The news that the Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band’s drum section effectively walked out with only a few weeks before the first big contest of the season can’t help but be surprising. I don’t know the circumstances around it, but I do know that there is something of an unwritten rule in pipe band etiquette that, after about February, if you’re still on a band’s roster you should see the season through, even if it means grinning and bearing it.
(That said, if you can’t commit the time, or if family or illness get in the way, you have to do what’s right for you and the band. No use muddling through music and letting people down.)
But, if you have the time and health, you should stick with it and do your best to help the cause. I don’t know what the RBS players intend to do, but walking out to join another band for the season should really be treated with total disdain. In fact, I fully support rules that keep quitters from joining another band for at least six months.
That’s probably too draconian for some associations. But just as there is an unwritten rule that you don’t jump ship months, much less weeks, before the season, there should also be a rule that bands don’t welcome those ship-jumping players. Pipe bands can be overly desperate to build their rosters, even if it means turning a blind eye to the circumstances. In this age of mega-sections, who can blame them for succumbing to the temptation?
But, really, a band’s reputation for adding band-hoppers to their roster should suffer just as much as the players’ reputations themselves. The world’s best bands of course perform well, but they also do so with their integrity intact. The models for pipe band success are those bands that build their rosters with dignity and respect. Occasionally, that means saying no to a band-hopper who has left even their fiercest competition in a lurch.