A primary cornerstone of the educational benefits of music festivals held annually throughout our nation is the quality of adjudication that is provided for the performing organizations and student musicians. The purpose of this adjudication is not simply to assign a division rating or pick a winner, but rather to provide a concise evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each musical demonstration and offer recommendations for continued musical growth. These critiques, which can address both concert and sight-reading skills, deal almost exclusively with those components of musical literacy that lie at the core of the curriculum for school music. As such, the actual adjudication is a true extension of the classroom and a valuable component of the music education process.
The adjudication of any music competition is often taken for granted since the behind-the-scenes arrangements for judges takes place weeks, and even months, before the actual event. Also forgotten is the fact that the majority of those best qualified to evaluate music performances come from the rank and file of music educators who daily work with music students in their respective schools. These teachers give significant time and often travel extreme distances for minimal compensation in order to serve as judges for music contests. Without their willingness to serve in this capacity, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to provide a level of adjudication that is required for these events.
The benefits of contest participation and adjudication are not one-sided. It is assumed that the students will benefit from the critique, but seldom noted is the fact that any contest experience offers the potential for a significant growth experience on the part of the judges as well. The exercise of judging heightens hearing and communication skills – skills that are invaluable in the classroom and rehearsal hall. In short, judging experiences enhance one's ability to be a successful, productive teacher. Consequently, school administrators should look with favor upon opportunities for members of their music faculty to serve as judges.
While most contests take place on Saturday, there are some exceptions due to economics or logistics. Judges for these contests find it necessary to make arrangements with their school administration to be away from their own campus and cover their normal teaching responsibilities in order to accept such a judging assignment. Under these circumstances, school administrators are encouraged to respond favorably when faculty members ask permission to serve as an adjudicator. Such action demonstrates a sensitivity to the scheduling needs of educational competition, an appreciation of the importance of having qualified judges for the participants in these events and an awareness of the valuable experiences that teachers who serve as judges bring back to their own classroom and students. The result will be the continued availability of highly qualified adjudicators and enriching experiences for our music educators.