August 15, 2013

Champion Juveniles

The RSPBA’s decision to hold the Juvenile band competition in the number-one arena at the World Pipe Band Championships at Glasgow Green on Sunday at 10 am is a stroke of brilliance.

While the stands are not likely to be full, the experience of playing in the crucible of pipe bands will be an experience that these young pipers and drummers will remember for the rest of their lives.

In reality, a good number of players in Juvenile pipe bands decide not to go much further after their time in the band or the school is up. Inevitably some – if not most – become interested in other things, and drift away from piping and drumming.

My bet is that, with this single act of generosity and decency, the RSPBA will motivate at least four or five kids, who otherwise would have moved on, to stay with it after experiencing the distinct thrill of playing in the big arena.

I hope that the Juvenile bands get the full-on BBC treatment, complete with Bob Worrall and Jackie Bird repartee, and sweeping camera close-ups of faces, fingers and sticks in the glow of warm sunshine. These bands are a treat to hear, as pipes|drums took the time to video the contest at the 2011 World Championships.

It makes sense, after all. Many contend that there are only two World Champions: the winner in Grade 1 and the winner in Juvenile. Whether one agrees with that philosophy or not, putting the spotlight on these impressive bands on the biggest day on the piping and drumming calendar, is a bold and smart decision that truly promotes the art of piping and drumming.


  1. Many who come through from George Watsons drum corps go on to Mick O’Neill corps at Fife, or previously the Clan Gregor, incl Tano Martone, now with SFU. 8 of the current Fife back rank are ex Watsons.

    Juvenile and grade 1 always share arenas and judges, although granted not the big ring at the Worlds, although it has been done before. But right now most of these bands would do very well in grade 2 and juvenile is always a great grade, many of these young pipers and drummers have the very best of teaching, from the paid school systems of Watsons and Heriots, to the grass roots tradition of Boghall. Almost every piping and drumming tutor behind these juveniles bands are top players, leading drummers, pipe majors or sergeants in their own right. The juvenile grade is always a highlight for me, and I look forward to it again in the big arena, with the open seating policy in the morning, I hope it’s full.

  2. I imagine this will be the very first time the entire pipe band world (and not just Scotland) will have a chance to actually see and hear these fine bands via live streaming. I agree the RSPBA is to be commended for this brilliant, innovative use of the “streamed” number one arena in its two day format. Well done!

  3. Well it annoys me to see that so much focus is on juvenile when like you rightly say – most of the players at that level/age are unlikely to continue their efforts past school. Should more time not be spent promoting the lower grades like 3/4 which have a lot of time dedicated to bringing through school leavers and beginners. It is the fact that there is no realistic and visible progression from juvenile into the grades with local bands that makes them cease playing after school.

    If you had say the grade 4a and grade 3b/a competitions on the main ring – then you would still see kids and you g adults with a yearning to move up the grades – as it is they are stuck at doing what they can in the background with no incentive to improve.

    1. Nick, I think you’re off the mark. Juvenile is a better standard than 4A and 4B at this contest and generally around the globe. It has been given the stage to showcase young talent and inspire other young people, whilst also showing other school bands around the world what good teaching, and the attitudes and culture that go with it, can achieve. It gets the nod over lower grades on these grounds alone. It would also not be possible to host either, or both, 4A and 4B in the allotted time. That is not to discard what lower grades achieve by way of graduating players as well, but the reality is grades 4 etc are open to adults and that creates more disparity.

      Juvenile has an age restriction and is not jointly populated by former top grade players who are ‘out to pasture’, or people who are just there simply because they can get a game (was that diplomatic enough?). There’s a reason why there are more bottom grade bands than other grades combined around the world, and this pyramid is reflective of society in general. I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of kids on display in those fine Juvenile bands would carry on and end up in higher-graded adult bands.

      I watched the event in question with sheer delight, but also great frustration as I am aware of a number of bands (even some local to me), who are being run by people who simply don’t either care, or have the requisite talent to develop kids and give them the opportunities to go on with it. Their stock in trade is to bluff their way through in school environments that are ignorant to it all. It is often these sorts of bands where kids drop out of piping and drumming when they leave school, not the likes of the ones we saw at the worlds. Kids will invariably assimilate and reflect the attitudes around them in a team activity such as this. It is the attitude they were taught, not their own, and also the lack of opportunity they were given because of inadequate teaching that seems most drop out.

  4. There are many musical events and conferences done around the world that now offer live streaming of simultaneous presentations. I would love to see the RSPBA make available the ability to allow viewers to watch ALL the bands who compete, regardless of grade level. For viewers, it would be a great chance to hear and see the differences between the different levels whether it be Juvenile, Grade 4B, 2 or 1. This would allow you to cheer on your home town (or country) favourites, and get to see and experience the progression of playing available. I’m sure for a small fee, many, if not most of the piping world would pay to have this available.



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