December 31, 2002

The P&D at 20 �C the best is yet to come

With this issue, the Piper & Drummer celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Actually, the magazine started in 1981 as the “Canadian Piper & Drummer,” an eight-page digest-sized booklet. But a few issues were missed in the mid-1980s, and we’d prefer, as always, to be honest with ourselves.

If we counted the “Piper & Dancer Bulletin,” which goes back to the 1930s, and “The North American Scotsman,” which ran through the 1960s and ’70s, we could easily lay claim to 70 years of success. But that’s not our style either.

This publication has always been about change. The piping and drumming world is a pretty slow-moving place, and that’s okay. We play music that’s steeped in tradition, and the vast majority of us, to a certain extent, like that. But the Piper & Drummer has always bravely tested new territory, pushed boundaries, challenged “normality,” and we believe that we’re at least partly responsible for many positive changes in the piping and drumming world.

We’re surprised and delighted when people assume that the Piper & Drummer is the full time occupation for its staff – surprised, since to us it’s only a hobby and labour of love; delighted, since the comment implies that we’re – literally – professional.

Sadly, not everyone likes the Piper & Drummer. There are some who would rather the truth not be stated publicly, that strong and honest opinions remain whispers at beer tents and band halls, that merchandise for sale to the public not be subject to unbiased, public criticism.

The piping and drumming world is a different place these days. It’s bigger. It’s more valuable. More people than ever are making more money than ever from it.

Imitation, the cliché goes, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then we’re flattered to bits. When the Piper & Drummer came on the scene, there were two publications serving the art, and both were (and to a large degree still are) conservative booklets full of bromides like, “A good time was had by all,” and, “This is a must for every record collection,” and, “Next on to play was Angus MacSporran, whose drones never got in tune and, thank goodness, he decided to stop after the ground.”

Today, it’s no coincidence that many major associations, organizations and individuals around the world have tried to emulate the P&D. They have studied the successful Piper & Drummer model, and tried to recreate the formula. Most have come and gone, and a few others are actually pretty darn good reads, especially the ones that don’t plagiarize or outright lift our content and concepts. We’d rather all of their membership simply subscribed to the P&D, instead of, in some cases, just the majority of them.

In this issue we celebrate our milestone by pointing out highlights since 1981. We hope you enjoy our look back, in addition to several original new articles that will hopefully create more constructive discussion.

You should know that these are the five immutable laws of the Piper & Drummer:

§ Publish only original, exclusive material
§ Never allow personal bias to blur our clear vision, or give preferential treatment to anyone, including advertisers
§ Provoke constructive dialogue – only by asking tough questions can we consider important answers
§ Listen and respond to our readers
§ If we stop enjoying what we’re doing, we’ll stop doing it
§ Take a minute to consider the lighter side of the all-too-serious game
§ Always aspire to be a great magazine, not just a great piping and drumming magazine

Okay, that was six, but who’s counting?

We knew that we were on to something good when we published an editorial in 1987 about the prevalence of alcohol on our little scene, how it’s part of the stereotype, and how booze has ruined many a great piping career. A very prominent Scottish piper confronted us on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, shocked that this was even being discussed in print, couldn’t believe that a piping magazine – a piping magazine! – would deign to bring the issue out into the open. He was bombastic and drunk, and on his way to more pub hopping with his band mates.

It takes courage to do what we’ve done. For the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario to have the courage – over three administrations – to see the bigger picture of the value that the Piper & Drummer brings, to stand by the publication for the sake of constructive dialogue, to recognize that the role of the elected leadership of a piping and drumming association must represent its membership, is courageous in itself. Hats off to the PPBSO for letting the P&D, for all purposes, thrive independently.

It’s not really our style to be so self-congratulatory. But, hey, after 20 years, we think we deserve it. The Piper & Drummer has had a constructive and provocative two decades, thanks to the open minds of its readers, advertisers and supporters. Here’s to the even brighter future.

That’s the end of our self-congratulations. We’ll save the next until 2022.




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