Marching Band Tips Part 1 – Managing Critique with Judges

You are positive that you should have won the show. Your kids have been working hard, everyone says that you have a creative show. Every marching band director has had this experience. Here are some tips and tricks from a current DCI staff member and BOA judge to help you get the most out of critique. 

And in fourth place… (Insert your marching band’s name here). Now what? You are positive you should have won the show. Your kids are working hard, everyone says that it is the most creative show you have ever put together, your show is way harder than the other guy’s show, etc. Are you going crazy– or is it the fault of the judges? Every band director has had this scenario happen in one form or another over the years and you need to know how to deal with these questions and frustrations in a positive manner if and when you get to go to critique and talk to the judging panel. The worst thing you can do is go into critique mad and ill-prepared. Here are some tips and tricks from a current DCI staff member and BOA judge to help you get the most out of critique.

Tip #1

Listen to the tapes BEFORE you get to the judges critique.

It is very difficult to remember exact details of a marching band performance after a whole day of judging bands, so the judge’s tape is very important to link certain points in your show with certain positive or negative comments from the judge.

Remind the judge of specific things he or she said on the tape that you would like further clarification on.  Also, inform the judge regarding anything you would like them to understand more clearly about your show/performance.

Tip #2

Check your ego and your temper at the door.

You WILL see this judge again. Develop relationships, do not burn bridges. What is the point in getting mad? All you need to do is explain why you think that your students are doing a better job maxing out a particular caption and helping the judge to see what he or she missed.

Tip #3

NEVER talk about (insert your closest competitor here).

Everyone comes into critique and says, “We might be dirtier, but so-and-so is doing way less than we are.” This may be the case, but unless two groups are exactly alike except for the difficulty of their music, drill, or simultaneous responsibilities then it is like comparing apples to oranges.

It is never appropriate to mention other group’s performances or scores in critique. All you can do is talk about the perceived level of success of your group on THAT day and the extent to which the judge used the judging sheets, rubrics, and accepted conventions of ranking and rating appropriately.

Tip #4

Realize that early in season NO ONE is very polished and the actual scores mean very little.

However, the value of a tenth is important and you should take a look at this. If you are within 3-4 tenths of another group within one caption, that judge is telling you that you are virtually even with that group except for minor differences.

If you are greater than a point back from a particular group within the same caption from the same judge, he or she is saying that unless major efforts are mounted and major cleaning or changing occurs—you are not in the same league and probably won’t catch them.

In addition, if you are part of a very long day of competition (over 12 bands) you should know that the ORDER of placement is much more telling of how a judge feels than the actual score. With tons of bands, many judges will “leave room” for bands that are yet to come and the actual caption scores might not be where they would be.

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