March 05, 2024

RSPBA’s adjudicators’ training course sees 28 participants under revamped Adjudicators Panel Management Board

RSPBA judges and administrators prepping for an event. [Alister Sinclair]
Some 28 prospective piping, drumming and ensemble judges attended an extensive online training course run by a new-look Adjudicators Panel Management Board (APMB) under recently-appointed Convener Robert Mathieson.

The board’s Adjudicators Development Group is managing the training course, which had its first session on March 1st. The piping and drumming course was attended by 14 candidates hoping to join the RSPBA’s panel. Fourteen existing RSPBA judges attended the ensemble course with a goal of becoming certified in all categories.

Several recognizable names are reportedly in the mix, including ScottishPower Pipe-Major Chris Armstrong, Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe-Major Ross Harvey, ScottishPower Leading-Drummer Jake Jørgensen, Police Scotland Fife Pipe-Major David Wilton and Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe-Sergeant Matt Wilson. Of note, four non-UK candidates already certified with other associations are participating, including Peter Aumonier (PPBSO), David Hilder (BCPA), Shaunna Hilder (BCPA), and Ross Levy (RNZPBA).

Former Grade 1 pipe-major Don Bradford and Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe-Sergeant Jonathon Simpson, along with Ian Bowden, Gordon MacDermid, and Grant Walker are also reportedly going through the process.

The RSPBA described all as “pipers and drummers with an experiential profile gained at the highest level.”

“We are fortunate to be hosting this new online training program for some of the very best pipers and drummers worldwide,” Mathieson said. “We have a strong demographic of candidates, some with highly recognized experiential profiles and some rising stars of the pipe band world, wishing to serve as attached adjudicators.

“The adjudicators panel should not be perceived as a secretive group that is unapproachable and unwilling to answer the question Why? whether it be about playing, technique, tonal production or musical appreciation. As convener I will be pursuing a collective transparent approach to our task within the RSPBA, with the bands needs first and foremost.” — Robert Mathieson, RSPBA Adjudicators Panel Management Board convener

The program’s goal appears to be to expand the RSPBA adjudication panel proactively by encouraging more candidates who meet the stringent criteria to go through the process “with a firm optimistic view to future growth in pipe band competitions.” The association has a mandatory retirement age of 75 for all judges. In the next few years, several adjudicators will “age out.”

A montage of various participants in the RSPBA’s March 1st online judges’ training session.

“The RSPBA training course was absolutely outstanding,” David Hilder commented.”The presenters and facilitators were well prepared, knowledgeable and thought provoking . Although on line and delivered across multiple time zones (through two nights here in Vancouver) the time flew by with engagement from all participants. There was robust conversation surrounding active listening, and the use of well thought out wording, sentence construction and phraseology to deliver the most constructive and honest feedback for all levels of performance. The focus was on delivering a quality sheet.”

“Hopefully this will be the start of a new era where the adjudication panel can offer a transparent conduit to pipe band education with access to adjudication methods and expectations,” Mathieson added. “Since producing these video modules, firsthand feedback suggests that with a few presentation tweaks, these would be a valuable resource as accessible piping and drumming education modules for pipe bands and affiliated organizations. Hopefully we can explore and develop this theme further.”

The course is the first conducted online for the organization, comprising live commentary and video presentations. Following the training modules, prospective judges must complete 12 “shadow judging” runs at major and minor RSPBA contests.

Unlike most associations, no written examination is required in the RSPBA’s process. Once candidates go through the training, they go on to the trial judging phase.

“Quality feedback is the overriding message.” — Robert Mathieson

When asked for further details, Mathieson happily and quickly responded to pipes|drums, something that the RSPBA has not done for nearly 20 years. “All participants have agreed to do the trial runs shadow judging at major and minor contests in 2024, and, if their band timetable does not free up enough time, they can complete it in 2025,” Mathieson said. “With ongoing feedback via a specified mentor, each student will cover all the areas of adjudication. Exams often only highlight the candidates with the best memory or revising discipline. They will be mentored and reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure an expected level of consistent standards can be achieved.

“The training focuses on hands-on advice, gaining practical adjudicating experience, nurturing and developing a better critique sheet using vocabulary and musical terminology that helps the bands develop feeding off the critique. [We’re] trying to eradicate the lazy adjudication descriptors of ‘Quite good attack’ and ‘Nice chanter sound’ . . . 7th place. Quality feedback is the overriding message.”

In my profession I always strive for relevant, professional development filled with ethics and peer reviewed articles and presentations- this was no different. The information was at the highest level, challenging us all and equipping us with a list of ingredients needed to deliver elevated sheets.

“It was nice catching up with old friends and new colleagues. I’m looking forward to the journey and  challenges ahead,” Hilder concluded. 

Mathieson added: “We are looking forward to an injection of new ideas and fresh enthusiasm from these successful candidates joining our ranks.”

The changes at the RSPBA’s APMB started with the group’s well-attended annual general meeting last November. Longtime Convener John Wilson completed his tenure, and Mathieson was elected to the post.

The new slate of APMB members:

  • Robert Mathieson, APMB Convener
  • Peter Snaddon, Vice Convener
  • John Reville / Paul Brown, Secretary (shared post pro tem)
  • Ross Walker, Piping Representative
  • Jennifer Hutcheon, Ensemble Representative
  • Paul Turner, Drumming Representative
  • John Noble, Drum Majors’ Representative
  • Maurice Rhodes, Adjudication Training Coordinator (new post)

Mathieson concluded: “The adjudicators panel should not be perceived as a secretive group that is unapproachable and unwilling to answer the question Why? whether it be about playing, technique, tonal production or musical appreciation. As convener I will be pursuing a collective transparent approach to our task within the RSPBA, with the bands needs first and foremost.”

An earlier version of this story did not include all 14 new candidates going through the process. We incorrectly identified Ian Simpson as being with Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia. It’s actually Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe-Sergeant Jonathon Simpson. Iain (with two i’s) Simpson of  Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia and George Watson’s College fame has been on the RSPBA panel for over 20 years. We apologize for the inadvertent error.

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