DMC – Commentary from a retired director

District Music contest week is always an interesting one for music programs in the state.  Is it a competition?  Is it education?  Is it a way to evaluate music programs or the directors?

Unfortunately we (directors, administrators, parents, and the public) tend to put it into competition because it is sponsored by the NSAA and most of us understand the competition aspect of school athletics/activities.  So at the end of the day it’s who got how many 1’s from what school.  Arrgh!  District music can and should be used as a way to get critical feedback for directors, ensembles, and individuals.  There are many things we as performers and directors can learn so that when we perform the music with greatest chance to effectively move both the listener and the performer. My opinion….the ratings should be given to the directors and performers but not published.  Music should not be used for competition.  What happens to music when the competition is gone?  Will you still want to perform or appreciate it?  I hope so.  Congratulations to all the students I saw perform last week that sang with joy in their face, reflecting the specific quality of the music.  Regardless of your rating, you are the winners!

I don’t mind the ratings, and the evaluations are a must…just that they are published. By publishing them for all to see that’s when the importance of what we do is misdirected. Speaking of the ratings….I would have loved to add a decimal to the rating. A “1” is the best, not quite as good as a 1.4, or a 1.8, etc. Decimals would add more credibility to the ranking. All of my “1’s” were not equal. I do feel that it is up to us to educate and advocate our music programs to our administrators, school boards, parents, and the communities we live in. I would hope that instead of us moving toward their understanding of the purpose our activity (competition) would shift to what is really important (cooperation and education). Activities and music are the life blood of the school and the reason many stay in school. Let’s be set apart from the rest. Music for music’s sake.

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