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Marching Band Competitions: Circuits vs Local Shows

One of the big decisions high school band directors make is the decision of which competitions are appropriate for the program in relationship to the direction in which the program is heading. Regardless of the arguments surrounding the debate of circuit competition and local competitions, the decision ultimately lies in the hands of the Band Director based the future he or she sees for the program. The purpose of this article is not to promote or discourage one from the other but to provide an unbiased list of pros and cons for both local competitions and competitive circuit.


The Pros:

Revenue generated supports a local high school band and/or band booster Many directors wish to support the local economy and this may be a big factor on the decision making.

Evaluation of ensembles is often from local retired or active Band Directors

Quite often the evaluation comes from active and/or retired colleagues whom the director may know. The director may have more incite into the critique given by a colleague than by a stranger.

Local adjudicators may be adjudicating State Competition sponsored by State Band Directors Association. Quite often local competitions will try to book adjudicators involved in the state Band Directors Association State Marching Band Festival. This could be an invaluable tool in preparing the ensemble for state festival.

Amicable local rivalries develop. Local rivalries are inevitable and can be quite fun for the students and the director.

Greater flexibility in scheduling which competitions to attend.

Because the director is not committed to a defined schedule set by a governing body, he or she may find more flexibility when preparing the fall schedule.

Single-day commitment with no required over-night travel

(Pro for Director) For the director wishing to be home more, this is a big plus.

The Cons:

Inconsistency in evaluation criteria from competition to competition Quite often the criteria by which one competition adjudicates ensemble performance differs significantly from other competitions. Veteran teachers can attest to making changes to a show based on adjudicator critiques only to have another set of adjudicators suggest an approach contradicting previous evaluation. However, with experience and careful planning, a director can choose a schedule of competitions which evaluate within certain parameters.

Inconsistent band classification from competition to competition. Each competition classifies bands using a system appropriate for that individual competition. Directors should be prepared to be in different classes depending on the competitions chosen.


The Pros:

Consistent Rubric for evaluation from competition to competition One of the biggest draws to circuit competition is the consistency in evaluation from competition to competition. Using a consistent rubric allows the director to effectively track progress throughout the marching season.

Adjudicators come from across the US and are unbiased by local opinions. We have all met directors who complain about local bias. If a director feels strongly about this issue, a circuit competition would be a good alternative since adjudicators come from a larger area to the competitions.

Large Competition Venues

(Pro-Football Stadiums, Large College Stadiums) Marching in a Professional Football teams stadium can be an awesome experience for high school students (not to mention a great lesson in projecting sound).

Consistent band classification from competition to competition. Circuits set up guidelines for band classification. So even in the odd circumstance you go to a competition where your band is the only band in that class, you don’t need to worry about being bumped into a larger or smaller class.

Provides State, Regional, and National rankings for Marching Program Each of the top circuits has a ranking system for each classification and/or overall rankings for State and National competition. Bring home a State, Regional, or National Championship title can be very rewarding to the program as well as source of pride for the band, school, and community.

Regional and National Competitions provide travel opportunities for band members (Travel can be a student motivation and recruitment tool). Overnight travel can be a valuable recruitment and retention tool for a program. Travel also builds camaraderie and team work for the ensemble.

The Cons:

Evaluation rubric may not be consistent with State Competition sponsored by State Band Directors Association. Because circuits develop a rubric to be used nation wide, the evaluation system employed by the circuit may not line up with the rubric adopted by your state’s Band Directors Association.

Smaller percentage of revenue generated goes to support local band. Obviously, national circuits intend to make a profit. That being the case, competition profit is split between local hosts and the circuit. However, event sanctioned by circuits may generate a larger number of participating bands.

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