February 25, 2015

EUSPBA moves to select Senior solo piping judges

results and will include a peer-review aspect.”

Respondents then must provide a written response to each question for the committee to assess. Almost half of the questions in the questionnaire are piobaireachd-related, but the preface also says, “Light Music Only judges may omit questions [the four piobaireachd-specific questions].”

“Although I agree the EUSPBA panel needs some tweaking, I am not comfortable with this method,” said one EUSPBA member who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that one of the adjudicators used an example of a senior judge is “not even on the EUSPBA panel. . . . The sh*te is about to hit the fan down here. I see all sorts of problems if this thing was implemented since the singular focus on this senior thing is on piobaireachd.”

The great Donald MacLeod judging a solo competition c.1975.

The questionnaire is prefaced with a statement that includes, “The newly formed Senior Panel would in no way demerit any current members of the EUSPBA Judge’s Panel, but rather would create a tier to ensure that the most qualified judges adjudicate the top competitions and competitors. . . . The Committee stresses that this exercise will be impartial and confidential. In order to collect and collate information, we must ask questions and the cooperation of all concerned. Every effort has been made to select questions that will not cause embarrassment. This has much less to do with reaching a certain age, or a number of years serving on the Panel, but rather specifically concerns your ongoing self-education (since joining the Panel). It is not mandatory to participate in this exercise if you do not wish to be placed on the Senior Panel. Currently-competing players are not eligible.”

Minnear said that McIntosh and Tunnicliffe “are not automatically designated senior judges. In order to be considered a senior judge, a judge must request this designation and provide their qualifications in the form of a questionnaire.” As an active competitor, Carlisle is ineligible. The questionnaire uses examples of Donald Lindsay and non-EUSPBA judge Michael Cusack as “Senior Judges,” despite the application submission process not ending until March 9th.

“No one has been grandfathered in,” Minnear added. “Cusack would have to be active on our panel to be considered. But there is clearly a presumption that [Cusack and Lindsay] represent individuals who would be at the senior level.”

By members and geography, the EUSPBA is the largest piping and drumming association in the world.


  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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