November 28, 2007

Pipe Bands negative-2.0

Och aye!It’s extraordinary to me that some prominent pipe bands have a sweeping policy that bans members from contributing their comments, insights and knowledge to piping and drumming “forums.” Apparently only the officers in these bands have the authority to provide their two cents to the piping and drumming world, and all others are threatened with expulsion if they speak out.

How 1985.

I think this Draconian mentality stems from a few archaic pipe band traditions. First, bands still think that they will face judging repercussions on the contest field should someone say something opinionated. There was a day when this was so, but, seriously, when was the last time that there was a travesty of a result chalked up to something someone said? I can’t remember the last time I seriously disagreed with a band winning the World’s. Sure, results will always be debated, but no one is ever so bent out of shape to the point where they wouldn’t return to a contest.

It’s bizarre to me that the same bands that muzzle their own people also refuse to complain about clear conflict-of-interest perceptions that are rife in the UK: bagpipe makers judging, family members adjudicating, performers rights laws being ignored. They’re okay with that stuff impacting them directly but when it comes to what their own people might say . . . no way!

Second, culturally the Scots are a reserved lot. In general – and of course there are exceptions – they’re no good at promotion of any sort, much less promoting one’s self or organization. It just isn’t the thing to do. They’re getting better, but the Scots’ disdain for self-promotion has been absorbed throughout the piping and drumming world. American, Canadian, Kiwi and Australian pipers and drummers, in an attempt to “do what the Scots do” to win prizes, still think that reticence must be part of it.

Truth is, the piping world has moved on since the 1970s. It is a true piping world, and the culture of piping and drumming is evolving and becoming far more sophisticated. Where there was once only beer tent whispering, there’s now constructive and open dialogue about issues that were once taboo.

Shutting up intelligent bandsmen and women is positively backward. Instead of telling them that they can’t be trusted, why not encourage them to make smart decisions and represent the team positively?




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