Evaluate the First Band Without Holding Scores

Question: It seems from looking at many events and contests that bands who have the unfortunate luck of going first seem to be at a distinct disadvantage. History seems to support this assumption. How do you evaluate the “first” band to go without holding scores?

Answer: While I can’t speak for all judges, I’ve always approached each show with an attitude of “who is going to show up and want to win today?” If the first band out of the gate lays down a great performance that is lighting up the crowd and meeting all the criteria, I most definitely want to reward them for their efforts. After scanning over the back of the sheet, I will assign their score based on the criteria, and ONLY based on the criteria. I don’t know nor do I really care what they received last week, or even last year. I’m judging the show for that day. That band then sets the standard for the rest of that class or contest. Everyone else would need to meet or exceed that same standard. If they don’t, then they would be ranked lower in my caption. Now, here is where this can sometimes cause a fluctuation in numbers. If Band #1 out of a 30 band show has a great show, let’s say I score them at an 85 in my caption (again based on the criteria). My dilemma now is that I potentially have another 29 bands that may need to fit into my remaining 15 points if indeed they are all better than Band #1. This may cause a compression in scores due to the spread from band to band (I’ll be using tenths of a point vs. whole points). Should I score Band #1 lower and “leave room” for the other 29 bands? No – my number for Band #1 wouldn’t then match the tape commentary I’ve given them nor correctly reflect their level of achievement. Numbers management is one of the hardest things to master in judging. Just a few weeks ago, I judged a show where the first two bands that appeared in an 8-band class ended up finishing first and second. None of us on the panel had seen them before, but the performances that they gave warranted the numbers that they received.

– Mark Culp