Montana Pipe Band Interest Survey

This survey is to gauge interest in the pipers and drummers from around Montana and the surrounding states and provinces in creating a Grade 4B competition pipe band to take to Scotland and compete in the World Pipe Band Championships. While we would want to perform to the best of our abilities, we are not going with a focus on winning but rather to improve our players and expose them to the wider world of piping and drumming competitions. In other words, we are going to take the music, tuning, etc. seriously and expect a basic level of playing from our members, but we are also planning to have fun and enjoy the experience!

What is Grade 4B (or Grade 4 for most competitions other than the Worlds)?

For those unfamilure with RSPBA grading requirements, Grade 4B requires the band to play 4 – 2 parted marches from the RSPBA Prescribed Tune List. The band must be comprised of at minimum 6 Pipers, 2 Snare Drummers and 1 Bass Drummer. We would obviously like to have more players than this, and especially more drummers including some tenors, but that is the minimum number of players we would need to compete at any contest.

Before we get to what we are hoping to accomplish, we would like to address a few things that this new band is not planning to do. 

First, while we understand that our members are going to come from the existing bands around the region, our intent is not to steal all the good players and leave the local groups struggling, or to drive any bands out of existence.

We hope that by participating in this endeavor, our pipers and drummers will become better musicians, gain knowledge in how bands function in the competitive realm, and be exposed to the piping and drumming culture at an international level. We also hope that they take their new skills and knowledge back to their local bands and help them improve and grow. We will also do our best to schedule the Montana Pipe Band practices and events around our member’s existing pipe band commitments. 

Second, this is not planned to be an on-going pipe band. While anything is possible, we are only planning on running the band for about three years, and don’t expect it to continue after the trip to the Worlds. 

So with that out of the way, lets look at what we are hoping to accomplish (and understand that this is all very much in the planning stages, so suggestions, comments, and input would be appreciated).

In order to give the players time to obtain equipment/uniform, learn any new music, and learn any other skills that may be needed, while also giving us a reasonable amount of time to become an ensemble, a time frame of approximately three years is being considered. We are hoping that length of time will be long enough to allow everyone who wants to participate to learn the material and obtain any equipment or uniform components that may be needed, while staying within reason for long term planning. We understand that this is a big commitment, both in terms of money and time, and we will do our best to hold both of those costs down to the lowest we can; but we also believe that the experiences you will have, the chances to play in places most of us never thought would be possible, and the fun we can have along the way will be worth even more!

Who can participate?

  • Any piper or drummer from Montana or any of the surrounding states and provinces, who is able to make the monthly practices.
  • While we will attempt to work with anyone who wants to participate, there will be a basic level of proficiency expected of the players, and if a player is not up to those levels, they will not be able to play with the band during the competitions and public performances.
    • We will do our best to identify and work with any players who are struggling, and will give them ample notice so that they are not expending funds on travel plans and such if they are not going to play.

Tentative Schedule of Events

2018 – 2019 Goals and Objectives: 

  • Identify pipers and drummers 
  • Select band leadership positions (Pipe major, lead tip, etc)
  • Select music (the competition set and then additional tunes to give the group at least 30 minutes of play time to allow us to participate in certain events if we get the chance)
  • Distribute music to members for memorization. 
  • Determine the band’s “uniform” and have members begin obtaining the items (We will try to keep this generic with the hopes of keeping the costs down)
  • Begin to hold monthly practices starting in the spring of 2019 
  • Attend at least one competition (Spokane, Calgary, and Canmore are all options) as a group to observe how things run (not planning on competing, more of a watch and learn)
  • Play as a group at the Bitterroot Celtic Games and Gathering
  • Hold at least one workshop with outside instructors (both piping and drumming) with the focus on playing as a group, expressing the music, and tuning

2020 Goals and Objectives: 

  • All playing members have full selection of music memorized
  • All playing members have any needed uniform components purchased
  • Attend at least three competitions (Lethbridge indoor, Red Deer, Spokane, Calgary, and Canmore are all close options)
  • Attend the BCGG and perform the 30 min set
  • Hold at least one workshop with outside instructors (both piping and drumming) with the focus on improving the bands over all sound and individual player’s technique.

2021 Goals and Objectives: 

  • Attend Lethbridge Indoor and Spokane competitions (attempt to attend one additional if time allows)
  • Identify all members who will play in Scotland (we don’t want to cut people on the line, but we will have basic requirements for those who are going to play such as having the music memorized, having mastered basic blowing technique, etc.)
  • Travel to Scotland and compete in at least one competition the weekend before the Worlds, hopefully participate in Piping Live (a 15 min performance in front of the National Piping centre, another in a busy walking mall, and a 30 min performance in George Square), and then play in the Worlds. 

Expectations of Individual Players

  • Obtain a passport to allow for travel to Canada and Scotland
  • Purchase uniform items as needed 
  • Pay for individual travel costs (airfare, hotel, food, etc.) – We will do our best to attempt to keep costs low by car pooling, trying to stay with members or friends, and setting up dorm style lodging in Scotland.
  • Pipers will need to have a well maintained pipe and drone reeds in playable condition, as well as a long practice chanter.
  • Drummers will need to have sticks/mallets, practice pad
    • The band will attempt to determine a cost effective method of obtaining matched chanters, chanter reeds, and drums (possibly borrow from one of our existing bands?)
  • Assist the band with fund raising efforts and events to help cover the costs of competition entries and expenses.

So with all that in mind, if you would take a moment and fill out the following survey, we would appreciate it. If you are interested, we will be in contact soon with further details.