More than 400 youngsters, aged eight to 18 will descend on Edinburgh next month for a new schools piping and drumming competition, with the majority enjoying their first taste of public performance.
Delighted organisers of the first Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships have been flooded with entries from 40 schools, including many which are new to the discipline. They believe momentum created by the competition, could be see pipe bands established in hundreds more schools.
David Johnston is Chairman of the committee behind the competition, which has the motto, Every school needs a pipe band. He added: “We’ve got pretty big ambitions for getting young people into piping and drumming, but it’s fair to say the number of entrants in our first year has exceeded even our expectations.
“It’s brilliant to have so many keen youngsters developing a real passion for what is, after all, Scotland’s national musical heritage and one we have exported all across the world.
“There’s no doubt interest in school piping has been steadily increasing in the past 10 years, partly because piping has gradually grown quite trendy. Some of that is down to the success of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and bands like Mànran and Pipedown, but some of it is just the fickle nature of fashion.
“There won’t be any complaints from us. We’re delighted to see a new generation trying out pipes and drums for the first time and we believe this is just the impetus we need to build on.”
The competition takes place at Broughton High School on Sunday, March 10 and will give many of the youngsters a first taste of competitive performance.
It is hoped the experience will help the Championships expand the reach of piping in schools, encouraging parent councils, head-teachers and their staff, local education authorities and well-resourced private schools and the Scottish Government to play their part – financial and otherwise.
Participating schools are coming from as far apart as Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, Aboyne Academy in Aberdeenshire and Hawick in the Scottish Borders. While piping and drumming already enjoy a well-established following in Scotland’s independent schools, a healthy number of those taking part are from the state sector.
Mr Johnston, of East Lothian, added: “We’re getting feedback from schools that setting up a pipe band can play a critical role in improving pupil behaviour and academic performance. In other words, you don’t need Gareth Malone and choir singers to make a real difference.
“Meanwhile parents like the fact that piping and drumming build self-confidence, concentration and self-discipline. Apart from that it’s a lot of fun and being in a band with other children and it teaches the value of teamwork, as well as the importance of appearance and time-keeping.
“There can also be more obvious rewards. Coming from the home of piping makes it easy for Scottish bands to get engagements overseas. These provide children with an opportunity to travel the world in good company, while spreading a musical message of goodwill and sometimes being very well-remunerated for the experience.”
Competition organisers say the thirst to learn piping has not been matched by availability of tuition or funding. Historically, many youngsters learned the skills through the Boys’ Brigade. Now opportunities are limited, with only a tiny number of education authorities providing tuition.
The organising committee is taking practical steps to address these problems, by offering financial aid for schools to attend the competition, as well as offering support for schools and education authorities which put piping and drumming on the curriculum.
To reflect the broad range of abilities, the competition will take part in various sections, including a ‘debut’ category for the 21 bands which will be making their first competitive appearance. Judges will come from world-renowned Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, which is backing the competition – RSPBA Chairman Gordon Hamill is a high-profile Patron of the Championships.
Winners on the day will collect their prizes from Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.
Entries are already being invited for next year’s competition and more details can be found at www.scottishschoolspipebandchampionships.com
Issued on behalf of the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships by Holyrood Partnership. Contact Scott Douglas on 0131 561 2244, 07980 598 762 or firstname.lastname@example.org