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  • Writer's pictureEric Levy

Understanding Judges' Feedback and Maximizing Your Marching Band Show's Potential

Navigating the Midpoint of the 2023 FMBC Marching Season

marching band students performing on brass and woodwind instruments at marching band competition
Merritt HS Marching Band 2023

As we find ourselves nearing the close of the 2023 FMBC season, the journey toward excellence in the marching arts continues to unfold. This phase presents a unique opportunity for us to dive deeper into the intricacies of our shows, to grasp the invaluable insights provided by our esteemed judges, and to fine-tune our path to success. In this article, we'll delve into the art of interpreting judges' scores and tapes, and explore how to utilize these critiques effectively as well as the importance of the judges' rubric as a guiding light.

The Score Behind the Score: Judges' Tapes

Judges' scores are more than just numbers; they are a reflection of your show's strengths and areas for improvement. The real treasure lies in the feedback tapes, where judges offer valuable insights into their assessments & thoughts of your program. Remember that a helpful or positive tape doesn't always translate to the highest score, and conversely, a lower score doesn't necessarily mean a negative or unconstructive critique.

1. Why the Score? Understand the WHY Behind the Numbers:

When deciphering judges' feedback, look beyond the numbers. Judges often provide detailed commentary on specific aspects of your performance. These insights reveal the "why" behind the scores, helping you understand what elements of your show impressed them and where there is room for growth.

2. Real-Time Feedback: A Dynamic Learning Tool:

Embrace judges' tapes as a real-time learning opportunity. The feedback they provide during the performance is like a mirror reflecting your show's progress. Use it to adapt and fine-tune your approach, ensuring continuous improvement. Listen both with intent and awareness by following along with their comments, the inflection in their tone, and what sticks out to them the most through the tapes. Sometimes the smallest thing can have the biggest effect on a viewers perception of your show.

The Power of the Judges' Rubric

The judges' rubric is your compass, guiding you toward a clear understanding of how well your show is executed, displayed, or designed. At this point in the season, it becomes a critical tool for evaluating your performance objectively.

3. Reference the Rubric: Your Blueprint to Success:

Always have the judges' rubric at your fingertips. It breaks down every element of your show into numerical values, offering a comprehensive overview of its strengths and weaknesses. Utilize this resource when reviewing scores to pinpoint areas that need attention. Using the box system may seem confusing at first, but look at it thoroughly using the keywords that are attached: Rarely, Infrequently, Sometimes, Usually, Always.

All of those words are things that you can utilize through the educational process to help both your students & staff understand where excellence, consistency, and clarity comes from and how it can be improved or achieved. Evaluate your show and be honest in knowing which boxes your ensemble fits into each time.

4. Plan of Attack: Enhance, Adjust, Clean, or Redesign:

Now is the time to strategize for the final stages of your show's journey. Assess whether your ensemble should commit to its design, or start making minor adjustments while diving into cleaning. Every group is unique; the key is to find the approach that works best for your band.

5. Consistency is Key: The Mindset Shift:

Encourage your students to embrace consistency in performance and execution. Rather than constant redesign, focus on perfecting what you have. This shift in mindset allows for cleaner, more refined performances that resonate with audiences and judges alike.

students playing crotales at marching band competition
Lake Howell HS Marching Band 2023

In discussion, judge Sean Phillips from Georgia mentions, “you decide which comments are changes you’d like to implement. It’s a judge’s first time seeing the show so not all comments are meant to create massive design changes — they’re simply suggestions. But if you hear a trend from multiple judges, highly consider making adjustments to those specific moments of your show”

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in the world of marching band. Success stories abound of groups that meticulously planned far in advance and those that completely reimagined their shows mid-season. The path you choose should align with your band's identity, goals, and unique strengths. Remember feedback and comments that you receive from judges, and ideas from this article as you design your show next year. Be sure to evaluate these ideas early in your season as that can be the difference between making minor adjustments, or redesigning your entire show.

As we navigate the final stages of the 2023 FMBC season, may your shows shine even brighter, your students perform with unwavering dedication, and your staff continue to lead with passion and purpose. Together, let's harness the lessons of the judges' feedback and the guidance of the rubric to chart a course towards excellence.


(Marching band photos courtesy of KVoorhees Photography)


About FMBC:

The Florida Marching Band Championships (FMBC) is a leading organization in the marching arts dedicated to the advancement of the marching arts in Florida. With a rich history of promoting musical excellence, FMBC provides a platform for young musicians to showcase their talent, learn, grow, and inspire others.

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