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The Importance of Adjudication

By Richard Floyd | Tuesday, March 16, 2010 2:44 PM

In 1991, I was asked to write an article on the importance of music adjudication and the vital role that our music directors play as music contest judges.  The information in that article is as pertinent today as it was when first written almost 20 years ago. Please feel free to share these comments regarding adjudication with your principal and other administrators.

One of the primary cornerstones of the educational substance of the UIL Music Contest program is the quality of adjudication that is provided for the performing organizations and student musicians throughout the State of Texas. The purpose of this adjudication is not simply to assign a division rating to a performance, but rather to provide a concise evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each musical demonstration and offer recommendations for continued musical growth. These critiques, which address both concert and sight-reading skills, deal almost exclusively with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. As such, while any competition is presently considered extracurricular, the actual adjudication has the potential to be a true extension of the classroom and a valuable component of the music education process.

This important element of any music competition is often taken for granted since the behind-the-scenes arrangements for judges takes place weeks, and even months, before the actual contest. Also forgotten is the fact that the majority of those best qualified to evaluate music performances come from the rank and file of our music educators who daily work with music students in public schools throughout Texas. These teachers give significant time and often travel extreme distances for minimal compensation in order to serve as judges for our UIL music contests. Without their willingness to serve in this capacity, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to provide a level of adjudication that is commensurate with the quality of music education that exists in our schools.

The benefits of contest participation and adjudication are not one-sided. There is another dimension. It is assumed that the students will benefit from the critique and that the director will return to the rehearsal room with new insights and a clearer vision of the relative strengths and weaknesses of his or her students. But, seldom noted is the fact that any contest experience offers the potential for a significant growth experience on the part of the judges as well. The exercise of judging heightens hearing and communication skills. These skills are invaluable in the classroom and rehearsal hall. In short, judging experiences enhance one's ability be a successful, productive teacher. Consequently, school administrators should look with favor upon opportunities for members of their music faculty to serve as judges.

While many contests take place on Saturday, there are exceptions because of economic or logistical reasons. Also, there are sites in the state that must schedule more than one day of events to accommodate all participating groups. These contests often require the use of one or more school day to complete. While the participating groups miss a minimal amount of school time (contest participation requires only one and one half hours plus travel time), judges must be present for the duration of the competition.

Judges for these contests find it necessary to make arrangements with their school administration to be away from their own campus and cover their normal teaching responsibilities in order to accept such a judging assignment. Under these circumstances, school administrators are encouraged to respond favorably when faculty members ask permission to serve as adjudicators. Such action demonstrates a sensitivity to the scheduling needs of UIL contests, an appreciation of the importance of having qualified judges for the participants in these events and an awareness of the valuable experiences that teachers who serve as judges bring back to their own classroom and students. The result will be a continued availability of highly qualified adjudicators and enriching experiences for our music educators as well.