March 31, 2013

PPBSO strikes down consultative band judging

Seven years after it originally implemented it, the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario has eliminated its practice of consultative pipe band judging, a topic of active debate for at least the last two years. Ontario was the only jurisdiction to use the program, in which pipe band judges convene following an event to exchange notes and observations with an objective to allow adjudicators to amend their rankings if they wished.

The move, which has not yet been communicated to the organization’s more than 1,100 members, was made following several votes by at least four different groups, the final by the PPBSO’s governing board of directors.

The PPBSO’s Music Committee, made up almost entirely of accredited adjudicators, voted to keep consultative judging, with only one member reportedly voting to eliminate it.

“At the most recent PPBSO Board meeting the directors upheld the membership vote and decided against using consultative judging at band competitions,” PPBSO President Duncan MacRae commented.

Late in 2012 the PPBSO’s board sent out a one-item questionnaire to member bands, with each band allowed one vote responding Yes or No on whether the consultative system should be retained. MacRae said that member bands “voted against consultative judging,” but did not provide further details.

At the organization’s October 2012 annual general meeting a motion was made to abolish the practice. Attending members, representing about 4% of the total body of the association, voted to eliminate it, but reportedly because of the narrow representation of members in the vote “the directors subsequently sought opinions from various stakeholders,” MacRae said.

Adjudicator proponents of the consultative system often claimed that the practice allowed judges to hear about both pros and cons of band performances from their colleagues’  perspective. Opponents of the practice often cited the potential for adjudicators to be swayed by more vocal judges.

The solo piping and drumming world routinely uses a consultative method for judging benches of two or more, with adjudicators conferring to come up with a mutually agreed final result.


  1. I’ve judged consultatively and I’ve changed my result after the discussion at least once. Results are rarely black and white and people who don’t judge might be surprised at how often a judge walks away from a contest wondering, Geeze

  2. Martin: often when you’re judging you’re pressed for time and you’re writing and when you’re writing you’re not focusing on the performance. Yet, if you don’t write, people come back at you wondering why they didn’t do better. So you have to write. So while you’re writing or focusing on something else, maybe in the back of your musical mind you notice the strathspeys are slow, but then they are into the reels and you’re listening to something else and it doesn’t register like it should and you kind of forget it. Then when you consult later you tell the others where you had that band and a couple of them say, But bygawd the strathspeys were so slow!” and then you remember

  3. Quite simply, this decision makes no sense. On the one hand, you provide judges the opportunity to discuss their rankings and think through the process of explaining why they believe Band X” should be ahead of “Band Y

  4. I am still trying to understand what this is really about. Why are people so threatened all the time by change. Desperate and to stop at nothing to try and get an edge. Paranoia will destroy ya. And it goes like this.

  5. I only read the article quickly so maybe I missed something, but what is the big deal? I really don’t know how this affects any outcome of a contest or puts a band in a better or worse shape by not having the consultation. I do like the aspect of judges getting together to compare notes, but at the same time if a judge doesn’t hear something another judge said they heard I wouldn’t want them to necessarily change their placing on heresay. I am open to hearing why this will affect outcomes.

  6. Jim I would agree that contests are rarely ever black and white. What type of hunches would cause you to change your result? I hope you don’t take this as attacking, merely asking for knowledge. Thank you.

  7. ??? What is the point of the music committee if their recomendations are ignored? I would not be surprised to see more of them walk out. Shambles.

  8. Just further proof that the endless tinkering and fidgeting with rules is a sure sign that a system is fundamentally broken all over. More to the point, that human subjectivity, ego and personal interests will always be the reason we chase our tails. Constantly. The cowboys get a free shot, once again. Fail.

  9. Jim – thank you for your explanation. I never thought of how you presented as an explanation and I do see your point. Personally, I don’t see the downside of judges discussing the results, if it is a positive experience and beneficial for judges and bands. I think it would make judges more accountable, but at the same time I still don’t think that this necessarily will affect the overall result. Using Jim’s example if by talking to the other judges he might have switched two bands placings but maybe he might not have. Based on Jim’s example maybe both bands had a basis for their placing.



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