The 2017 season: questions, questions . . .
The 2017 outdoor pipe band season is about to take off (in the northern hemisphere, that is) with the first significant event in Scotland on Saturday, May 13th, at the traditional season-opener at Dunbar.
The off-season was chock-full of the usual leadership moves and strategic planning in Grade 1, so here are just a few thoughts on what to watch for in this exciting season to come.
Question 1: Will Grade 1 newbies survive and thrive?
The RSPBA upgraded three bands to Grade 1, creating a significant upheaval at the top. Scotland-based Buchan Peterson and Johnstone, and Police Service of Northern Ireland were catapulted from Grade 2 after excellent success in 2016 and well before, leaving the association with little or no choice but to put them in Grade 1.
No 2016 Grade 1 bands were downgraded, though, and the RSPBA is running close to having more bands in Grade 1 than in Grade 2, which might not be an ideal situation for these, or any grades for that matter.
On that topic, making the leap and meeting the standard for a new Grade 1 band is always precarious. While each of these former Grade 2 bands have enjoyed a lot of success, that can be the problem. With rare exceptions, a band moving up a grade will have to serve at a least a year of not winning prizes, and this can be a shock to personnel. They might well anticipate it, but not winning can be debilitating for morale. It’s a lot more fun to win, regardless of the grade, and trophy-hunting players can be quick to drop off.
With that, most will be eager to see these three bands make the standard, at the very least, and perhaps even edge in with a prize or two against more established Grade 1 bands. Most recently, Bleary & District made a smooth transition to Grade 1 after a few seasons winning most contests in Grade 2, so perseverance and commitment are keys to long-term success. A good teaching or feeder-band system also help.