Double-dip

The New Zealand Championships again brought to light the growing practice of pipers and drummers playing in multiple bands in the same grade in the same year. Almost unthinkable 10 years ago, the custom is now commonplace, with pipe bands playing within the rules (or the lack of one) and, essentially, gaming the release and transfer system.

On the surface, temporarily switching bands in the off-season seems harmless, and when compared with, say, civil war in Syria, it is. But in our little pipe band world, the idea of splitting time between competing bands is an erosion of healthy competition. It’s also another symptom of the large numbers condition.

To stress, I’m not talking about people flying in to play in the only band they play in. That’s just a longer distance to travel to play in one band. Go for it.

What I’m talking about is the practice of learning the music, submitting release and transfer documentation to the home association, and hopping on a few planes to contribute your talents during the northern hemisphere’s off-season, and once the contest is over, rejoining the original band. At first blush, it seems like a harmless thing to do for those talented and wealthy enough to pull it off. But, on closer look, it simply compounds a problem that is becoming more significant every year.

As discussed a few times now, bands across all grades – and especially Grade 1 – are under pressure to field large numbers. Bigger is seen by many judges as better, or at least more impressive, and “impressive” is often correlated with “better.” Ratcheting up a pipe section by a few good players promotes presence. Pipe-majors and leading-drummers can’t be blamed; they’re only responding to pressure that has gone unregulated by associations by their inaction to establish maximum numbers. One band sees another band doing it, so they do the same, and now southern hemisphere bands even recruit fly-in temps in Glasgow in August.

Imagine working a few times a year for a company that is otherwise your direct business competitor. Or lending your football talent to a team in the same league when your usual side isn’t participating in a tournament. These examples wouldn’t happen without you being fired or thrown off the squad. It only happens in the pipe band world because we don’t disallow it, associations have encouraged it (through inaction on maximum numbers), and our changed sense of competitive ethics have enabled it.

It’s a tough thing to regulate, since accurate roster tracking is almost impossible, and currently relies mainly on trust – and bands ratting out their competition. But it seems to me that all the RSPBA needs to do to address the situation is establish a policy that says something like, “A playing member of the organization may only compete with one band in a grade in a calendar year.” That is, you can’t play with another band in the same grade until January 1st.

For sure, there are positive claims that come from double-dipping, always from pipers and drummers and bands that do it. People have explained away the practice by contending it builds camaraderie and allows them to experience new pipe band scenes. That’s lovely, but it comes across as scrambling for reasons.

I’ve actually received a number of messages from players in Grade 1 New Zealand bands that fly in members from their competition. They have expressed their agreement that it should stop, but also understand that it’s being done for their short-term success because it is within the rules.

All this is not to say that any piper, drummer or band is at fault. Double-dipping is simply a response to worldwide pressure to create bigger bands. The inaction of the RSPBA when it comes to creating caps on section or roster sizes is the real reason.

A rule is needed. One band, one grade, one year.

41 thoughts on “Double-dip

  1. -written in my phone, be gentle –
    As a career, I work as a consultant. I have a full time job providing consultant on leadership and management development, specifically around designing programs that grow the business through attention to leaders. My company provides tools, learning, etc and, while I don’t sell them, I work with them. I have a dark side; I coach execs and teams in leadership growth while I’m not working.
    Here’s the scary part, both groups know… And I’m allowed! My non-disclosure policies and accepted behaviours make sure i don’t cross any boundaries, but I do what I love as often as I can. Shocking, but my friend the professional seamstress for a large conglomerate sews outfits for her highland dance friends as well. We both have a priority, and a home base, but we do what we love, as often s we can.
    Capping size won’t stop this. It’ll create more gr 1 bands from the underdog ‘dredges’… Hell likely better ones… But it won’t stop people following their hearts and a pay cheque and a sweet vakay to NZ for a month…
    Thoughts from a terrible drummer (that will not have to EVER worry about this).

  2. Im not sure where you are from but in Australia which seems to be onw country of your main concern, there are two reasons why you are completely wrong, respectfully.

    What you have to understand in Australia is that we don’t have a top gr 1 band (with the exception of WAPOL who only meet every now and then.) If I want to push myself past gr 2, what do I do? Realistically, I join a nz gr 1 band. Otherwise I don’t have the option of actually using the full of my talent and any chance of ever playing with FMM or SFU goes out the window. Although fly in players for nz guys coming to aus are mainly for bigger numbers, the same does not go the other way.

