"Many judges could well disagree with what I am about to say, as judging - by its very nature - is a personal thing. I have found huge differences between brass band players and those that play in an orchestra, and this more so outside of the UK. I have also been lucky in that most judging where there has been two or three people in the box has led to very similar, if not identical, results.
As bands head into their final week of preparations for UniBrass 2022, trombonist, adjudicator, and UniBrass Trustee Brett Baker gives us an insight into what adjudicators are looking for and how bands can best prepare.
What's the best approach?
Rob Wiffin puts it like this: "Follow the 'Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs' approach, in that basics come first, then intermediate issues, then finally interpretation, delivery and high-level considerations.
This leads to more questions...
What are the basics? Generally, for me at least, they would be; playing together, being balanced, and - most importantly - making a good sound. You can play all the right notes, but if it does not sound good then what is the point?
Balance and ensemble issues often separate out bands, but this for me is the essence of band playing. To 'play as one' is not about individuals, except when there are solos and cadenzas to judge.
What approaches do adjudicators have?
Sometimes adjudicators look for what is not good, and take points off for split notes, rather than giving bands credit for what is good. Personally I do not count split notes, but if someone is having a bad day and the performance is nervy then this is a factor.
What do I look for as a band adjudicator?
A band should:
Firstly: play together, with the same articulation and be balanced. To me, this means the relevant tunes comes out of the texture. If a band clearly cannot play the piece in front of them then they are not going to score very highly. Also, if they can play the pieces in front of them but not convincingly, then again they are not going to score very highly.
Secondly: tuning and intonation issues should be minimal; the band should have a consistent sound and approach, and should show dynamic, articulation differences and musical intention regarding phrasing and musical shape.
Thirdly: I want to go on a journey in a performance. I want to be entertained and moved, and for a band to stir emotions. I do not want to be bored!
Am I asking a lot of bands at UniBrass? Maybe so! Safe can be boring, safe can also be necessary - so it depends on context. You know your band best.
What should bands think about when approaching a competition?
I suggest bands play to their strengths, enjoy what they play, and aim to impress and entertain without becoming tacky.
There will be a fine balance, but in the end, a considered thoughtful and sincere approach will always in my opinion do well.
Good luck to all bands competing at #UniBrass22!