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Pipe Band Judges Conferring Set to be Approved at RSPBA AGM

By Robert Wallace

The AGM of the RSPBA will be held in Glasgow on March 10 with proposals allowing judges to discuss band performances with their colleagues and a revamp of the Association’s College the major changes up for agreement. There is also an important proposal that Grade 4 band leading drummers should also be allowed to register with another band. At the moment this dispensation only covers the Pipe Major.

The re-vamp of the Association’s College will see the appointment of Principals for Drumming and Piping and for the RSPBA Summer School.

Re judges conferring, the AGM Order Paper reads: ‘To allow the adjudicators to confer / pass comment during the contest after each band has played. The Conferring Pilot Scheme used in 2017 was agreed to be a success by the Adjudicators Panel; there was no negative feedback received; this proposal is to formally adopt this change into the Adjudication rules.’

Old rule: Adjudicators shall not discuss a band performance with colleague adjudicators before deciding their results at the end of the contest, and shall not at any time influence others in the adjudicating team during the course of the competition.

New rule: Adjudicators have an option to confer with colleague adjudicators at the end of a band performance but not while the band is playing. However, adjudicators shall not discuss their placing decisions with colleague adjudicators before all official result sheets have been collected by a designated RSPBA official.

This is a major change for the judging of bands. Hitherto the biggest source of disquiet in beer tent and band hall has come from summary sheets which show widely disparate markings by piping adjudicators or when ensemble judges vary wildly from those doing the drumming. With piping it is not the norm, but neither is it uncommon for one to have a band in the top half of the contest and the other near the bottom. There are three main reasons for this:

1 Subjective preference.
2 Huge bands making it difficult for judges to hear what is being played on the opposite side of the circle.
3 The habit of some adjudicators of relentlessly walking round the band in a different pattern and at different times from their colleagues. It should therefore be no surprise that they hear different things be these in technique, blowing, note errors and the like.

The outdated circle formation

I have long advocated static judging positions but this new rule, which I believe will eventually lead to conferring becoming the norm, is a step forward make no mistake. It is common practice in the solo world where all decisions are arrived at by consensus. Where it falls down is in horse trading and when a particularly dominant personality pushes his/her preference without due regard to the opinion of others on the bench. The RSPBA’s rule barring the discussion of placings before marking sheets have been collected should assuage any worries on that score.



If approved, the Association’s Pipe Band College will be established by restructuring the Education Management Group over a 12 month transition period following the 2018 AGM. It would be a major step forward in piping and drumming education and certification. The Association would appoint a Principal of Piping, Drumming and a Principal of the popular RSPBA Summer School.

Mr Pat Whelan, RSPBA Education Officer

The Order Paper notes that ‘this Pipe Band College will be responsible to the Board of Directors and the members for:

  1. RSPBA input to the syllabus and examination of certificated Piping and Drumming qualifications;
  2. The Curriculum (Theory and Practice) for RSPBA courses leading to certificated qualifications;
  3. The Compilation of RSPBA textbooks and tutors for certificated qualifications;
  4. Managing the RSPBA Examination Centre for certificated qualifications;
  5. Maintaining a panel of qualified instructors (subject to the approval by the board of Directors);
  6. Facilitating the running of courses (for example the Summer School).
  7. Supporting the training and development of Adjudicators.

‘The Education Officer [Mr Pat Whelan, pictured] will be the convener of the Pipe Band College. Each role within the Pipe Band College will have a specification against which applications from members of The RSPBA will be invited, as each post comes up for election. The current post holder can submit an application for consideration against all applications received.

  1. Education Officer, appointed by Board of Directors.
  2. Internal SQA/PDQB/ RSPBA Verifiers.
  3. Piping Principal.
  4. Drumming Principal.
  5. Summer School Principal.
  6. Geographical Piping / Drumming Representatives.
  7. Judges.
  8. Music Board representation.

‘All members of the Pipe Band Collage selected based on their application shall serve for a period from one to three years as agreed by the Board of Directors. The Education Officer shall have the power to co-opt members as required to achieve specific objectives set subject to the approval of the Board of Directors. The duration of the co-option shall not exceed the duration of the objective or one year, whichever is the less.’

The proposal regarding leading drummers registering with another band comes from the MacDonald Memorial Pipe Band in Ulster. At the moment the rule on this reads:  The Pipe Major of a Grade 4 Band, may be registered with one other band.

If approved this rule will now read: Pipe Major of a Grade 4 Band, may be registered with one other band. The Leading Drummer of a Grade 4 band may be registered with one other band.

An RSPBA AGM resolution is successful where it is passed by a majority vote – those votes cast in favour as compared with those votes against and takes no account of abstentions or Members absent from the meeting. Read the full Order Paper here.


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pipingpress.com is a not for profit web magazine with news, views and info from the piping and pipe band world; email your news to pipingpress@gmail.com or text 07957818672; Editor: Robert Wallace; all opinions expressed are those of the writer.