Preview of Third Annual Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship

Organisers have sent this press release…….The Virginia International Tattoo is pleased to announce that 10 bands are registered to compete in the 2018 Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship. The third annual event will take place on Saturday, April 28 at Scope Arena (above) in Norfolk, Virginia, and is open to Grade 2 and Grade 3 pipe bands from around the world.

City of Dunedin Pipe Band (Florida) and St Thomas Episcopal School Pipe Band (Texas) will return to defend their 2017 sweeps of the Best March, Strathspey and Reel; Best Medley; and Best Drum Corps awards in their respective grades.

Challenging City of Dunedin in Grade 2 will be Atlanta Pipe Band (Georgia), MacMillan Pipe Band (Maryland) and New Ross & District Pipe Band (Ireland). Challenging St. Thomas in Grade 3 will be Carnegie Mellon University Pipe Band (Pennsylvania), MacMillan-Birtles Pipe Band (Maryland), Saint Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band (New Jersey), Ulster Scottish Pipe Band (Pennsylvania) and Wake & District Public Safety Pipes and Drums (North Carolina).

Andrew Carlisle, the director of piping at Carnegie Mellon University and a long time member of Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band in Northern Ireland, will return as the contest’s artistic director. ‘We set the bar very high in 2016,’ he said, ‘and we attracted even more bands in 2017. The feedback from the bands, judges and audiences the last two years was very positive—from the format to the venue to the judges to the awards ceremony. We plan to present an even bigger and better event in 2018.’

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The contest format will stay the same, and Carlisle has promised ‘a solid panel of highly qualified international adjudicators’, including judges from the RSPBA. Each band will play twice—first in a March, Strathspey and Reel event and then in a Medley event. Cash prizes will be awarded to the aggregate winners in each grade:

  • Grade 2: $2,000, first place; $1,000, second place; $500, third place
  • Grade 3: $1,500, first place; $1,000, second place; $500, third place

The event will also include a Drum Fanfare Competition with a single $1,000 prize. Carlisle noted that the contest takes place in downtown Norfolk— ‘not the typical corn field or farm land that pipe bands are accustomed to’ —and that Scope Arena will serve as a wet weather venue if the weather is inclement.

Nick Hudson, the lead piping instructor at St Thomas Episcopal School in Houston, said the band is eager to return to Virginia. ‘We had a great time in Norfolk last year at the VIT American Pipe Band Championships,’ he said. ‘We are looking forward to returning this year to defend the title. The combination of an internationally renowned judging panel, healthy travel compensation and very good prize money make this the best pipe band contest in the USA.’

Massed bands at VIT

The Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship originated in 2016 when J. Scott Jackson, general manager of the Virginia Arts Festival and producer/director of the Virginia International Tattoo, invited two Grade 1 bands from Scotland—Inveraray & District Pipe Band and Police Scotland Fife Pipe Band—to perform in the Tattoo’s 20th anniversary show.

‘Generally speaking, Grade 1 and 2 bands exist to compete,’ Jackson said. ‘That’s their core mission. I felt like for the Tattoo’s 20th, why couldn’t we make a win-win scenario? How awesome would it be to have a pipe band competition, invite bands from around the world, and have a couple of them also play in the Tattoo? So that opened up an incredible opportunity.’

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Whilst the 2017 competition didn’t include Grade 1 bands, it drew nine Grade 2 and Grade 3 bands from as far away as New York, Florida and Texas. ‘These are volunteer groups,’ Jackson said, ‘but they’re playing at a very high level. It’s something special because it’s professional quality with amateur spirit.’

The American Pipe Band Championship coincides with the Virginia International Tattoo, which will take place April 26-29 at Scope Arena. New Ross & District Pipe Band and Canada’s 8 Wing Pipes & Drums are among the bands performing in the show. Pipe Major Ross McCrindle, Senior Pipe Major of the UK Army School of Bagpipe Music, will lead the massed pipes and drums.

To see videos from the 2017 contest, search for #VITAPBC on Facebook. A video of the massed band performance and awards presentation is also available on YouTube:

Registration for the 2018 Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship is still open, and a limited number of travel grants is still available. For more information, contact Jennifer Hafner at 757-282-2803 or

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