    Secondly, the rule (which is vastly restricted in Australia compared to nz) provides our youth with a chance to develop themselves at a time they are ready, not just when they leave school.

    • Nick, if you read it again you’ll see that this is about a piper/drummer competing with more than one band within the same grade. There are plenty of rules in place about “instructors,” helping bands in lower grades, and even those rules are a bit nebulous. There is a fine line between gaining “increased talent and experience level coming into the band” and “ringers.” More often than not, it’s the latter.

  3. All the bands I saw at the NZ Nationals where under the size limit I can imagine being imposed, so I think it would take a very long time for limitations to have any effect. So, what other perceived negative side-effects are there? It seems people like it when their colleagues practice harder than usual in the off-season, and unless you think a player may throw the later contest to allow the other band to do better, I can’t think of any. I can see band-hopping becoming a problem if a player is in two bands in the same jurisdiction in the same season, but even that seems a weak reason to impose limits as so few would really do that.

    • What’s the difference between this and bringing in ringers? Why is it okay inter-hemisphere and not intra-province? SFU taking a few months off? Why not join Triumph Street for that trip to Pleasanton? I tend to think that this is also about the guest players not truly thinking that the temp band is a serious threat come World’s day, especially since their talent is reduced by at least one very good player. While the NZ bands might have sections within size limits imagined, the pressure for bigger, bigger, bigger is there.

        • Build a team. On the team. Not on the other team. Healthy competition. I suppose it’s a matter of personal sense of ethics, and of course the band’s internal policies, and who am I to say those are wrong? At what point does it become too close for comfort? Would an SFU member be allowed to go compete with Field Marshal Montgomery in June and return to SFU for the World’s? My guess is no, and Alan Bevan or Reid Maxwell can correct me if my assumption is wrong. But if my guess is accurate, why is a NZ band any different? The correlation between expanding sizes and increased use of ringers in respective off-seasons is at least remarkably coincidental.

          • I see your point. But guest players have been going north and south for decades.

          • Hello all.

            I play with the Grade 1 City of Invercargill Highland Pipe Band in New Zealand.

            A lot of what has been said in the article are things we do. It is well known that many overseas Grade 1 players have competed with us.

            The reason this is a good thing and should not be taken away is because of the advancement the younger member of the band such as myself take from these players coming over. Out principal tutors are paid to teach us while living in New Zealand, but also they are encouraged to continue playing with their home band in Scotland.

            The influx of players, whether just for the nationals or for a longer period of time is an awesome inspiration for the younger members and even older members of the bands these players come to, and I think it would be a terrible idea to stop it.

  4. This is an interesting topic but on the whole I can’t help but disagree with the majority of the article on the basis of my experience of competing in NZ in 2010! Firstly, let’s not assume this doesn’t happen in other areas – this sort of thing does occur in sports too – look at the rugby world and some prominent NZ players etc who have taken short term sabatticals in France….look at cricket and English county players competing in the IPL etc. I think with both these examples it is accepted that the individual is broadening their horizons (and potentially their wallet…) but is also gaining (and sharing experiences) that benefit the individual, the home team (or band) and the overseas team.

    I had a fantastic time in NZ – I learned a lot playing with a different band in the same grade to that in which I compete at home. Not only did I meet a lot of fantastic people and get to experience a new pipe band scene, but I watched two different Grade 1 leaders go about their task with different ideas and approaches to what I was used to. It forced me to learn a whole new repetoire and to appreciate a subtly different playing style. Surely we shouldn’t discourage people from gaining a wider appreciation of our artform?

    I agree with the point that there should be one system in some respects – ie the RSPBA governs the five majors and UK based contests, so you should be registered with one band there. Similarly, if you compete in North America, I think it’s reasonable to compete with one band. Beyond that, I can’t see any benefit to prohibiting anyone from travelling the world and sampling/sharing the different experiences the pipe band world has to offer!

  5. Wouldn’t anything that builds camaraderie and raises the bar of performances worldwide be good? Competition has driven pipers and drummers to push the boundaries of the art but maybe that paradigm is shifting. Maybe it’s not just the swelling band rosters and push to the Worlds that is causing the collapse of long-established bands and games. Community pride and longstanding loyalty are great things and have certainly been the bedrock of pipe bands. But with global travel and instantaneous communication being the norm, change is inevitable and though what has been a good thing may be fading, the new thing looks like it will provide fertile ground for the art.

