Demystifying Marching Contest Scoring

One of the more confusing aspects of joining the marching band at Westwood, and indeed at any school, is the system of marching show contests. It seems as if every weekend in October is one contest or another. Each marching contest has its own rules, but contests generally use either the same judging methods established by UIL or those used by BOA.

UIL Marching Contests

UIL Competitions

The University Interscholastic League (UIL), formed in 1910 by The University of Texas, exists to organize and govern educational extracurricular academic, athletic, and music competition administered by schools in Texas on an equitable basis. This equitable competition on a state-wide basis is achieved by classifying schools by enrollment size into six conferences within which schools of comparable size compete. The UIL conferences, in order of largest to smallest enrollment sizes, are 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A.

Schools of similar conference size compete in music contests against one another first within regions, then within larger areas, and ultimately at the state level. The regional marching contests occur for all conferences annually; however, the area and state marching contests for conferences only occur every other year. Westwood High School is classified as 6A. The 6A conference schools compete at the area and state levels in even years, along with 4A schools. The remaining conferences compete for area and state championships in odd years.

Review of school conference classification and the alignment of school districts by region and area occur every few years, the last of which was during the 2015-2016 school year, impacting the 2016-2017 school year and beyond. The UIL music regions and areas are determined for school districts, such as Round Rock ISD, by geographical location. Westwood and all of the RRISD high schools are currently part of UIL Music Region 26 and Area D.

UIL Contest Scoring

The regional UIL marching contests are scored against a standard using “division” ratings on a scale of I-V, similar to those given to bands for concert and sight-reading performance in the spring. These are defined as Division I (Superior), Division II (Excellent), Division III (Average), Division IV (Below Average), and Division V (Poor). For even-numbered years, scoring a Division I at the regional marching contest qualifies the band to advance and compete at the area marching contest.

Depending on the number of schools competing in the area contest, there may be up to two rounds of competition, a preliminary round and a final round. The state contest always consists of a preliminary round and a final round. The area contest restricts the number of bands that qualify for advancement to the state contest based on the number of bands competing, which could vary greatly between the areas as well as each time we compete at the area level.

Success at the area and state marching contests is decided based on rankings of the competing bands compared with one another. To determine this, five judges (three for music performance and two for marching execution) record comments on the performance and assign a number score to record their impression of each band. Specifically, each of the judges evaluates stipulated attributes of the performance using specified rubrics. Each judge characterizes the band’s performance as Good, Excellent, Superior, or Exemplary for each of these attributes. In addition to categorizing attribute performance, each judge assigns a number score from the range of numbers allowed for the associated scoring category. The cumulative number scores from the five judges are added together to provide the final performance score. These scores are then used to rank the bands to determine either qualification for advancement to the next round or final contest placement.

Bands of America (BOA) Marching Contests

BOA Contest Scoring

In Bands of America (BOA) contests, the general format consists of daytime preliminary performances with evening finals performances. Regional BOA contests are conducted within one day; whereas, the preliminary performances for super regional and grand national contests stretch over 2-3 days. Each band is allotted 15 minutes for their performance. The first four minutes are for setup. At 3:15 to 3:30, the announcer starts to introduce the band. Many bands start early so that the announcement is over a kind of "prelude." There is no penalty for this, and you will see most bands taking advantage of this. The actual performance may be between 6 and 11 minutes long, timed after the conclusion of the announcement. Once the performance is done, the band (all students and any adults assisting) has to clear the field in 2 minutes. Violation of any of these timing requirements results in penalties from the Timing Judge that can ultimately deduct points from the overall score determined by the music and visual judges.

Similar to the UIL scoring procedures, BOA contests use multiple judges, assigned to judge either music or visual performance, that record comments and impressions they ultimately relate to number scores. Although BOA has its own specific scoresheets and criteria references for each performance aspect, emphasis is still given to music over visual. Consequently, the weight of the numbers in the BOA scoring system places 60% of the value on music and 40% on visual, and at the same time, 60% of the score is within the area of general effect and 40% within the performance Area. The point allotment for the field competition from the eight judges is as follows:

  • 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. These penalties are deducted from the final score tabulated from the other judges.

Following preliminary performances, the results are tabulated, any infractions are deducted, and the scores are ranked to determine which bands will be asked to perform in the finals round. The drum majors and color guard officers from each band gather on the field (this is referred to as “retreat”) for the announcements of preliminary results and those that qualified for finals performance. Depending on the competition level (regional, super regional, or grand national) and number of participating bands, 10-14 bands will be asked to perform in the finals. Following the finals performance, all members of each band gather on the field for the results announcements.