We’re entering the time of year (in the northern hemisphere, at least) where pipe bands experience a drop in consistently good attendance. For as long as I have played in bands this has been a truth. From January through to March a good whack of the band, a sizable group of people (usually the same), fail to attend, or attend sporadically, due to “busy-ness” – or whatever. Excuses are legion and, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker [she of "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy"], they run the gamut from A to B. The reasons may be unique to those “busy” but to core membership – and every band has a hardcore group of members that keep the ship afloat – they bore.
To be in a constant state of busy, well, that’s a life choice. Playing in a band is a life choice, too. Is the installation of hardwood floors in the new house on a Sunday practice day (instead of a jaunty Wednesday night) a life choice? It’s a choice, for sure. How many family gatherings coincident with practice day can any one person have? Is core membership so devoid of humanity, or personal commitment, that sees them with no family that calls on their absence from band practice? I imagine members of the scary Duggar family have more free time than some people I know who claim a desire to play in a pipe band.
Anyway, I say you can either play in a band – or not. A band is a fragile thing. A band is a crazy little ecosystem. An ecosystem: a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment. Yep. That’s a pipe band. When it comes to a healthy pipe band and a membership that’s firing away on all cylinders I say it’s chronically crappy attendees that are the global warming to the pipe band “ice cap”.
In the reality that is the pipe band world of the 21st century there will always be valued members of the pipe band “ecosystem” that have been granted by membership sporadic attendance status due to distance, or, some seriously extenuating situation. These are exceptions to the rule. [A funny thing, from my experience: these exceptions would be "core members" should they reside closer to the pipe band home.]
Anyway, in the end, it’s really simple: you can do it – or you can’t.
As I trudge forward, gain a bit of what I hope is wisdom, it seems to me, more and more, that the true definition of a good pipe band differs very little from that sometimes said of a good friendship: one feels better after having spent time with a good friend. So true of a good pipe band, regardless of experience level.
If you avoid pipe band practices – or anything – or anyone – for that matter … time to make a change. If it really is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Making good music with like-minded people is a very special thing.
One to be treasured – not avoided.
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