March 13, 2024

Scotland’s National Youth Pipe Band uses musical performance to complement competition

Now in its twenty-second year, the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland has truly come of age.

When the Piping Centre started the project in 2003, it focused on developing and motivating the country’s best young pipers and drummers through music and camaraderie, not cut-throat competition. At the time, the idea was different, if not radical. How could a “serious” pipe band not compete? What else could possibly drive pipers and drummers if they didn’t hammer away at competition MSRs and medleys ad infinitum in the pursuit of impossible perfection?

Today, with three levels of bands and 88 members, each of whom has to audition each year to gain or retain their spot with the organization, the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland continues to complement competition.

Over the years, many members have gone on to even greater things, whether through music careers, leading top bands, or applying their NYPB experience to community-building efforts in their adult lives.

“This concert at the end of the year is a huge part of supporting the program and keeping it free for all.” – Steven Blake, National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland Director

The initiative’s success has been noticed and emulated around the world. Similar national, provincial, and state initiatives have emerged in New Zealand, Australia, and Ontario, and more are sure to come.

But even with the support of the National Piping Centre, keeping the Scottish success story strong is an ever-increasing challenge. The arts in Scotland are under constant pressure. Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative funding has been a lifeline for the initiative, but it, too, is under pressure to make cuts.

The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland stages concert events every year. These performances showcase the bands’ prodigious talent and work and raise vital funds to keep the project going.

Almost all of the bands’ pipers and drummers are also members of competing pipe bands. Perhaps underscoring the point, recently appointed Senior Drumming Instructor Grant Cassidy is Leading-Drummer of Grade 1 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia.

pipes|drums caught up with the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland’s Director, Steven Blake, Grant Cassidy, and piper Ryan McCreadie, who also plays with reigning World Champions People Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia, to discuss the organization and its concert on April 14th in Perth.

Our thanks to Steven Blake, Grant Cassidy and Ryan McCreadie for sharing their thoughts and time with us.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more on the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland and other important programs in the piping and drumming world.

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