maybe you should be playing in a grade two band. This would help with players commitment to bands and bands commitment to players. Small advantage to bands with farm systems.



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