  6. I know a good number of non-pipe band musicians who play in many different bands. Do you think any of these professional musicians would willingly restrict their careers because someone thinks it’s a bad idea to play in more than one band? If you have the skill and motivation, why wouldn’t you broaden your experience as well as enjoy making music with other musicians? It’s the tribalism and the competitive mindset towards music-making that you find in pipe band that is the problem.

    • That’s exactly what I wanted to point out. It is very interesting that the comparisons are all taken from the field of sports. But in the end it is MUSIC what we are playing…
      So we could also have a look at the way in which orchestras work. And there we can see that certain numbers of musicians are needed to match certain standards of compositions. You do not play Wagner with a chamber orchestra…

  7. tend to agree with the overall sentiment of “live and let live” we are in hobby land for 99% of us and even at that, as pointed out above even professional musicians in other spheres feel free to earn a buck where and when they can.

    It is surely the minority of players that do this also, FMM, SFU and SLOT have all seen pipers swapping rosters for different reasons over the years albeit not in a mid season type of way. The bulk of the people that do this hemisphere swapping I bet are in that glass ceiling of being grade 1 but not top grade 1.

    Don’t punish people that have a successful career that allows them to indulge in getting the most out of their hobbies.

    Lots of people have a problem with the spirit of Scotland mutual appreciation society (least not with the name itself “the SPIRIT of Scotland, giz a break lads!) turning up and creating an uneven playing field in the words with a faux pipe band, perhaps knocking out a REAL pipe band that have been together and spent thousands to get to the worlds to be knocked out in the qualifier and ruining their world championship experience. Real “sportsmanship” there lads

    • The Spirit of Scotland example is mainly different. The 2008 band was originally made up entirely of people who didn’t play in another band. It was (and is) a group that has a radically different practice schedule. It is as “real” a band as any other. A few members (three, I think) have ended up playing who also play with another Grade 1 band. It’s fair to say that SoS worked the system with these members being released from their original band within the two weeks designated by the RSPBA. Was it within the rules? Yes. Was it healthy competition and fair? That’s subjective. As long as it’s competition, rules should be in place to make it fair as the participants decide. They might also decide that a “band” must be one that practices at least once a month in-person for at least a year. Whatever. And “Spirit of Scotland” is a name tied in to the sponsorship by Glenfiddich.

  8. Well, I personally do not have a problem with SOS. The band is comprised of top players who have worked hard to get where they are today. No gave them all a “Get out of jail free” card. They’ve all paid their dues over the years. Good on them to be able to get together for a week and make it happen “on the day”. The pressure is all theirs to show up at the line ready to play. All you have to do is just sit back and listen to their performance, they are the ones doing the work. If you think they are all a bunch of self-congratulatory snobs, you must personally know all of the band members and worked with them then to be able to come up with that conclusion. I somehow don’t think so. Moving on, an orchestra is similar to SOS in that the players are all very skilled and prepare music with a minimal amount of rehearsal time. Studio players are the same. Most of the music you likely listen to is recorded this way. Why you feel the number of hours spent together by a band should be rewarded in some way with a prize is not how the Worlds works. Winners are determined on how well they play on the given day. Best of luck to all of the bands, regardless of whether you slaved together for a whole year or were able to pull it off in a few days. Hopefully everyone plays to their highest expectations.

  9. If people are enjoying this, and it is not killing bands, why should it be an issue? Too many pedantic rules stifle the health of the scene. IE: the Seymour Girls College Pipe Band not being allowed to compete at the Australian champs this year because the band was formed 5 months and 3 weeks before the 6-month cut-off for registration or something like that. Basically a bunch of girls who’ve just started playing pipes can’t compete in Grade 4 at the closest thing to a major that we have down here because of a rule “to ensure fairness”. So they will have to wait for 2 years until the next one. Meanwhile, the Vic champs which are sooner than the Aussies, they can compete in. Farcical!

    The NZ experience is probably very different in that they do have sufficient numbers to field 4 Grade 1 bands, in a total population of only 4 million people, so far away from Scotland, and that the general standard of player in the Grade 1 scene and the solos is formidable. They probably don’t need fly-ins at all.

