February 25, 2015

EUSPBA moves to select Senior solo piping judges

EUSPBA-logoUsing an online questionnaire, a special review panel formed from members of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association’s Music Committee comprising James McIntosh, Nancy Tunnicliffe and Andrew Carlisle is working to select new Senior-designated judges for its sanctioned solo piping events.

Currently, the EUSPBA has a single level of solo adjudicator, each judge able to assess any level of competition, while other associations, such as the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, have two levels of judges. The PPBSO, as an example, requires A-Certified adjudicators to meet stringent criteria based on proven successful 15-year minimum competing at the professional level.

“This topic has been under discussion in the EUSPBA for a while now and the current music board decided to move forward with defining what a senior panel would look like,” said EUSPBA Music Committee Chair Robert Minnear. “The basic intent is the same as in other associations: to recognize a senior status of adjudicator that is better suited to judge competitions at the highest level, that is, more preeminent events like Friday night professional competitions.”

The EUSPBA’s approach will apparently be mainly subjective, with the questionnaire asking those interested in being considered for Senior status such questions as “Would you be confident judging a large, indoor Professional event, which includes past Gold Medal winners? Why/why not?”, “A Piobaireachd judge with deep experience and knowledge, and not constantly reading the book, can then focus on the music. How close do you feel you are to this stage?” and “When was the last intense Piobaireachd Seminar you attended? Did you perform on your pipes at that time?”

Minnear said that the questionnaire “is not the sole source of information, and requests both subjective information as well as competition . . .



  1. I don’t expect there will be many comments made to this article for various reasons. This is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t issues for both the “Senior Judge’s Steering Committee” and those affected by this radical shift in EUSPBA judging policy.
    I received the email questionnaire yesterday and was a bit taken aback. I did not particularly appreciate the fill it out (or not) by March 9th message. If there was a “if you have any questions or concerns, please contact XXX,” I must have missed it.
    At the very least, if not as a matter of professional courtesy, there should have been some sort of explanation attached to yesterday’s communication as to how the “committee” or the Music Board or the EUSPBA Executive Committee envisioned the implementation of this new system. If there is no “vision”, no game plan so to speak, we don’t need to be going through this exercise. If there is a vision, it should not be a secret.
    Unlike PPBSO and other associations, the EUSPBA does not “run” piping and drumming events. The EUSPBA has NEVER designated solo events as “preeminent.” It has NEVER told games committees which events to run let alone require them to hire judges from a list within a list.
    Those are just a few questions and concerns I, and others (trust me, there ARE others) have about this recent turn of events. I just wish those who were and are involved in this important action had given its professional judges panel members the opportunity to provide input instead of what I can only describe as a “take it or leave it” proposition.

  2. What piper doesn’t like the idea of informed, insightful, un-biased and latitudinarian judging decisions? Comments given by those who have walked the walk *and* can talk the talk? Yes, please.

    But, in the midst of more and more games deciding not to offer professional events with cash prizes, my only worry is that if it gets harder to run a professional contest, we will see yet more disappearing. Hopefully it will have only positive impact on the scene and increase competitor involvement. However, if there is a smaller pool of judges to choose from, it might make running a pro contest that much harder.

    To be fair to the games committees, pro contests don’t provide a great return on investment. If the event organizers are more focused on turning a profit or making events that play to the public’s ideas of Scottishness, rather than supporting traditional culture, pro contests make little sense. They could be marketed and staged in such a way to have increased connection with larger audiences, but that is another issue entirely.

    For many of us, competition is our primary stage. We can, after throwing down a twenty or two, just turn up and have a tune before an educated audience. I’d probably still go out and compete if we were being judged by, say, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Although there are famous examples of pipers walking away from the boards when certain judges sitting the bench were deemed “unqualified,” back in the days of non-playing gentlemen judging, you still had the best players turning up for competitions. Of course, still complaining about the results too, I’m sure!

    As much as I love and respect good judging, I would hate to see the ideal situation push out the smaller games with less-perfect judging scenarios.

    Similarly, while creating a few “majors” on the pro piping circuit sounds great, I would hope it wouldn’t decrease involvement at the smaller events. The CPA has had to encourage pipers to attend smaller non-CPA competitions in Scotland, as some are disappearing due to low turnout.

    The great can be the enemy of good. I just don’t want to end up with less opportunities to play. I’m hopeful and confident the EUSPBA is aware of this concern and is working on implementation that doesn’t decrease the number of pro contests.

  3. Is it needed? I think not. In fact I’d hasten to say that it could cause ill-feeling amongst the judges as well as bewilderment amongst games committees. Saying to one judge, who’s been on the circuit for many years, “you are not good enough to judge that competition anymore because we want a ‘senior’ judge in the seat” or telling a games committee “no you can’t just select those 4 local judges for your event, you have to select these 2 ‘senior’ judges from far away and pay their airfare,” I think would be treading on very thin ice! There’s more important things for the EUSPBA to put it’s minds to, I’m sure.



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