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These are frequently asked questions about our upcoming Band and Orchestra Festival performance.


What is Festival? The Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA), the oldest association of its type in the US, established the Festival system in the mid 1930’s to provide an annual means for school bands and orchestras to be judged by knowledgeable and independent adjudicators, on a statewide standard. Although it’s not a competition per se in that there isn’t a “winner”, there is a comparative aspect to the festival, which is why band and orchestra are flighted by school size. It is our sole objective evaluative tool for our programs – sort of the “Band and Orchestra MEAP”.


How does it work? Each group performs a program of three pieces in a high school auditorium for three judges. Bands must play a march, a piece of a Required Music List published by the MSBOA, and a selected piece. String orchestras must play a piece off the Required list and two pieces of their choosing. The judges grade the groups in the areas of Tone, Intonation, Rhythm, Technique, and Interpretation. The grades are compiled and a rating of I through V is given, with a I being the highest and V the lowest (corresponding to grades of A through E). The judge’s ratings are then averaged for a Final Concert Rating. Then the group is led into a different room where they have their Sight Reading portion of the Festival, and are judged by a Sight Reading judge. The Sight Reading rating and the Concert Rating are averaged for a Final rating.


What is Sight Reading? Put simply, Sight Reading is performing music you have never seen before. Students are given a folder with 1 selection in it – We have 5 minutes to discuss the piece, sing it, finger it, talk about it; anything but actually play our instruments. We then perform the piece for a judge. It’s a real test of the students’ knowledge. Although it’s a bit scary, it’s a great experience and parents generally find it to be a lot of fun to watch.


Where do the judges come from? The MSBOA has a list of judges from which the panel is selected by the Festival chair. All judges must undergo a screening process at the District and State level, must have taught successfully for at least 7 years, must have at least 2 letters of recommendation, and must go through a training workshop in order to be certified to judge. They’re all current or retired band and orchestra directors – no parent or “off the street” judges at Festival!!


Can parents go? YES!!!! After all the hard work our students have put into this performance, it is very gratifying to have an appreciative audience there to hear us. There is no admission charge, and parents are welcome to follow the band into Sight Reading as well – it’s pretty intense, and I’m sure you’ll get a kick out it.


Do the kids wear their uniform? YES!! White West Hills shirt, black pants, black shoes, black socks. Judges are always impressed with a group that looks sharp, and are ALWAYS unimpressed by white socks,  non-uniform pants and shoes, etc. Therefore, for the good of the ensembles only students who are in uniform will perform.


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