    The Australian experience is that there are literally just not enough players not to. Many bands would be going out with 5, 6, 7, and 8 pipers without fly-ins. In the 90s in Melbourne there was 4 Grade 1 bands, now we have 1 and they’ve only just moved up to Grade 1 and are probably still finding their feet in the grade. I saw a registration paper for the 1990 Australian championships and there were double the amount of bands registered as there are for this year. So our problem comes from not enough teaching at the grassroots, and bands are using fly-ins as a band-aid. I don’t believe the root cause of the erosion of numbers is the fly-ins themselves, just a symptom.

    • RJ, some excellent points…..but….with regards to the school band you refer to – the debate on whether well publicized and accessible rules should be flexible, or whether professional band tutors should take responsibility to acquaint themselves with such rules so that things like you’ve detailed do not occur, are two separate arguments. Even if they were unsure of numbers, or were waiting on a green light to compete from the College, the band in question could always have entered or communicated what was going on, just to be safe, with minimal consequences if they had to withdraw. Instead, they appear to either not known of the rule, or simply assumed an exception would be made. Either way is not really prudent.

      • Andy what you are saying makes sense, if we take a letter of the law “rules are rules” approach. However, with respect to yourself and the associations, it doesn’t make sense to me that an exception wasn’t made. When rules becomes the end-game instead of the reasoning behind the rules, which one would assume, is to give local bands the fairest possible competition, then it can have the opposite result. Not having a girl’s school band compete is not the fairest result for the health of the scene. Doesn’t matter which way you cut it.

        • Agree with the sentiment, RJ, but what you’re basically saying is that its ok for a band to either not know the rules, or think they can be bent to accommodate their oversights, and that it is ethically and morally unjust for a voluntary governing body to uphold rules that are there for all bands in an absolute, unbiased and non-discriminatory sense.

          The root cause is the band failed to enter the contest on time. What has happened after that seems to be the only thing being criticised, which is not really fair in its own right.

          We both know what the intention of this particular rule is, and I’m not sure either of us can say for certain that this band would/wouldn’t match the description. For the record, I would most likely bend and allow the band to compete, if it were my call. But that is tempered by the fact that there would then be a precedent that cannot be ignored if brought to bear in future instances. And if the band did turn out, loaded to the gunwales, and took it out out……are you taking all those phone calls on Monday morning…? ;-)

          • There will always be loopholes exploited by some. For example the 2-week individual registration deadline. Why can people fly in from all over as long as they register with the band within 2 weeks, but a school band 5 and a half months before the contest can’t register? IE: A practically-speaking completely different band membership can compete as a band in name-only as long as individual registrations are finalised within 2 weeks, but the band, at least in name-only, must register 6 months prior? Where is the jurisprudence in this?

  10. I disagree with a lot of this article. Yes there should be a rule created: One band, one grade per Season but PER Region. I recently moved to NZ from Australia and I feel the benefit for all involved is immense when an overseas player comes in to guest with a band, both in Australian bands and NZ bands, and I am also now partaking in this guesting somewhat myself. It is not good sport when a player joins eg Dowco Triumph from SFU during the same season to play for one contest then return back to SFU. Why, because the northern hemisphere has the same pipe band season. BUT the season is opposite in the southern hemisphere. NZ season finished with their Nationals two weeks ago, the Aussie season finishes very shortly, and the UK, Canadian and USA seasons are soon to start. What problem is their with someone willing to gain experience during their bands off season, by travelling further afield and being challenged to learn music, and expect to play it at a high standard whilst trying to corp with the rest of the band that has had weeks, months, together rehearsing. At the end of the day some of us in pipe bands as a hobby, others it’s a way of life.

    I’m not too familiar with the workings of orchestra’s, symphonies and the such like, but I would not be surprised that if they have a “performance/show season”, when their season has ended some will travel to other regions for that regions season, others won’t. But this practice isn’t limited to music groups. Sports is big. Basketball players often travel from the USA to Australia to compete in the Australian season then go back home for their USA season. Soccer players from the UK come to Australia to play for the Australian season then return home for their own.

