Bringing the elements of student engaged Arts-based learning into a multi-disciplinary schooling environment supporting formative assessments of rubric-defined criteria, PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities), peer instruction, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication in a nine-state regional cohort sound like a dream scenario for any 21st century effective learning theorist implementing school transformational models. Yet, these descriptors are components of the framework for the Tournament of Bands (TOB) organization, part of the educational platform of the National Judges Association, now in its fiftieth year serving school bands and directors in the United States. In March of this year, the TOB Rules Congress established the Mountain State Chapter of TOB, combining WV counties from two chapters into one state-wide organization. With this action, every county (school system) in WV can now adopt the learning outcomes mentioned above as their strategy for developing excellence for the students participating in their school’ marching band, aligning all school systems under one set of criteria whereby establishing a truly connected state learning circuit for marching band (music outcomes), also known as Pageantry Arts.
School marching bands engage in the TOB framework by participating in performance arenas on Saturdays throughout the fall. The “Band Shows” are divided into four groups (I, II, III, IV) of participants based on the number of instrumentalist in the band and can select from one of three levels of engagement: Festival (non-competitive), Class A (competitive level designed for emerging programs) and Open Class (competitive level on a national standard known as TOB linear). The National Judges Association (NJA) provides highly qualified adjudicators, the operational format/rules and criteria (judging forms) for show hosts. Most TOB shows are hosted by band boosters as a fundraising activity for their band. At the “end of the day”…after the bands’ performances, judges critique and trophy awards, band students will have engaged in a meaningful learning activity, many shows often providing enriching experiences that last a lifetime.
What does this mean for music students in West Virginia?
Marching band contests are not new in WV. Just about every fall festival throughout the state hosts a competitive marching band event – either a parade or field show (football field) or both and has done so for over 40 years. Bands vying to “be the best” often travel far distances to engage in shows that embrace excellence in supporting pageantry arts. However, each show may have a separate set of criteria by which the bands are judged. Additionally, judges are often selected by their experience as teachers. If ranking and rating are the only goals of a show host, this system works fairly well. However, in this age of heighten accountability and every school organization competing for limited finds, school bands and their directors are looking for additional learning outcomes for the dollars spent to participate. The Mountain State Chapter of TOB provides the sustainable framework for pageantry arts excellence in adjudication and assessment on a state-wide and regional stage, providing the high level of accountability many school music programs now embrace. (TOB also provides learning arenas for Indoor Color Guard, Indoor Percussion and Jazz Bands.)
With the advent of the structured TOB growth model in music assessment and pageantry arts, WV bands are now poised to select state-wide champions, an outcome deemed unattainable under the “silo system” (every show isolated) of marching band adjudication used since the early 70’s. In the first ever TOB Mountain State (Chapter 13) Championships held October 23 at Lewis County High School, bands from 13 counties competed for the top spots in their classes. By virtue of their final chapter championship scores, seven bands from the Mountain State Chapter continued to compete at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in Hershey, PA. A first year chapter accomplishing such a feat is very remarkable and reflects the hard work and dedication of the students, directors and parents to achieve excellence in competitive Pageantry Arts. The TOB leadership in WV aspires to have bands representing a majority of the 55 counties at the chapter championships in the very near future…constituting a true West Virginia State Marching Band Championship. (Results of the Chapter 13 and ACC championships can be found at the NJA/TOB website: http://www.njatob.org/fall/fall-results )
About the author: Bob Dunkerley has been a certified NJA band adjudicator since 1993 and was a band director/music teacher/administrator in WV public school for 34 years. Currently Bob resides in Elkins with his wife Karen and is President/CEO of Helianthus LLC, a professional education consulting group.