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Bagpipe band dwindles

October 28, 2016

Michelle Ravel / The Courier

In the last two years, only one member of the Monmouth College bagpipe band has been recruited by the college, while six have left. The decline in recruitment for the iconic band has become a matter of concern and speculation about the band’s future. Traditionally, bagpipers have been recruited and attracted to Monmouth by a world wide reputation and by providing scholarships.

The decline in recruitment over the last couple of years has been the subject of many rumors about piper morale and the very future of the band. The pipers who were interviewed for this report said that while they feel the college continues to support their efforts, they expressed that they did feel taken for granted on certain occasions, such as the homecoming game earlier this semester when they were denied time to play at half-time. Of all of the rumors, the one that is the most troubling, however, is the change in how the scholarship money is allocated. There were several reports in the last couple of years of high level pipers being offered very little in terms of scholarship money, something that these musicians can sometimes find insulting. The director of the Pipe Band Program, Professor Timothy Tibbetts, confirmed that there has been a change in how financial aid packages have been adjusted, and that the changes have affected the allocation of funds for the pipe band. No one could offer the Courier a clear explanation as to what those changes are, or how they are impacting recruitment for the band. Professor Tibbetts, who has been the Director of the Pipe Band Program for the last 14 years, is convinced that the current numbers are well within the normal fluctuations, but admits that they are on the low end.

In order to bolster recruitment efforts, Professor Tibbetts has met with Associate Vice President for Admission Nick Spaeth who says he recognizes the great importance of the pipe band to the culture, history, and tradition of the institution. Spaeth, who has only been in his job for 16 months, said that part of starting a new job in a new place is figuring out what has and has not been working—and what needs to change. It’s a process, and that process in this instance, was determining scholarship funding for members of the pipe band. The fact that Professor Tibbetts was on sabbatical when Spaeth started only exacerbated the issue. Today, the pipe band and the office of admission are on the same page, planning to do targeted advertising at the upcoming piping competition “Winter Storm” which will include an advertisement in the program, a Monmouth logo on the t-shirt, and an information booth.

According to Spaeth, the former funding practices in general were unsustainable for the health of the college. Under the new model, money is more intentionally packaged, with a balance of ensuring that financial aid packages are competitive while not crippling the institution. This is done by working on more of a case-by-case basis with students to meet their needs. Spaeth offered this as a final thought: “Working with Professor Tibbetts, we’ll do what we have to do in order to meet the college’s enrollment requirements while also recognizing that the piping tradition is one that we are committed to continue.”

Carlin Reinig
Contributing Writer

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