September 30, 2010

Taking the long-term local, not short-term express: Burnett’s & Struth changes philosophy

Bucking the trend in upper-grade pipe bands towards “distance players” who travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers to practice and compete with a band, the Grade 2 Burnett’s & Struth Pipe Band of Ontario is taking a more local approach to success, starting with its leadership.

The two-year-old band has said goodbye to 2010 Lead-Drummer Ted Barr of Michigan, and is searching for a replacement who would be from within one-hour of the band’s practice centre of Milton, Ontario. Barr had been attempting to make the five-hour drive to practices and most competitions.

“For the success and stability of an organization, I think most would agree that the leaders of the [band] should ideally reside within an hour of the practice hall and any players from outside the area who wish to be part of the band should be treated as a bonus,” Pipe-Major Simon Connolly said in a message to members. “Instead we seemed to be operating as two different entities that rarely got practice time as a complete group which both hindered our success and has forced us to keep our repertoire much smaller that we would have liked.”

While the band won’t insist that pipers and drummers are local, it is encouraging it.

“The idea of flying/driving in  talent to play only a contest or two just to beat another band doesn’t fit with our philosophy,” Pipe-Sergeant Mike Connolly added. “It may be rare these days of swaying popularity when waves of players seem to swarm toward the ‘next big thing,’ but we’re all about trying to maintain  a happy group formed together for the common purpose of enjoying good music  played as well as possible with the people that we have.”

Connolly described the shift in thinking as a “positive, even if it sacrifices our competitiveness in the short-term.”

In its first year of competition, Burnett’s & Struth emerged as winners of the overall Champion Supreme award in Grade 2, a grade frequented by one other Ontario-based band at most competitions.

“We really do appreciate all of Ted Barr’s extreme dedication over the last two seasons in  getting this band established, attracting long distance players and helping us attain the 2010 PPBSO Grade 2 Champion Supreme,” Simon Connolly included in his message to band members.

Also reportedly departing Burnett’s & Struth is Bill Baird, who served as Pipe-Sergeant of the band in 2010 and is the former pipe-major of the Grade 1 Windsor Police and Grade 2 City of Detroit, both now defunct. Baird joined the band in April of this year to some fanfare, along with  his two  sons, also pipers.

Barr hinted that a restart of City of Detroit might be possible, with a similar move to working with more local talent.


  1. A band after my own heart! I genuinely believe (and always have done) that this approach is the correct one to ensure the stability and success of many bands. I also think, for various reasons, it’s just simply, ‘the right thing to do’. I really hope it reaps rewards for them. (Maybe I missed it but I didn’t see anywhere in the article that stated they asked Ted Barr to leave).

  2. Very refreshing indeed to see a band with enough courage and confidence in their local players to take this approach! I never really understood why bands in the Toronto area need to bring in long distance players just to have enough members to field a band when there are so many talented players on Ontario. I too read the article over and don’t see where it is written that anyone was asked to leave the band. I suspect that this move may spark some interest in people looking for an alternative to the pipe band rat race.



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