    For those that want to venture out and gain and pass on experience in the opposite hemisphere for the different season and then return home, good on them. For those that don’t to and want to focus on their own band, good on them. Who gives anyone the right to dictate a rule that limits this natural progression and worldwide community from growing, becoming closer and developing. I am sure the great pipers and drummers of old would of done similar if they could of, and I am not 100% on this, but i believe even Alec Duthart may of ventured out to Australia and competed in an Australian band (Queensland Irish perhaps) for an Australian Nationals Contest.

    The only rule that should exist, which is already common place in many associations around the world, is for a player to be registered in ONE band, per season per association, and if a “tutor rule” or similar exists in that association, then a second band (which is lower in grade to the players home band) they can be registered in.

  11. We are musicians first and foremost. Anything that promotes improving the art of playing is ok by me. Rules should be there to enhance and encourage better musicianship not hinder and discourage. If petty boundary issues discourage a musician playing in a higher grade band and discovering the joy of that level of music it’s a sad day.

      • Again, nothing to do with boundaries and borders. It’s about competing in more than one band in the same grade and whether that’s truly fair or ethical. In fact, long distances appear to justify it in the minds of many people. But getting a release from one band to play in one contest, and then getting a release from the temp band to rejoin the original band would not be allowed within a single association without a very good reason. So, why is it permissible between two associations?

  12. Lots of passionate talk about music, art and camaraderie taking priority. I’ve been an advocate for those things taking priority above competition for many years. However, if you’re going to hold competitions — even contests based on subjective music performed by hobbyists — you still have to have fair rules. If I played with a band that couldn’t afford to fly in off-season guest players from other bands, or was in a band that was philosophically against the practice (they do exist), I would see it as unfair. If players came in as special guest members for a concert or something, that’s terrific. Not competition. But, as long as it’s competition – and last time I checked that’s exactly what the NZ Nationals are — the field should be as level as possible. If the majority think weekend members for other bands in the same grade is fair, then, great. Keep doing it. But I think the majority actually don’t think it’s fair. They might — might — be loathe to speak up for fear of being seen to speak for their entire band, which probably does not have a policy one way or another. Again, I have heard from at least a half-dozen regular members of Grade 1 New Zealand bands who privately have said to me that they agree that the practice should be stopped.

    • What if a band is philosophically against using tape? Or can’t afford a new set of chanters? That’s daft. The bands that are losing out are the badns not good enough to attract talent. Harsh, but there are reasons for it and they can either address it or not. Restricting the ability of players to move will not make them better bands.

  13. It’s interesting to note that the bands who were #1 and #2 in Grade 1 used the least fly-ins. As far as I can tell, the Canterbury Caledonian Society Pipe Band had three “not-regular” players, all of whom paid their own way to get to NZ, and one of whom has played with the band on at least three occasions previous to this one. So the argument that somehow this wasn’t a level playing field doesn’t stack up against the facts.

    • And, what I should also have included here, is that it was 3 out of 37 players on the park – would they have come second because they only had 34? Maybe, but logic would point strongly to them winning regardless. If it’s about an unfair advantage you’d have to say, at least in NZ in Grade 1, it doesn’t exist. Perceptions are just that – perceptions.

      • Point taken. But Richard Hawke said that six of their total were fly-ins. Not sure how many were pipers or drummers, but, if they added five pipers, say, then a section of 23 is a big difference to a section of 18. And if the five added players are of a calibre with the ability to just fly-in and fit in, it’s probably a substantial improvement. Would they still have finished first? Perhaps. But I don’t think camaraderie is the sole or even main reason for doing it. A band does it to make them better. Again, if the members of the association feel that’s okay, then go for it. The members make the rules.

        • If we are talking about what Richard said on Facebook, then with respect, no he didn’t. He said 31/37 were 100% kiwi. That doesn’t mean that six were fly-ins. That means 6 people were not of Kiwi descent or of Kiwi residence. I’m not speaking for the band, but 2 of those “6″ were Australian and play with the band at the worlds, 1 of them is Scottish and has played at the Worlds and in NZ for the last 4 years. The other three were the fly ins I mentioned before.

          If he has said something else to you, then my apologies to both him and you – but from what I could see, three were fly ins. Two drummers and one piper. A pipe corps of 23 versus 24 probably wouldn’t have taken away their win.

          • Ah, right. I read his comment as meaning they came from outside of NZ to compete with the band, not that they were immigrants. People of Maori descent might read it a whole other way. All this kvetching (I’m a quarter Jewish, so am allowed to use that word) over a simple opinion that the double-dipping goes against the grain of fair play and healthy competition, certainly comes across as protesting just a little too much.

