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Seventy turn out to toast Bill Gilmour
The challenging pursuits have much in common
Organizations should never be seen to stifle competition
In truth, we’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time
We’ve proven that we can adapt to change, so let’s make the most of it
The RSPBA needs to act first in its members’ interest, business interests second
When things are hard, pipers and drummers step to the fore
The pipe band world is at a crossroads, and Tyler Fry makes an impassioned plea
Why is it many pipers and drummers eventually conform rather than lead?
Further views on how the RSPBA is dealing with its HQ matter
For a group that relishes judgment, we can be pretty intolerant
RSPBA judge Winston Pollock comments on why we have the present RSPBA difficulties and ever-present mismanagement sagas
We pipers and drummers get and we give, whether we realize it or not
Sunlight and transparency are commensurate with member satisfaction
The 2020s might well be the decade when the USA puts it all together
Make America Great Ag—-never mind….
Indeed this great nation of mine has set about to pull itself up by their boot straps to become a better piping and drumming competitor! As correctly pointed out we are beginning to get the top rated teachers to instruct to come over the “great puddle”. This may have begun with Carnegie University being the first to recognize bagpiping as a legitimate musical course. That said it all boils down to the American gene which in 1987 at a COP summer school with Seumas MacNeill when at an instructors concert Seumas stated a “scientific fact” he discovered after teaching in America. Americans according to Seumas have a gene that tells them “we can do better”.
Is it “America Rising,” or is it the latest “bubble” that will inevitably pop?
Many of your observations are spot-on. The American desire for competitive edge undoubtedly brought development and capital to many great innovations in a very traditional world – synthetic reeds, synthetic bags, poly chanters, etc. To gain an edge, we have been seeking and bringing great talent from Scotland and Canada for three generations (and Seumas was only a fraction of the talent pool). The EUSPBA has led the way with many competitive and instructional innovations (can we say, “score sheets”?). The rise of quality competitions in the South may, in fact, give us a year-round season to prepare and peak at the World’s. But there is also a rather large list of quality pipe bands that have risen and fallen over the years.
Two tremendous factors will continue to plague our progress. First, sheer size works against us. While we might get two or three world-calibre bands at the same time, their opportunities to challenge one another will be limited. Getting St Thomas Alumni and City of Dunedin into the same arena will be about as difficult as getting LA Scots to face City of Washington, or GM/Detroit to face Worchester Kilty. Once we figure out this challenge ($$$), we might move forward.
Secondly, we must overcome a very transient/mobile society. While it has been good for piping overall to reach formerly remote areas of the USA, it has been difficult to develop and keep good programs going. Our UK/Commonwealth colleagues can often count on breathing new life into an established program, but many American bands seem destined to start from scratch every decade. Kids grow up and move away, go off to school, etc. Sometimes mobility works to an advantage – like talented instructors retire to Florida – but more often than not, the talent is dissipated, not concentrated.
Perhaps the true benefit of any rise in American piping is the fact that it occasionally shakes up the top of the heap. They respond with in-school programs, national youth pipe band events, and cross-discipline musical degrees. The standard of music is raised once again, so we go back to the drawing board to face new challenges.
Clearly, the overall quality of American pipe bands and soloists has significantly increased in the past several years. To paint the past in completely negative terms is a mistake though (I am not suggesting you did this in your monograph). It is my belief that two things were the impetus for the development of a thriving piping community in Canada and they were, the arrival of John Wilson and the Grade 1 Worcester Kiltie Pipe Band from Worcester, Massachusetts. For several years, Worcester embarrassed the Canadians at Maxville and other Canadian venues until they finally put together a truly world class band in “the Clan”. There were three bands in the northeastern US that dominated the US and North American piping in the 20th century. In between the world wars, the Holyoke Caledonian Kiltie Pipe Band was undefeated in North America for a period of ten years. In the second half, Worcester clearly dominated the grade 1 bands in the US and Canada. I believe a good case can be made for the Manchester Pipe Band in Grade 2 as a perennial competitor and sometimes winner in the North American championships at Maxville. An argument might be made that the quality of those bands was inferior to today, however, it might also be argued that the technology available to contemporary bands is far superior that of those earlier bands and the improved breadth and quality of instruction owes at least some of its success to the legacy of those who came before. Some of those bands were American.
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