Making the grade

Published: October 26, 2006

The news of the RSPBA upgrades was more interesting than usual because the organization took it upon itself once again to grade four bands that aren’t members of the RSPBA. It’s especially interesting given that the RSPBA agreed not to grade ANAPBA bands, and to respect the recommendations of their home associations.

The agreement stems back to 2001, when the RSPBA informed the Prince Charles band that it would have to compete in Grade 2, not Grade 1, two weeks before the World’s. Prince Charles had been upgraded by its home association, entered Grade 1 at the World’s, and then was relegated months after the band had submitted its entry.

What if the tables were turned? Let’s say an RSPBA member Grade 1 band travels to North America – something that happens once every 20 years of so. The band competes at the biggest pipe band contest in North America. Let’s say the band, which let’s also say is a recent World Champion, has a few poor runs on the day because they couldn’t handle the heat. The band finishes last in one event and second-last in the other.

That winter, the Music Board of the association that sanctions the event recommends, based solely on the band’s performances at that contest, that the band should be downgraded, and the organization’s Executive then approves the re-grading, insinuating that the band should now be Grade 2.

Imagine the upset.

But it would never happen. First of all, it’s not right. Second, the guest band is a guest; it is a member of the RSPBA, and it competes in the grade assigned to it by its home organization. Grading should be done only by a band’s home association.

Why the RSPBA has taken it upon itself once again to interfere in the grading processes of other associations is a mystery. If RMM or the Gaelic College, for example, were not upgraded by the BCPA or the ACPBA, and those bands entered an RSPBA contest in their 2006 grade, then one would hope that the RSPBA would raise its concerns with those bands’ home associations, and work towards a resolution – respectful of the decision-making capabilities and high standards of others.


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