Scotland’s Young Musicians Tune Up for Pipe Band Championships

Around 800 young musicians will pitch their musical skills against each other when the world’s largest schools piping and drumming competition descends on Kilmarnock this Sunday.

Currently in its eighth year, the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships (SSPBC) will bring together youngsters from 152 schools around Scotland – with one band travelling from as far afield as the Orkney Islands.

Following an official invitation from East Ayrshire Council, the event will take place at William McIlvanney campus in Kilmarnock on Sunday, March 8 and will see a number of performers, including 72 pipe bands and freestyle ensembles as well as 10 quartets for young pipers and drummers.

The competition was established by Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT) to not only showcase the talent of young musicians, but to encourage the formation of school pipe bands and to reignite the nation’s passion for the instrument.

The charity recognised that being part of a pipe band supports young people in developing crucial transferable skills for life, learning and work, but observed that opportunities to learn instruments in schools throughout the country was perhaps not widely accessible.

Musicians will compete in eight categories, including a ‘debut’ category which will involve 10 bands making their first competitive appearance.

Alexandra Duncan, Chief Executive of SSPDT, said: “We were very pleased to be invited by the East Ayrshire Council to hold this year’s Championships in Kilmarnock. Their support and enthusiasm in helping to organise and host the event has been invaluable.

“It is fantastic to see so many young, talented pupils representing their regions and schools at the Championships.

“We’re extremely grateful to the parents, schools and local authorities that are working closely with us to bring tuition opportunities to young people in Scotland, although there is still a long way to go until all pupils who would like to learn the pipes and drums have the chance to do so.”

The judges at will come from RSPBA adjudicators and the winners will be presented with their prizes by the Provost of East Ayrshire Council, Jim Todd.

Fiona Lees, Chief Executive at East Ayrshire Council, said:

“We are looking forward to welcoming all the participants and their families to the William McIlvanney Campus at the weekend. This is our newest education campus and with its flexible open spaces, it provides the perfect setting for an event like this.

“Instrumental music tuition widens social circles and impacts positively on young people’s confidence and wellbeing and it has featured in our schools for over 50 years, when brass lessons began at Stewarton High School in 1969. From those beginnings we now provide Instrumental tuition each year to over 1200 pupils who also participate in our Award winning bands and ensembles.

“Scottish pipes and drums have featured in the East Ayrshire instrumental music curriculum since 2016, when our first pipe band – the Kilmarnock Schools’ Pipe Band – was established and since then it has been going from strength to strength, with almost 200 pupils participating and we have been delighted with their early successes.

“I attended the Scottish Schools’ Pipe Band Championships last year and I was blown away by the passion and talent these young musicians have for piping. Events such as this most definitely benefit our young people in ways beyond the music itself, and I know we have a fabulous day ahead of us with many magnificent performances.”

The Championships feature eight categories including a Freestyle section which encourages musicians to team up with singers and dancers to create a performance which offers a novel twist on piping music with emphasis on innovation and fun.

SSPDT has also introduced the Eilidh MacLeod Endeavour Award to pay tribute to a young piper from Barra who died in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017.

Recognising bands that achieve more than just a competitive edge, the award is presented to groups that can demonstrate attributes such as perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges, community contribution, enthusiasm and camaraderie, innovation and efforts to include everyone regardless of circumstances.

The Trust has helped 47 schools pipe bands to form so far, building on tuition provided in 265 schools. It is currently supporting projects in 22 local authority areas.

For more information and details on how to enter the Championships, please visit: