Today I had a critique sheet I had written fed back to me from nearly two years ago.   I remembered the particular performance, because it involved an uncharacteristic “train wreck” on the part of the performing band in their final tune.

It reminded me that people often don’t realise that judging is a skill of itself, as is teaching. And both need practice and constant personal review. Performing, judging and teaching are three different skills – the best piper in the world may be an inadequate judge and/or a poor teacher. While it’s not always the case, I have seen both situations from great players. It’s unfortunate that it often takes a big name player to be the draw-card to have pipers and drummers attend workshops and contests, sometimes with less than great outcomes. I also note that the best Pipe Major for a band need not be the best piper – that is another skill set yet again.

In Australia, there is program of ongoing updates and workshops that judges are required to attend. The program has not always been well executed, but the reason for it is clear. On the other hand, there is no such program in Australia for bagpipe teachers nor for Pipe Majors.

On the other hand, there is no such program in Australia for bagpipe teachers nor for Pipe Majors.

Pipe Bands Australia, our governing association, offers a qualification called the Teaching Diploma.   I hold this Diploma as do a handful of others. It is not so much about music as about how to teach. This is a good step, but does not require ongoing review and re-accreditation. Furthermore, how many aspiring musicians know that there is such a qualification and that it would be good to learn from an instructor who has it.

I intend the Bagpipe Academy to become a place to get good tuition, but over time also to foster good tutors. I have seen many potential musicians turned off by the way their tutors have either behaved or taught (or refused to teach) them. The Academy is to be a place of personal musical advancement and, in keeping with that, I do not plan to sell goods through the Academy. Instead, it should just deliver competent, respectful and supportive instruction, in support of your aims, not the tutor’s.

I have a feeling this blog may generate a bit of discussion.   If so, great!!


2 thoughts on “Great piper ≠ great teacher ≠ great judge ≠ great Pipe Major

  1. Good points raised here. In my experience in the PB world, there are too few all round good teachers and/or PMs. Many that I’ve learned from, I went to because they were good MSR players, or the band had a good sound etc. I’ve always analysed what I needed to learn and where the best place to learn it from was. Then, I went and joined that band. A regular seminar for PMs or tutors would be a great way to share knowledge of what to do and, more importantly, what hasn’t worked.


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