Published: February 27, 2021

First PPBSO ‘Town Hall’ reveals ambitious new approach for Ontario piping and drumming

About 100 people logged in to the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario’s first online “Town Hall,” at which President Michael Grey outlined various initiatives the organization has come up with in the two weeks since it held its annual general meeting.

“We need everyone’s help to get through this,” Grey said in his opening comments, referring to the ongoing pandemic crisis and the very real prospect of another year without in-person events that provide value for members and revenue for the association.

While several Ontario Highland games have already cancelled, including the organization’s marquee North American Championship at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, he said that the PPBSO is encouraging events to consider pushing their dates to later in the summer or even early fall.

Despite having dealt with Covid-19 better than most countries in terms of per-capita infection and mortality rates, Canada overall is well behind the UK and the US and doesn’t expect to have its whole population vaccinated until 2022.

The Cobourg Highland Games, normally held in June, was reported to have not cancelled yet, instead hoping to be held several months later. Because of its climate, outdoor events any time other than from June through August present increased risk of cold and rain.

The organization announced several new “ad hoc” committees, including Communications, headed by Kris Bawden; Membership, led by Kevin Shand; History & Archives, headed by PPBSO Vice-President Chris Dodson; and Education, managed by John McKay.

McKay, a professional teacher, cited his goal to get piping and drumming into the curriculum of Ontario schools, and a hope to create a Youth Pipe Band of Ontario, modelled after successful projects in Scotland and various regions in North America.

Grey announced that the PPBSO plans to run a “Summer Blast” online school for pipers and drummers July 5-9, with long-time member Bob Worrall managing the effort. As an incentive, a 20% tuition discount will be offered to PPBSO members, which he said could be turned around to drive memberships, which are priced at $50, from those who want the discount.

Grey discussed the issue of providing more value to its members in the prospect of another year hugely disrupted by the pandemic.

A full slate of online contests is being planned, likely to include a version of the Champion Supreme aggregate points system to determine overall winners over a PPBSO season.

“This is the start of an intentional focus of providing value beyond the usual,” Grey said. “We’ll do our best to up our game, do our best to provide more tangible prizes. These will be excellent, excellent competitions.”

Bawden talked about his intention on the Communications committee to start with “brand development,” and he discussed ways that the organization could drive revenue through advertising by redeveloping its website and ramping up its presence on social media.

When asked if his organization had the finances to execute the many planned programs designed to create more value for members, Grey said that it will “depend on memberships.”

“It’s a well-delivered program with strong messages from each of these new informed leaders,” commented Peter MacKenzie, a piper and piping teacher and leader whose membership with the PPBSO goes back to 1969. “Hopefully, we all still understand the absolute need for local qualified volunteers to spearhead teaching and band initiatives. These people must be supported with the tools needed to bring the message to the young people of Ontario.”

 


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