Peel Police turn lemons to lemonade with launch of new feeder band
Competing pipe band life can have its share of disappointment, but the best bands are counter-intuitively motivated as much by downturns as they are by wins.
When the Peel Regional Police of Brampton, Ontario, learned that the RSPBA downgraded them after the 2017 season, rather than fight it, the band voluntarily moved to Grade 2 with its home association. They also decided to work to solve a personnel and talent shortage with a long-term teaching and training program, starting a Grade 5 band.
With the success of the new band under Pipe-Major Jamie Connolly and Lead-Drummer Andrew Stevenson, the organization has announced that it will add a Grade 4 band for the 2019 season.
“We started a beginner class in the fall of 2017 with 18 students, and some of them will be ready to move into the Grade 5 band this fall,” said John Cairns, pipe-major of the Grade 2 band. “We have 35 in our current Grade 5 Band of varying standards, who and came from the area. We are beyond thrilled with the success that the band has had this year.”
With a successful season under their waist-belts, Cairns said the nucleus of the Grade 5 band will move to Grade 4, along with new players who have asked to join. The students who started last fall will join remaining members in the Grade 5 band for 2019.
“We have started advertising for new students and already have more than 20 people interested in coming out in the fall,” Cairns added. “We are building this one layer at a time and now have the ability to take a new beginner, teach them so they can play in the Grade 5 band and then, as they advance, they can move up to the Grade 4 band. All things being equal we hope to add a Grade 3 level down the road to give our members a chance to further develop their skills and play at a higher level.”
While voluntarily losing its Grade 1 status, Cairns agrees that the experience has been an example of turning lemons into lemonade.
“Going back to Grade 2 has turned out to be extremely positive for the band,” Cairns said. “We have been able to bring new players into the band that might not have come if we were still competing at the Grade 1 level. There is not a lot that we are doing differently this year because we are still striving to make the best music we can, but there is a different atmosphere in the band now whenever we play. It is amazing what can happen when you have some positive results.”
Cairns stressed that there’s a confidence in the group that has motivated them to become better, including the addition of world famous Gold Medallist and Silver Star winner Brian Donaldson to the front rank.
“The positive impact that this has had on the band is huge. We are having more fun than ever and there is a level of excitement in the band again. I think everyone has bought into the vision and recognizes that for the band to be successful in the future, we must focus on teaching and developing local players.”
Cairns, who in 1999 became only the twelfth piper in 200 years to win both Highland Society of London Gold Medals in the same year, said that he personally has found the experience to be positive.
“I for one have found my motivation again and feel very optimistic about where this band is going. We hope to get back to Grade 1 again, but are in no hurry. If we can develop and grow as a band, when we do go back to Grade 1, we will be in a much stronger position than we ever were before.”