      • Liam, you ignore the obvious advantage of having almost an entire band on the ground versus one that meets two days before the contest.

  14. I support the principle, however there are practical factors that simply mean this proposed restriction could never be an improvement – that is, if we wish to watch more than a couple of grade 1 bands fight it out at a national championship, we cannot ban multi-band travellers.

    If every Grade 1 band in the world tried to deploy all at the same time, it is hard to see even close to 20 bands being viable in terms of numbers, especially now with the expectation of battalion-sized bands. Guest players can’t be in two places at once. I’d never leave my regular band high and dry if there was ever a clash, and I’m sure others are the same. There are also remits available for tutors in lower grades to play in two bands on the day. This is all common sense stuff.

    Not one Gr1 band in New Zealand is blessed with geographic advantage/luck, like Canterbury Caledonia, who has absolute control of the local St Andrew’s College (current Juvenile world and NZ gr2 champs), serving as a direct feeder into the Canterbury system. How they haven’t won more often, with such an advantage, is anyone’s guess. The only difference between the two organisations is the uniform. They even play the same pipe set-up and all. Therefore it is safe to say there is only one destination for school leavers at St Andrew’s College, and they are indoctrinated to think and perform that way. And good luck to all concerned – it is the envy of everyone else. Everywhere else in NZ, it’s a raffle and a matter of cobbling together players from wherever you can get them. A number of bands are scattered across both Islands. This is the case globally as well.

    Gr1 bands typically do not teach. Canterbury is an exception, as are a rare few others who are able to monopolise a local area, school etc. But mostly, the world over, grade 1 bands are destinations for ready-made players who wish to test themselves, chase silverware and, heaven forbid, just enjoy great friendships and some music with other band folk. Using fly-ins also means there are 5 gr1 bands fighting it out in NZ, not just a couple. Then we all go back to our regular bands with ideas, experiences and some lessons learnt. Any harm done? Methinks not.

    If we just say ‘one band for the year’, there are going to be fewer high-end bands to listen to, and a lot of people sitting around doing diddly squat because there are rarely (in fact none I am aware of) clashes with major contests between Australia and NZ (probably for good reason).

  15. This has been happening for at least a decade in a different form too, with the practice of players joining the local band that is heading to Glasgow for the Worlds, then returning to their own band again until they find out which band is going next year.

    You have to look at whether the bands involved in this practice are doing themselves any long term good or bad. One or two guest players may not be an issue if a band is already self sustaining, but if its very existence relies on registered players of other bands flying in for a couple of days as some of these posts imply, then it is surely distracting from the major issues that obviously need to be addressed, ie. why there is a shortage of quality pipers/drummers as replies here state.

    The southern hemisphere certainly has its share of world class pipers, maybe less so drummers, but it does seem strange that this doesn’t translate into more quality players. The problem must be in how limited quality teaching and workshops are available to people. And that is surely a problem for the bands and governing associations to be proactive about and work together on. It might well be more difficult to create an NPC or COP or implement a school curriculum for piping and drumming in the southern hemisphere, but it won’t happen unless a plan is in place to start the ball rolling. It didn’t happen overnight in Scotland, and even now campaigns for more piping and drumming tuition are still necessary. It could simply be in Aus/NZ that there is not enough public exposure to the instrument, on where to find tuition etc. We don’t get a lot of exposure here either, but the positive effect of the additional column inches due to Piping Live this last 10 years shows in the swelling numbers of excellent young players and general interest in the instrument.

    Guesting with multiple bands is no doubt a lot of fun, and beneficial short term for all of those involved on a personal basis, but once the novelty wears off and the guest players no longer have the time, money or impetus to do so, you are left with a decimated band scene. I do see the appeal of it though, I play with an overseas band already, just the one mind, but I would enjoy guesting down-under in the off season given the chance, as would most I might add.

  16. Andrew, spare a thought for the vast majority of NZ bands people who don’t have the resources to travel regularly (if ever) to see the best bands compete in the northern hemisphere. Twenty years ago I was pipe major of an NZ grade 1 band – there were nominally twelve of them at the time i think – but the standard of most of them, at an international level, was grade 2 at best. The rules at the time allowed no possibility of fly in members. Since a major shakeup in 1996, our grading system is much more on par with the north, and the standard of playing in every grade continues to increase.

