This is for those of you involved with any competitive pageantry out there, whether it’s for WGI, DCI, BOA, or your summer parade marching band. It’s mostly for the members, specifically high school kids because I think most instructors out there know the gig.
TL;DR? Listen all the way until the end.
The need to write about this is because of something I observed… Because we frequently share judges recordings that we like with the membership.
A different perspective
It’s good to get feedback from a 3rd party. It can also be frustrating as an instructor when you’ve been saying these things all along. But I get it – it goes along with the adage that kids don’t like to listen to their parents.
I imagine this is why clinicians are popular. They can come in and say the exact same thing as your day-to-day instructors. But they’re able squeeze just a little more juice from the ensemble because they’re an outsider.
Getting that outside perspective is good. They may be able to put it into words or terms that make it easier for members to relate to. They may also identify ideas or issues the staff or members weren’t fully aware of.
Tapes are a misnomer – judges haven’t used cassette tapes in years. They’re digital recordings that are much easier to share. But I’m old school and may refer to them as tapes.
During the performance
While listening to a judges recording, re-live that particular performance in real-time with the judge. This is when you can feel the judges reaction as the performance unfolds. Did a moment not come together cleanly? Maybe there was a build-up that didn’t resolve as well as it should. You may already realize that something was or wasn’t great before a judge calls it out.
When judges are doing a running commentary during the show, it can be difficult to comment on all the things observed in real-time. Judges keep notes, either on a notepad or in their head.
After the performance
They’ll put the “meat” of their observations at the end of the program – when the group is clearing the floor or field. It’s almost impossible to give a full real-time commentary during the program, especially if it’s a first read (first time viewing).
Think of it like watching a movie. When it’s over – that’s when you talk to your friends and discuss the content. Maybe there was something you didn’t understand. Like a movie, sometimes judges might not get it if there are design elements or performers missing that day – especially early season.
Whatever the case is, you’re likely to find the great commentary at the end. The judges are reviewing their mental or written notes and looking at the big picture.
Far too often as the performers listen to these tapes, they start talking among themselves as soon as the performance is done because their part is over. Have patience and listen to what the movie reviewer has to say after they’ve been able to soak it all in.
Just for funzies, you might play buzzword bingo with a judges’ recording.
- Sonority (quality of sound, distinctness)
- Tessitura (range or register)
- Negative space (using the whole field or floor)
- Vertical alignment (if not talking about a visual element, likely referring to playing together in time)
While it can be fun to play this game, I always give credit to the judges. They have a hard job. They have to rank and score many ensembles in a consistent way.
Hopefully a newcomer reading this will find it useful to fully consume judges feedback in order to best make use of it. Good luck out there!