Schools Band Competition Goes Ahead Online in Freestyle Format

Press release from The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust…….. 

A schools’ pipe band competition is going ahead in March – even if schools stay shut. Normally hundreds of players and supporters converge for the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships – but this year it is going online. 

Prizes total over £2,500 from a judging panel made up of some of the biggest names in traditional music. 

The event is being organised by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust. Convener David Johnston said: ‘We had cancelled the event for 2021 – but then a number of school tutors contacted us asking for the event to go online to help keep young players focused and give them some fun in lockdown. 

‘So we have slimmed the event down to just one class – the innovative Freestyle Class where pipes and drums combine with other instruments and singers to give a modern twist to traditional music.’

Schools are being asked to express interest in taking part by February 7 and already eight have signed up. 

The competition will be broadcast online across the weekend starting Friday 26 March.  The public will have the chance to cast their vote in a live People’s Choice event on Sunday 28 March.  

Some of Scotland’s top musicians will judge the event, including Craig Munro of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Wallace Bagpipes and Gary Innes of BBC Scotland’s ‘Take the Floor’ radio show.  

Craig said: ‘Amazing music can be created and orchestrated online now using apps, and this competition opens up a worldwide audience for the youngsters. 

‘All bands have to do is film their entries using music apps and submit them for judging by 14 March. Registrations close on 7 February.’ 

As usual, the choice of music is entirely up to the band or group – it can be contemporary, cover songs, traditional, a medley or a single melody – whatever inspires you. There are some changes to the normal format:

  • There is an Open category for school pupils of any age, and a separate category for Primary school children.
  • A school or combined schools can enter up to two bands/ groups, either one in each category, or two in a single category.
  • The number of pupils belonging to a band or group is unlimited, but the minimum is six, and must include at least two pipers (e-chanter and chanter are permitted) and ideally a drummer.
  • Films can be between 3 and 5 minutes long.

As pupils can’t play together in person for the foreseeable future, you will want to use an App like Acapella to compile separate recordings and films of individual players into one film. If you have any questions about technicalities, please get in touch at and we’ll put you in touch with someone who can guide you.

Films and interviews with some contestants will be broadcast over the weekend of 26 -28 March when the judges’ winners will be announced, and there will be an exciting live People’s Choice Vote.  Our online competition Wake Up Scotland attracted 120,000 individual views on voting day last summer, so we expect a big audience this time too!

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust might be able to lend your state school a set of B-flat chanters to help harmonise the pipes with other instruments. Please enquire by email to

Entry is free.  You must register by Sunday 7 February.  The deadline for entries is midday Sunday 14 March.

A prize pool of £2,500 will be shared amongst the winning schools. Keep up to date with competition updates by following our Facebook page

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust offers help and cash grants to councils, schools and parent groups for piping and drumming tuition in Scottish state schools. 

They also have the world’s biggest free bagpipe loan scheme lending instruments to hundreds of young players across the country. 

The SSPDT is currently supporting the delivery of in school pipe and drum tuition to over 3,000 pupils in Scottish schools.  More details of the competition are on the SSPDT website 

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