    The sense of pride that all NZ bands people felt last year when St Andrews took the Worlds Juvenile title and 2 NZ bands made the grade 1 finals was immense – but only a small percentage of NZ bandspeople got to see it.

    Most of us get to see a serious grade 1 contest between all the NZ bands only twice a year – at our nationals and at the Palmerston North Square Day – and all our players are motivated and inspired by the grade 1 performances. Some of these Grade 1 bands are probably dependent on flyers to be competitive- it’s not ideal, but it is great for both the players and the spectators – and for most, it’s the highest level of competition they will see.

    A few years ago I played in a NZ Grade1 band that regularly flew in one or two overseas players for a season – and the contribution these guys made to the band was huge, both in terms of the immediate impact on the performance, but more importantly, in giving NZ players an otherwise impossible opportunity to play alongside and learn from members of some of the best northern hemisphere bands.

    The flyers help keep our standards high, teach, motivate, and inspire, and ultimately make NZ bands and players even better. It would be a sad day if they were regulated out of our scene.

  17. Having been previously been a so-called “weekend member” from for Manawatu Scottish, I’ll give you my thoughts in relation to when I played went out to New Zealand for the 2009 Nationals.

    Firstly, I resent the accusation that I went across for some sort of jolly, all paid for by Manawatu. Myself and others who’ve guested with the band did so entirely at our own expense and a number of us have also played with the band at the Worlds, again at our own expense. At no point did I ever regard myself as a ring-in, and I don’t believe any of the NZ members of the band did either.

    How is the fact that I was willing to pay money out of my own pocket to play with a particular band, somehow made the playing field less level? Not everybody is fortunate enough to have flights paid for the host band.

    I also completely fail to see what on earth is so wrong about playing with one band in the winter, on the other side of the planet, playing in an completely different association, which your “home” band has no involvement with?

  18. Again, I never said anything about people travelling a long way to play in one band. If that’s their band, then that’s their band. It’s simply a matter of opinion. My opinion is that it goes against the grain of healthy competition- to my thinking – to compete against the same band you also play with at other times. That’s all. If that doesn’t matter to you, or the majority of the pipe band world, fine. That’s the way it goes. But, I think that the majority of pipers and drummers would agree that it should be one band at a time. They just aren’t speaking up for fear of being at odds with other in their band. It’s like the numbers racket: who’s going to speak up for placing maximums on sections sizes or rosters when their own band is doing everything that it can to recruit new players to keep up with the MacJoneses. It would really take a coilition of pipe-majors and leading-drummers to agree to a truce, and encourage a change. Until then, it’s all perfectly within the rules. My feeling is that rules need to be made or changed.

  19. Spot on, no other sport would allow this to happen, as teams competing would not be the actual day to day team. A qualifying number of events to be competed in before a player could play at a national or state championship would be a good way of playing,. There is a band in Australia who invites guest players to play for 6 months in their band, that makes sens they play the competition thru, its likely that at this years Australian Championship a leading band will have significant flyins competing for them, so the actual band so its a completely new band This doesn’t build or improve piping quite the opposite.

    As for Australia not having enough Grade 1 bands, we should pull our fingers out and build them, a quick fix which doesn’t help anyone in the long term. Yes we have challenges of distance etc. they can be solved…

    Richard Harris

  20. Perhaps this is symptomatic of the other issue being that the centre of the pipe band universe revolves around Glasgow?.
    It is certainly the case that if you don’t compete at the worlds year in year out, then you couldn’t possibly be considered a serious G1 band. Whatever trends set (i.e. Corps sizes) in Glasgow, has a trickle down effect globally I am personally a ‘fly in’ player but I don’t compete in any other G1 band- I do this at my own expense

  21. Oops, hit publish too early…
    Anyway- the trickle down effect has a drastic impact on bands globally and the pressure to field a band that is of the right size and calibre is enormous- therefore measures must be taken to even be in ‘the ball park’.
    So for a band to generate the funds to schlep it to the green every year- are they not going to give themselves every advantage they can to make it worth the while? Vs bands based in the uk whose travel costs are infantecimal by comparison. A little antipodean perspective by thinking it in reverse, in my opinion, makes a mockery of the original argument from cost point of view. Let them come I say.

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