November 05, 2023

MWPBA adopts audio judging and other progressive measures

The Midwest Pipe Band Association, under President Jim Sim, is continuing to lead with progressive measures designed to bring piping and drumming competition and performance into a more modern era.

At the MWPBA’s annual general meeting on November 4th, some 65 members, present in-person and online, passed several five substantial motions and announced the addition of a new competition and possibly seeing the return of a dormant event.

The most substantial move is the adoption of “audio adjudication” after a successful trial period using a voice recordings system in the 2023 season.

Members of the MWPBA met with the Head of the Adjudicators with Drum Corps International in nearby Indianapolis. They shared information about the “Competition Suite” cloud-based system DCI uses, and in 2024, judges will each have their own recording device for their comments and recordings. The performance will be uploaded to a secure website when the event is completed.

“Each band will have their own password to listen to the comments and recordings,” Sim said. “There will be a short, written recap for each band from each adjudicator. No placings will be put on the sheets. There will be a Master Sheet for the adjudicator to record the placings that will then be downloaded for the overall result.”

Immediately after results are announced, every band can access “a complete recap” of the event. The MWPBA membership agreed to a band entry fee going from US$80 to $95 for each competition, and training on the new system will take place at the MWPBA Adjudicators’ Seminar in the spring, he said.

While other major piping and drumming organizations have tested audio adjudication systems, the MWPBA appears to be the first to use such a system full-time.

[See pipes|drums’ June 2022 interview with John Phillips, Judging Administrator with Drum Corps International]

The association’s membership also approved an approach designed to help Highland games financially and provide a better show. Travel money allotted to bands will be eliminated, but each games will agree to provide a cash prize for fourth place at all contests, thus saving each event money and complexity.

MWPBA President Jim Sim

New quartet competitions will be offered as part of morning events typically reserved only for solo competitions. Quartets will be permitted to compete in a grade above their band’s assigned grade. “Hopefully, this will improve the morning show for spectators and make a fun and interesting contest for the membership,” Sim added.

The organization is also expanding its education and teaching offerings for members, starting by surveying them to understand preferences.

“The concept is that the association would pay for the travel of a top pipe-major and leading-drummer to come into a geographic area and then the bands in that area would pay the daily fees for the instruction for the day with their band,” Sim reported. “If the interest is there, this will be adopted in the spring of 2024.”

The MWPBA will also be holding free monthly online workshops for its members. Various topics will be covered, with the first scheduled in January for tenor drummers, followed by a session for Grade 4 solo pipers to assist with the organization’s new two-parted Strathspey & Reel event for the grade.

The association’s successful scholarship program will expand to include amateur Grades 1-4 for those younger than 18, and the number of participants is expected to double, scholarships for online instruction from instructors outside of the MWPBA geography.

The organization will also reportedly add a new competition in July and possibly welcome back another.

“It looks to be a busy year in the Midwest United States,” Sim concluded.




    1. I applaud the MWPBA for seeking ways to create a more contemporary and financially viable Games experience. The financial aspect of staging Games is often overlooked but so clearly critical in having Games exist, at all, in the organized way that we, as players and bandspeople, expect them to be.

      The audience experience, the desire to make a good show, and the ability to grow attendance and develop creatively, are goals we all share, regardless of Grade or our area of involvement in the event.

      This is all good and applaudable.

      And/but, with any given Games into whose mold are we trying to fit the bands and/or can we fit into more than one? Is it a music competition? Entertainment experience? Playing for Clan reunions and activities? All of the above? Obviously, Games vary greatly in their expression of each of these but the basic aspects are similar to each and each are built in a foundation of music.

      Under all of this is that most bands are not financially viable organizations, self sustained and able to easily cover travel, food, and lodging expenses. I don’t know of any who have other than a volunteer support group upon which to rely. And, expenses, not abilities, prevent some bands from competing, at all.

      So, while I applaud the MWPBA for their effort’s and attention to improving the Games, I also note that…

      ’Band entry fees go from $25 to $95 per competition’ Not just increased, but per competition.

      ‘It is an ‘Approach designed to help Highland Games financially.’ Got that. It’s essential. What about enabling more bands to attend? These can work together.

      ‘Travel money will be eliminated. (4th place will be awarded)’ So, ya gotta win to cover expenses.

      ‘Quartets in morning’ when most bands are getting ready for massed bands and competition and individuals are busy with solos. Great idea, but it gets back to ‘are we entertaining or competing’?

      Many Games are only one day and they have to jam a lot into a little time. Two-day Games could allow for a ‘competition’ day and a more entertainment oriented day, but these are rare and not easily staged by Games.

      Opening up the band competition to a semi-circle facing an audience and making it more presentational is an easy switch with minimal residual effect.

      The goals of the MWPBA are right on. My appeal is to not reduce financial support of the folks who play for free and also to enable bands to have to time to prepare for competing.



Forgotten Password?