October 01, 2019

SPJA to intro mentoring program for judges

Judges (L-R) Malcolm McRae, Iain MacFadyen and Ian Duncan at the 2019 Northern Meeting. [Photo Alister Sinclair, copyright pipes|drums]
The UK-based Solo Piping Judges Association plans to introduce a mentoring program for new members to the organization, believed to be a first for solo piping in the UK.

Details of how the program will work were not available at publication time, but the initiative is believed to be similar to approaches taken by pipe band associations like the RSPBA and EUSPBA where judges are eased into full accreditation with “shadow judging” at competitions.

The SPJA will hold its annual general meeting on November 17 at the Army School of Piping & Highland Drumming in Edinburgh.

The AGM will include a session with existing members designed to hone judging skills, including “a more ordered criteria for evaluating positives and negatives in performances, a panel participation from Senior and new judges on their views from general judging experiences, and a final conclusion on the subject of critique sheets.”

“The SPJA is gradually working towards implementing much-needed items such as training, accreditation and feedback to competitors,” said President Colin MacLellan. “It is essential to study and learn from best practices so that, when it comes time to roll them out officially, they are based on the particular needs and conditions that exist in the UK.”

Unlike most of the rest of the world, where scoresheets standard in solo competitions have been standard for as long as 50 years, the UK has no universal practices for judges to account for their decisions and provide feedback to competitors.

Also unlike the rest of the world, there is no single organization in the UK or in UK countries that administers or sanctions solo competitions or the grading of “senior,” “junior” and “amateur” competitors. The Competing Pipers Association maintains the grading of pipers 18 and older, and the National Piping Centre’s Competition League of Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP) stages several events for amateurs of all ages.

But rules, judges, stewarding and prizes vary widely from solo competition to solo competition throughout the country. Solo events, such as the Glenisla Games, are still adjudicated by local non-piping landowners or “amateur” pipers who have never competed at a high level.

There is also no set criteria that solo judges in the UK must meet in order to be certified, whereas every world piping and drumming association lays out stringent requirements and testing. Most organizations call for a minimum of 15 years of proven top-grade competing success for both solos and bands.

Nonetheless, there are instances around the world of judges receiving accreditation without meeting minimum competing criteria, to the chagrin of many competitors. Some of these unqualified judges even conduct lectures on the importance of the criteria and knowledge that they lack and then administer examinations, further confounding the matter.

In 2017 the SPJA implemented a policy that mirrored that of the Competing Pipers Association, disallowing judges from assessing their pupils in competition. The bold move was met with dissension from a small minority of members, contributing to the resignation of one. Many of the world’s associations, including the EUSPBA and the PPBSO, have similar rules or policies to avoid conflict situations.

There are currently 53 active members of the SPJA, mostly from the UK, each with a separate designation in piobaireachd and/or light music:

  • Euan Anderson
  • Chris Armstrong
  • Lewis Barclay
  • Robert Barnes
  • James Bell
  • Gordon Clark
  • Ronald Clark
  • Walter Cowan
  • Barry Donaldson
  • Ian Duncan
  • Alan Forbes
  • Andrew Frater
  • Patrick Grant
  • Michael Grey
  • Jimmy Hamilton
  • James Henderson
  • Murray Henderson
  • Patricia Henderson
  • Bruce Hitchings
  • Peter Hunt
  • Dixie Ingram
  • Hugh Jamieson
  • Anne Johnston
  • Tom Johnstone
  • Rona Lightfoot
  • Donald Lindsay
  • Roddy Livingstone
  • Bill Livingstone
  • George Lumsden
  • R.S. MacDonald
  • Alan MacDonald
  • Angus MacDonald
  • Iain MacFadyen
  • John Don MacKenzie
  • Archie MacLean
  • Colin MacLellan
  • Jim McGillivray
  • Ian McLellan
  • Malcolm McRae
  • Ronnie McShannon
  • Iain Morrison
  • Willie Morrison
  • Neill Mulvie
  • Richard Parkes
  • Stuart Samson
  • Stuart Shedden
  • Tom Speirs
  • Logan Tannock
  • Jack Taylor
  • John Wilson
  • Bob Worrall
  • Bill Wotherspoon
  • Andrew Wright



Retirement policy adopted at SPJA meeting
November 20, 2018


CPA, SPJA conflict policies considered global
February 27, 2018


UK games commit to SPJA
January 18, 2018


Wallace no longer SPJA judge
November 23, 2017





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