Running and growing a pipe band is hard work! This topic has been brewing in my mind for a few weeks and although I’m the Band Manager here, I’m not just referring to that aspect. When I joined the Highlanders we were consistently putting 40+ people on the street for a parade, that’s pretty big by most pipe band standards. We had enough people for a reasonably competitive Grade 4 and Grade 5 band and a pipeline of students. We had multiple people giving lessons, maintaining our website, managing the finances, etc. and the Highlanders are a 100 year old band, presumably this had been going on with various levels of success for generations.
Then people began leaving the band, some moved away, some had been doing it for years and were too old, some had young families, some just lost interest, and yes, some went on to other bands. We hit a low point, but the re-building had already begun. We were handing out flyers, using social media, we even ran radio ads for a local pub crawl. Slowly we started to see fresh faces, some students, some folks from other bands, some came once or twice, but some also stuck around. During all of this, we even successfully partnered with another local band. Most people said that wouldn’t work but we made it work, both of us!
So back to what’s been on my mind; we’re midway through another “pipe band season” and on the eve of returning to two July 4 parades we had not been able to do for a few years due to lack of numbers. While we are not back to 40 people on the street, we have a respectable size pipe and drum corps, have a new Drum Major who participated in his first competition recently, and have almost all of our students carrying our banner and flags. This is a milestone worth taking a moment to acknowledge.
I’ve long been a fan of the Piper’s Dojo and recently read their .pdf titled Make your own Pipe Band Beginner Factory. There’s a lot of good info in there and you should give it a read if this topic is of interest to you. How does this apply here? It’s a LOT of work! The Dojo outlines four steps: Prepare, Recruit, Maintain, Transition. Each of these has many important subtopics and I believe we have successfully implemented many of these. I’m not saying there’s no value in the Dojo program, I’m just realizing that most successful pipe bands have already implemented these concepts at some level.
What’s my point? Running a successful, multigenerational organization of any type requires a good deal of time and commitment. And, because not everything works right away, it also takes patience and the willingness to adapt.