Judge Etiquette in the Sight-reading Room
By Jeff Turner, TMAA Orchestra VP | Monday, December 05, 2011 11:47 AM
Another concert and sight-reading judging season will be here sooner than we think. As that time of the year nears, I wanted to share a few thoughts and ideas about professionalism on a sight-reading panel. As I thought about the word professionalism in this context, I concluded it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of etiquette defined as: the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other.
In our TMAA judging workshops, we spend most of the time discussing best practice for writing educational sheets and assigning appropriate ratings. I’d like to suggest some things that come under the “other” category of judging that we tend to take for granted.
1. Judge attire: We are definitely becoming a more casual society. As an administrator, I’ve recently been given the option to not wear a tie every day which I have embraced with great joy. However, I continue to put on a tie when I am out in the schools or representing the district at upper level meetings. It’s the professional thing to do. At concert and sight-reading contests, male judges should wear a suit and tie. Sport coat and open collar or mock turtleneck type of shirt (business casual) should be the minimum provided that the coat stays on all day. Your professional appearance is even more important in the sight-reading room due to your proximity to the students. Female judge attire should be equally professional.
2. I love this quote from a fellow member of the executive board this summer when I brought up the subject of judge’s behavior in the sight-reading room. Our purpose in the sight-reading room, like on stage, is to judge the performance. In other words, “Stay in your seat and write the sheet.” I think the primary reason the judges are in the room during the director’s explanation period is to make sure that the rules are followed. I’ve witnessed judges standing and/or walking around during the explanation period. This is distracting to the director and more importantly to the students. They should be able to focus on their teacher and not people in the room standing or walking around. There is not a place on the judging sheet to write out or comment on what the director says during the explanation period, nor is there a place to comment on students who are not sitting up straight and paying attention or out of uniform. These types of comments get added to the mythical list of what “they” want to see in the sight-reading room. “They” are really there to adjudicate the reading/performance.
3. Use of the rubric: It is very important that we all use the rubrics developed for the UIL contests; not only to help ensure consistency of ratings from region to region but to also help educate everyone on the criteria for each rating. The rubrics are well written and have verbiage you can also use in your comments on the judge’s sheet. Some of the most important words on the rubric are the ones used to label/describe each rating. Superior, Excellent, Average, Below Average and Poor. Many times, these words can be most helpful when deciding a rating.
4. Audience/participant’s perception of judges: Tending to anything else (newspapers, magazines, laptops/smart devices, etc.) while on a judging panel sends the message to parents, administrators and participants that you are not 100 percent focused on the job of judging that day. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the fact that people in the audience are watching you and measuring your professionalism during the performance. And finally, be sure to avoid any conversations with the other judges until the ratings have been turned in to the contest office. Even innocent conversations can easily be heard in large usually empty concert halls. Throughout the day conduct yourself in a way that reflects positively on your assigned duties and the qualities we seek to maintain as professional adjudicators.
I wish you the best in the upcoming judging season and hope to run into you on the judging trail. Good luck.