March 04, 2020

Opinion: Now is the time (Part 2)

Editor’s note: The annual general meeting of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association is on Saturday, March 14th, in Glasgow. Strong attendance by member bands could result in substantial change. World renowned pipe band drummer Tyler Fry submitted an unsolicited guest editorial to pipes|drums. All readers are welcomed to submit their own ideas for opinions pieces and features. We appreciate all perspectives.


Opinion: Now is the time (Part 2)

By Tyler Fry

Tyler Fry

With the greatest of respect, the short-term feel-good factor of spending £1-million on renovating up the headquarters – impressive as it may be – hasn’t done a thing to mend that rift. It has only made things worse. The organization isn’t 45 Washington Street. It’s the bands and the players, something that sadly seems to have been long forgotten by those presently in charge.

The adversity of the current situation presents a golden opportunity to hit the reset button and truly bring things into the 21st century, 20 years after the RSPBA’s Millennium Review was consigned to the trash. Some who are old enough to remember might say it’s 20 years too late. Here we are in 2020, yet the problems of the 1990s that led to the Millennium Review still exist.

The Board of Directors can and should be a harmonious relationship between players and management that organically evolves, by constantly bringing on board the best qualified and most talented analytical, business, technological, financial and legal minds available within the membership. This is so obvious, yet why has it never been realized?

This is opposed to a self-protecting supremacy of locally picked faces who have served their time because that’s the way it’s always been. Reshuffling board members is not an unhealthy phenomenon. It is, after all, how every corporation and democratic government operates in practice. (Didn’t this just happen in the United Kingdom government recently?) It is nothing for anyone to be afraid of if the true goal is for the organization to be the best that it can be. So, if something isn’t working, there should be no fear of fixing it. There are already strong working examples of success in pipe band associations in various continents.

Looking towards a resolution and a brighter future, it’s frightening to think of the endless exciting possibilities for improvement, innovation and growth that could exist if only the RSPBA had a board of forward-thinking professionals as directors who were willing to serve openly and inclusively engaging with the members, rather than working against them. This doesn’t mean that these directors (remember they’re volunteers) are bad people; it simply means that we need a complete paradigm shift in terms of the current culture within William Sloan’s long-standing institution.

The traditions that need to be preserved are most likely on the musical side, however, there should be no constraints in modernizing management styles, internal communications and public relations strategies. In this day of democratized and instantly collaborative communications such as social media and other readily accessible technological advances (e.g., holding meetings online), we have no choice and there are no excuses. Had such working practices and resources been adopted by the association previously, things would not be where they are now.

There’s a good reason why associations in other parts of the world are blossoming through their engagement with these platforms. There’s no coincidence that where these associations and branches are flourishing by embracing these modern-day working practices, so, too, are their respective bands.

How does the chief executive of the RSPBA know that the next best idea or solution to a problem won’t come from engaging in “online debate on social media” with what he calls “the morons in the organization” on that or any other medium?

It’s now over to you as the members to decide what path forward that you’d like to take.

His statement said to me that he is in denial of the times we live in, and the only voices that matter and that he is willing to listen to are the ones that happen to be in the same meeting room as him at any particular point in time. Look no further than the state of the organization today to see how this parochial approach has worked out. When you stifle opportunities and place obstacles in the way (as we’ve seen in the past and present) for sharing ideas and engaging in debate, you just never know the collaborative efforts that would have otherwise existed had those limited parameters or roadblocks not been in place.

It’s now over to you as the members to decide what path forward that you’d like to take. Is it more of the years-long lack of transparency, austerity and decaying relationships that contributed to the current desperate situation (financially, communicatively and reputationally) and numerous other conflicts that the chief executive and directors never seem to learn from? Or do you look to the future by placing your confidence in leaders who are prepared to turn things around by working hand-in-glove with the members to improve relations and invest in producing positive outcomes that benefit your bands and the generations of pipers and drummers to come, that you work so hard to develop?

One thing is true: doing nothing won’t change anything for the better.

Please think long and hard about how you’d like your band to be treated by the organization in the future, and don’t be afraid to show up to your branch and annual meetings and be bold. As this post perhaps reiterates, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I’m sorry to throw so much on you like this, but it means a lot to me and an entire world of pipe band musicians. I strongly believe that everyone who has a love for piping and drumming deserves so much better. The most recent admission by the RSPBA of the findings related to transparency concerns by the Scottish Charities Regulator is a step in the right direction. Whether or not anything improves as a result remains to be seen, but let’s make sure that we know what those standards are so that management can be held to account.

Now is the time. The stakes have never been higher. We might never see another opportunity like this in the future. The sustainability of our global game as we know it depends on a change in direction and we don’t have a viable future (as we currently know it) otherwise.

I would encourage all of you to stop being indifferent or staying silent. If you’re waiting to see the events that you love disappear before it makes a difference to you, look no further than the ever-diminishing competition calendar and the number of bands attending them. Ask yourself, which one has to go next before your red line has been crossed? Once that happens it’s already too late.

Onwards and upwards. I’m excited about what the future can and should have in store for all of us as members (both voting and global un-voting), judges and the general public at large.

We’re all in this together.

Tyler Fry is one the most influential pipe band drummers in history, directly responsible for returning tenor drumming to having a significant role in the modern pipe band. Originally from Kincardine, Ontario, he is now based in Houston and travels the world teaching tenor drumming.

What do you think? Please use our Comments tool below to contribute your thoughts.



Opinion: Now is the time (Part 1)


RSPBA commits to clarity
February 16, 2020


OSCR recommends RSPBA “enhances level of transparency,” will not hold inquiry
February 7, 2020


Scottish Charity Regulator confirms again that next steps on RSPBA matter still to be determined
February 5, 2020


RSPBA says there is “no formal inquiry” by Office of Scottish Charities Register, just “a few questions”
January 21, 2020


Opinion – RSPBA Management Concerns: is the current Management Structure of the RSPBA out of date?
January 14, 2020


RSPBA faces difficult questions at Northern Ireland branch AGM
December 1, 2019


Opinion: A call for RSPBA transparency
October 26, 2019



  1. Well said Tyler, simplest thing here would be to get five or six of the leading bands on board and start a new global organisation? If the problems are as endemic as you suggest here, it’s often easier to just start afresh. I personally would welcome the Worlds moving around the globe to reflect international piping more (despite the economic opportunity cost to Glasgow). Best of luck,

    Simon McKerrell.



Forgotten Password?