A Parent's Guide to Band Competition
Texas is blessed with a tremendously strong curricular music program in the public school systems. Our music programs have survived every curricular innovation, every scheduling impediment, and every budgetary crisis in the last 75 years. A large part of this longevity may be attributed to the well-organized and maintained competition system in Texas that is the model for the rest of the country. Band competitions in Texas are sponsored by two very different organizations: the University Interscholastic League(UIL) and the Texas Music Educators Association(TMEA). The UIL is an organization of schools that governs extra-curricular academics, sports and music. TMEA is an organization of music teachers, including band, choir, orchestra, and classroom music teachers at every level through college. Marching and concert competitions are sponsored by the UIL, while TMEA sponsors the Region Band Contest and selects the Honor Bands in each class through recordings.
TMEA Region 30 All-Region Band - Audition in November
Region band is an individual contest for 7th and 8th grade students from Granbury ISD and surrounding districts. Each woodwind or brass student learns two short pieces of music (etudes) as well as eight scales. Percussion will learn three etudes; one each on marimba, snare drum, and timpani. Each student performs for a panel of 5 judges in a blind audition; the students cannot see the judges. If a student is ranked high enough, they are placed in one of two performing bands made up of the top students from the competition. This is the highest individual honor a student can achieve in middle school band.
UIL Concert and Sight-Reading Contest - End of March
This is the staple competition for UIL, occurring every year in the spring in all 28 regions of the state. Each band prepares a concert program of two pieces chosen from the Prescribed Music List and a concert march (for example “Stars and Stripes Forever”) and performs them in front of three independent judges. The band is given a rating from each judge: I – Superior, II – Excellent, III – Good, IV – Fair, V – Poor. The judges cannot confer about their rating and the FINAL rating is a consensus of the three, not an average. Theoretically, EVERY band can get a I – Superior or a V – Poor. The competition is not among the bands, but against a standard of excellence that has been established through the many decades of this competition.
Immediately following the concert, the band moves to another room for Sight-Reading. The band director has a set amount of time (usually seven minutes) to teach the band a completely new song that the band has never seen or played before. The students have only one opportunity to perform the song in front of three judges. The judges give ratings on a scale of One to Five like the Concert Contest. Besides taking the bands performance into account, the judges also consider the directions given from the band director during the explanation period and the students’ response to the director’s instructions.
If a band receives a I – Superior Rating in both the Concert and Sight-Reading portions of the contest, they earn a Sweepstakes Award. Since almost all middle schools in the state of Texas participate in the Concert and Sight-Reading Contest, it is considered the equivalent of a statewide achievement test for Band. (Think STAAR for Band)
Ensemble Contest - End of May
A group contest for all GMS Band students who choose to participate. Students organize into small groups, called ensembles, made up of 2-8 members and select a piece of music to perform. Seventh and Eighth grade students can perform with any other band students from their band. Sixth grade students must perform with students from their class. Each ensemble performs a piece for a judge who gives them a rating on a scale of one to five (One meaning Superior Performance and a Five meaning Poor) and also gives them comments to help them improve. Ensembles do not compete against each other, but rather judged against a set standard. Students are given a copy of their judges comment sheet and a medal if they received a superior rating.
Solo Contest - End of May
This is an individual contest for all GMS Band students who chose to participate. Students select and rehearse music with the help of the band directors and/or their private lesson teacher. The week before the contest each student gets a rehearsal with their accompaniment, or background music. On the day of the contest, the student performs their solo for a judge who gives them a rating on a scale of One to Five and comments to help them improve. Like the Ensemble Contest, students do not compete against each other, but rather judged against a set standard. On the following Monday students are given a copy of their judges comment sheet and a medal whose color is based on the rating they received.
TMEA State Honor Band - Summer
TMEA sponsored completion every two years to find the “State Honor Band” for each classification. All Middle School band are divided into three classifications (C, CC, CCC) based on school enrollment. Bands across the state choose to record as many as five different performances of their concert programs and submit the best of these for consideration at the region, area and state levels. At each level a panel of five judges hears the recorded performances without knowing the school identification. The judges rank the performances from top to bottom and the top 2 at each level advance. Fourteen performances are heard at the final level to select the finalist and the State Honor Band in each class. The Honor Band performs the following year at the Texas Music Educators Convention in San Antonio the following February. This is the highest honor a band can receive in the state of Texas.
Mid-West Concert Contest - Record in March, Results announced in Late April
A contest run in conjunction with the Mid-West Band and Orchestra Convention in Chicago, IL every year. Bands from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan submit recordings of their groups performing two pieces of music. A select group of distinguished directors select the best bands and invites them to perform at the Mid-West Convention. This is one of the highest honors a band can receive.