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We use the terms “Grade 4” and “Grade 5” frequently but what do they mean?
Pipe band competitions are either sanctioned or non-sanctioned. Sanctioned games are approved by a pipe band association, of which there are many. For example, the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations (ANAPBA) includes:
The Omaha Pipes and Drums is a member of the Midwest Pipe Band Association (you can click on the link above). Other pipe band associations around the world include:
Each Association has grading guidelines for pipe bands. “Grade”, is how a pipe band is classified. The ANAPBA (North American) grades bands from Grade 1 to Grade 5 (Grade 1 is the uppermost grade). The Royals Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) grades bands from Juvenile, 4B, 4A, 3B, 3A, 2, and 1. For a comparison, a Grade 5 ANAPBA band would compete in 4B in a RSPBA event.
The Omaha Pipes and Drums currently compete as a Grade 4 band. Under MWPBA and ANAPBA regulations, bands may only compete in their assigned Grade. So how did we get to be a Grade 4? We “challenged” up to the next grade. We petitioned the MWPBA for re-designation under their guidelines.
At sanctioned games, the different grade bands compete with different music. For example, this is the 2007 schedule of “sanctioned” games for the Mid-West Pipe Band Association:
To explain the abbreviations:
Quick March Medley (QMM)
March Strathspey & Reel (MSR)
That's it in a nutshell.