Band Competitions Overview

September 26, 2014

Another great article from band parent Ren MacNary

When I joined the Band Booster club, it was easy to understand what we did on the Football field on Fridays. But when we started to go to Contests, I was very confused. It seems as if every weekend in October is one contest or another and the rules change for each of them.  This article attempts to clarify things.

First a bit of history.

Texas State UIL added the Marching band contest to its yearly contests in 1984. At first it was held every year. In 1991 the decision was made to hold the contest in alternative years.

There is a system of UIL classification in Texas that divides schools by size. The smallest schools are in the 1a classification, the largest are in the 6a classification. These classifications determine who we compete with both athletically and in UIL Music competitions. Westwood is in the largest classification, 6a. The state marching contest alternates the classifications yearly, with 4a and 6a in a contest year in 2014/2015. Next year 1a, 2a, 3a, and 5a compete.

There has also been the rise of a national organization called Band of America, or BOA, founded in 1976. This organization conducts Regional, Super-regional and Grand National contests for bands across the country. This contest is held every year.

And finally, there are individual contests held at different locations around Texas. For instance, we host the Texas Marching Classic at Kelly Reeves, and Duncanville has hosted the Duncanville Marching Invitational for the last 20 years.

Each year the Directors have to figure out which contests they wish to participate in. On State Contest years, this is oriented towards preparation for the UIL contest at the end of the fall semester.

Each contest has its own rules, but in general contests either use BOA’s method of judging or the UIL method. Below is an outline of both.

UIL Contest Rules

As I mentioned above the UIL State contest is every other year for Westwood. The contest is to see who wins the State title.

There are three levels of competition: Regional, Area and State. On “off” years, we still march in the Regional.   It is the Area and State level that is held every other year.

In the Regional competition, we’re essentially competing with ourselves to get an objective score, 1 being great, 5 being poor. It’s like the later Sight Reading contest.  If all the bands are good enough they all get 1s.  We’re really competing against a standard, not other Bands. So we march, get our 1, go home and relax! In State contest years, if we get a 1 in the Regional level, we advance to the Area competition.

The Area and State scoring of UIL uses a ranking system. There are 5 judges, 3 for Music and 2 for Marching. Each judge writes down comments and uses a number based system to record their impression of each band. At the end of the contest, each of the 5 judges rank the contest from top to bottom, with the top band getting 1, bottom band getting 24 or whatever the number of bands is. They then add those numbers up, lowest number gets 1st place, and so on. They have a procedure for breaking ties. For every 5 Bands in the Area contest, the Area advances 1 Band to the State contest. This impacted Westwood the last time we competed with Finding Balance. If ONE more Band had qualified for the Area contest, the area would have sent 7 Bands to State. Yes, we came in 7th.

The UIL contest has a preliminary session in the morning and afternoon, with the top 10 coming back and marching in finals in the evening.   There are new judges for the finals.

The actual packet that the judges use with rubrics is here:

BOA Contests

Band of America is a nationwide Marching Band contest, held each year. Contests are held in Regions, then in Super-Regionals, and finally in Nationals in Indianapolis. Austin has its own Regional contest. Round Rock and Cedar Ridge both participated in the Grand Nationals last year.

In contests, the general format is a Day preliminary performance sometime between 8am and 5pm. The schedule is set randomly. The results are announced, the bands are ranked, and the top 10 are invited back to perform again in the evening in a random order. Results of the contest are announced after the final band performs.

BOA and UIL scoring are different, unfortunately. Here are the judging criteria:

  • Music Performance (Individual), judge on the field
  • Music Performance (Ensemble), judge in stands or press box
  • These two are averaged together for 20 points total
  • Visual Performance (Individual), judge on the field
  • Visual Performance (Ensemble), judge in stands or press box
  • These two are averaged together for 20 points total
  • 20 points Visual General Effect, one judge in stands or press box
  • 40 points Music General Effect, two judges in stands or press box.
  • Timing Judge can impose penalty points for violation of timing, on the field.

Total possible points: 100

The individual scores are done by judges who walk around the band. Those are the strange people getting in the way. As you can see, Music is considered more important than visual: 60% versus 40%.

Each Band is allotted 15 minutes. The first four minutes is setup time. At 3:15 to 3:30, the announcer starts to introduce the band. Some people do a Drum Major salute, but it isn’t required. Many bands start early so that the announcement is over a kind of “prelude.” There is no penalty for this.

The piece itself can be between 7 and 11 minutes long, timed after the conclusion of the announcement. Once the piece is done, the Band has to get off the field in 2 minutes. Violation of timing results in penalties from the Timing Judge.

Other Contests

As noted above, Round Rock ISD hosts the Texas Marching Classic at Kelly Reeves. Other well-known individual events include the Duncanville Invitational, and the Westlake Marching Festival. Most of these festivals follow the UIL scoring method, with some adjustments for each event.





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