Proud to be an American (Bagpiper)
There was a time when a trip to Glasgow to play at the World Pipe Band Championships was a “pie-in-the-sky” kind of dream. Multiple reasons keeping any band from that contest were bandied about. Chalk it up to our collective inferiority complex when it comes to matters of bagpiping, maybe. It was not that long ago when total North American representation was all but two or three bands in contests dominated by the Scottish.
That total domination, for all intents and purposes is and has been at an end. Now, so is the limited N.A. attendance. The 2011 World Pipe Band Championships marks a milestone in US pipe band representation at the Worlds with 15 American bands making the trip over the pond, with 9 of them from the EUSPBA. Every grade of competition shows a US band entered with the exception of the Juvenile grades.
There are those pipers and drummers among us who thought they would never live to see a day when the USA had Grade 1 bands among them, never mind see them play in a Grade 1 contest at the Worlds. This year, there are two. Half the number of total US-based Grade 1 bands and a small leap to when all four will be among those competing bands. I know this is all old hat to Canadians, and the City of Washington and LA Scots bands have been doing it for a while, but to keep seeing it now, with so many other US bands also playing on the field at Glasgow Green, it somehow signifies a critical mass, a tipping point, whatever you want to call it.
Why is now so special? Well, it has always been a passing fancy for bands of all grade levels to muster their resources and make the trip over. Playing at the Worlds is kind of like climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington. It’s something you do once so you can say you did with all the bragging rights that come with it. But this year is different. Of all those American bands listed in the RSPBA draw for the Worlds, many of them have been multiple years either consecutively or otherwise, and have now infected a fair number of fellow bands, enough for them to make their own (one hopes, first of many) trips over. That represents a monumental shift in both the place the contest has in the minds of American pipers and drummers, and the amount of dedication and outright confidence those pipers and drummers have. That is not something to be taken lightly and not something that is going away any time soon. The Canadians have always had the trip to the Worlds as part of their pipe band culture. It is without a doubt that bands are better for the experience of playing on the Worlds pitch. Take the time to send an encouraging email or Facebook post to these bands. It is no small effort. Raise a pint to the future when all American bands are making the effort to throw their music into the worldwide piping mix. It’s something to make one proud.