February 29, 2008

SL78FH ‘Bandfest’ takes a different approach to workshop

Since the early 1990s the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band held a one-day workshop that typically strived top attract individual pipers and drummers, each one signing up for various classes with members of the band. But in 2008 the band will cater only to whole pipe bands, promising detailed all-day instruction to an entire group for $1000 per band.

“The idea for changing to a school of instruction devoted to teaching both pure band skills, as well as complete bands arose out of a blog about the loss of interest in one-day workshops,” said Pipe-Major Bill Livingstone. “It really resonated with me as my experience at these affairs has often left me frustrated.”

Livingstone’s experience with workshops where he’d worked with an entire band, addressing the band’s existing repertoire and personnel, proved that the band could be improved “quite significantly. So much so that the band guys usually can’t believe the difference, and are astonished at the simple tools and rules to use and follow, to get better in three hours.”

Livingstone cited the advent of distance learning via the Internet as making it far easier for isolated individuals to get state-of-the-art instruction. While the Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders are aiming to attract whole bands, individuals and smaller groups of three or more can still sign up for the April 26th Bandfest in Oakville, Ontario, just west of Toronto.

“My idea was to create something that so far cannot be duplicated in any way other than with direct hands on personal involvement,” Livingstone continued.” The hope is to attract as many full bands at every level, who feel they can improve, and aren’t sure how to make that happen.”

Instruction will include reed selection, choosing a “master bagpipe” for tuning, use of a tuner, practicing with a metronome, how to “wind” the instrument.

Livingstone also said that his band has added several well known pipers to its ranks: Andrew Hayes, Lynda MacKay and Bentley Wall. Hayes, a top-class solo piper, most recently played with the Toronto Police; MacKay was previously with the Peel Regional Police; and Wall was formerly Pipe-Major of the now-defunct Grade 2 North Coast Pipe Band of Cleveland, Ohio.


  1. Back in the 90s when I was with a Toronto area legion band we had just such a one day workshop with the 78FH; individual sessions in the morning and the afternoon as a band. It was extremely rewarding for us. The PM and LT were delighted to be upstaged. And we created our own badge to award to selected members, I Was Cut By Bill Livingstone!””

  2. If I lived in ON I’d be there with the band[s] in a minute. Hopefully this strategy will attract bands and make it a success from the SL78thFH perspective. I really can’t see how this could not work out for a band that registers. The original article about workshops made the point that great instruction is more widely available and maybe people don’t need it like they used to, but which band wouldn’t benefit from some analysis, hands-on, etc. from these folks? What a great way to spend $1000 for your band.



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