Sunday, September 19, 2010

The USSBA: Why I am a marching band adjudicator.

I am an adjudicator with the US Scholastic Band Association.

Like most adults, I have far too much on my plate to add anything else. I am a husband and a parent of one college student and one elementary age student - who by the way, are also involved in far too many things! I am a university professor, a scholar - always working on journal articles or books - a music arranger for the last 30 years and a part-time minister - which means I work on Sundays! So my again I say, my plate is full. But add to those distinctions, music adjudicator for the US Scholastic Band Association.

I was a full-time band/drum corps director for the first decade after I got out of college. I taught, I arranged and composed, and I adjudicated. I ended my full-time vocational pursuit of music in 1995 after having taught at the U.S. Naval Academy for several years. Not bad for a 32 year old. But that doesn't mean that I stopped. I have continued to arrange for bands, choirs and orchestras (700 arrangements and counting!); act as a clinician and adjudicate non-stop since then. My vocation as a theology and ethics professor is combined with my passion for music at Howard Payne University where I currently teach. Why do I continue this torrid pace? Because I love music and I find incredible satisfaction helping young men and women achieve.

In the years since I left full-time music education, I have found that my passion has not waned for the activity that gave me so much - marching band and drum corps - but increased exponentially. So I have found ways to continue helping young men and women achieve their goals and dreams through music and the arts. Indeed, my own professional interest in theological and philosophical aesthetics has only enhanced this pursuit.

But why USSBA? I would suggest clicking on the link above to find out more about the organization. But in a nutshell, let me say that my passion agrees with their passion. They want to provide an educational venue for bands to compete in, with the emphasis on education. They want every band to walk away from their events, not dejected over placement, but rather proud of their achievement and having gained further insight into the art and skill of marching-music pageantry. Now I am all about that!

As I look at other competitive circuits or other competitions, I see adjudication that focuses on well-known personalities, taped comments and trophies. (You get these things at USSBA shows too!) This is not bad, necessarily, but I also know that for some of these personalities, it's not about the kids or even the education process; its about them. It's about the $500 fee and the exposure. I don't want to over generalize though. That's what many of those contests want. You pay the big bucks so that fill-in-the-blank-named personality will talk to you about your band. But you get no face time with that judge. Just comments. I am sure much of those comments are good, but I also know that many of those comments could have been made by anyone - "You need to tune your flutes here," or "The percussion is phasing from the batterie in the back to the front ensemble."

But that's not the ethos of the USSBA and certainly not mine. For the USSBA its about education. The adjudicators are not only very experienced designers and creators, they are educators. They have weekly conferences during the fall in order to address deficiencies and to improve as adjudicators. The USSBA staff does everything in their power to make sure that every adjudicator is qualified and continuously educated. If you don't perform up to expectations on your evaluations, you are not asked to judge again. This is a win-win situation for bands. There are other high profile 'competitive' circuits today in North America, but none of them have educational achievement aims of USSBA. As a band director, you get quality adjudication tapes, a quality experience for your students and face time with the judges in order to make sure you understand what was said and how you can get better.

I am an educator. This gift is delivered as a professor, an artistic creator and as an adjudicator. If it were not for USSBA, adjudication would not be worth it to me. It's about the opportunity to educate and edify, rank and rate. It's about the opportunity to imbue students with a life long passion for making music and to invest in the pageantry of the marching arts. Thanks Hop, for the opportunity.

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