November 30, 2009

Crazy AGM Head

Let it all out.Paltry attendance by members at annual general meetings of associations seems to be a worldwide dilemma. Every year that I’ve been in piping and drumming I’ve seen, heard or read about people bemoaning the apparent apathy of members when a small percentage turns out for their AGM. (In fact, come to think of it, pipers and drummers don’t generally go to any piping and drumming events at which they aren’t actually a performer, which may tell you something about us.)

The recent PPBSO AGM was another case-in-point. Thirty-five of the association’s 1200-odd membership attended, or about three per cent. And, of those there, about half held an official role with the organization. It’s almost traditional for members not to attend these things.

I’ve made the PPBSO AGM now for 21 straight years, mainly because of my role either in publishing or with the Music Board. I have to admit, though, that it is one of my least favourite days of the year. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is, and I would suspect that that’s true of most who attend. They’re mostly there out of a sense of propriety or duty.

It’s odd to me that, with people so passionate about their piping/drumming avocation, they’re apparently so apathetic when it comes to meetings where significant rules and policies can often be determined and leadership is decided. Pipers and drummers inherently kvetch and moan their whole lives about judging and rules and results, but when it comes time to do something about them, they’d just as well stay home. Funny, that.

Maybe it’s the off-putting phenomenon of individuals who come out of the woodwork seemingly with the sole intent to make a fuss. There are always one or two people at AGMs who are very outspoken, but no one seems to know who they are or even recall seeing them before, never mind knowing if they’re even actually involved with piping and drumming. They make a scene at the AGM, then go away for 12 months. After a year or two, they go away for good.

At AGMs of publicly traded organization this occurs, too. As long as you own one share of a public company, you have the right to attend its AGM and have your views made known and your vote counted. You can stand up and make Steve Ballmer sleepless in Seattle if you own a bit of Microsoft.

There’s something about AGMs that tempts people – me included – into becoming argumentative and, at times, insensitive. Call it Crazy AGM Head. The affair this past Saturday was actually very congenial and relatively sedate, but I’ve seen meetings at which I swear folks came close to having a coronary right there, veins pulsing out of their forehead as they try to shout down one another. It’s probably the passion for the art kicking in, or maybe it’s a habitual need to perform. Whatever the case, after these meetings I’m sometimes a shade embarrassed of my conduct.

I understand why people wouldn’t want to dedicate a Saturday to such a thing. It’s not fun, and at times it can be downright difficult. But, ultimately, when measured against the big picture of a lifetime of commitment and dedication to piping and drumming, attending annual general meetings is relatively small pain for the greater good.


  1. Here here, while I don’t agree with many things that happen at AGMs, or even voting for the leader of a country, I always respect those that showed up and voted over those that chose to sit and do nothing. We have a band AGM coming up, and we will probably have 20-30 people out of 40 show, and many will sit and do nothing but raise their hand, but at least they took the time. It’s a shame that people don’t care enough about their own feelings, to act on them. Why not have your own band discuss some issues, and then have 4 people volunteer to go and represent those ideas, and your band as well? That way, the band and it’s members have at least shown an interest into what the others are trying to accomplish, or destroy.

  2. Truthfully, the rules and regulations and all of the petty squabble within organizations are one of the biggest reasons I don’t compete (at least in solos: I think differently of band playing). Turning art into politics kills the art, and diminishes any sort of enjoyment one can get out of it. This is why I don’t take part in my organization’s AGM, and I’m sure others feel the same. However, I think most people just don’t care.

    Personally, I think it is sad to see the number of people who show up to argue not because they’re passionate about the music and the art, but rather because they want control. I’ve seen far more people, not involved in organizations, who are far more passionate about the music than the few I’ve seen who are involved.

  3. I agree with some of what you say, but you can’t expect to have 100 competitors at Maxville, and just have people vote for their peers to see who wins. I strongly suggest getting involved with a highland games (if you haven’t) and see what it takes to run these. I don’t think these people don’t care about the art, but they probably don’t as much as the players and that is ok. You need unbiased people to handle things sometimes.

    You said it best, “Truthfully, the rules and regulations and all of the petty squabble within organizations are one of the biggest reasons I don’t compete” and ” Turning art into politics kills the art, and diminishes any sort of enjoyment one can get out of it. This is why I don’t take part in my organization’s AGM”

    So, you have an issue with what’s going on in your organization, but you won’t show up to help resolve it, but yet you bicker about it openly?

    If you aren’t cooking, get out of the kitchen.

    I think it’s sad, that everyones excuse for not going to their AGM is the exact reason they SHOULD be going! Good luck to all of those that waited for the results of elections and rule changes at home before speaking up.

  4. My eyes started closing over the more I read the word AGM and ended up skipping 85% of your post (sorry!). Maybe we’re so used to boring, waste-of-time AGM’s that we’ve subconsciously conditioned having a bad time to attending AGM’s. Hence, no one who doesn’t have to goes!

  5. There are leaders and there are followers. Followers wait around to be told what to do.. Leaders try and make change happen. You can moan all you want about these meetings and they may well be boring but at the end of the day it is the leaders that go to them and make things happen.

  6. No chance that you can put a dictionary up for us non-highlanders? I’m just the average Swede that likes the sound of the pipes (and drums)…

    What’s an AGM?

  7. AGM = Annual General Meeting. It is a forum used to elect new officers and to propose changes/additions/deletions to rules governing the society, mainly centered around the competition format and guidelines. In Ontario, each branch of the piping society has its AGM where proposed rule changes etc are introduced, followed by a provincial AGM at later date where the rule changes are debated and either adopted, modified or dismissed. Hope that helps.



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