Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Show Choir Judging

One of the regulars on the forums initiated a discussion about requirements to be a judge. This is a very interesting topic for me, but I'm not going to argue it with a bunch of high schoolers on a web forum.  I can't really tell you what I want in a show choir judge other than to say that they should have experience in SHOW CHOIR.

Sure it's nice to be able to say you have a judge that is a Broadway star or that they've danced with Desmond Richardson's company, but I want them to understand our medium.  Too many times I've seen a competition hire a judge who has vocal training and no show choir experience and it turns out badly. (Onalaska 2004 anyone?) Their scores are almost always waaaaaaayyyyy out of whack when compared to the other more experienced judges.

Some people would tell you they want their judges to have a college degree in music or dance or some other performance related field.  I don't personally think that's necessary if they have equivalent experience.  I don't have a college degree, but I feel I'm more than qualified to judge show choir thanks to my 25+ years working with one and learning the ins and outs of what makes them great.  My only problem with judging a competition is that my ADD would probably cause me to lose interest after about 5 or 6 groups.  One of these years I'm going to sit with the judges on the Urbandale panel and score the entire day of shows just to see if I can do it and to see if my results match up with the other "official" judges.

The other big topic in show choir judging is the scoring system.  I prefer for the judges to actually use a score sheet for both prelims and finals so they are judging the product on the stage and not solely their personal preference.  I'm a big fan of the "Fehr Fair" system of scoring.  It is a ranking based scoring system that bows to the consensus of the panel, but in order for it to be effective you need a fairly good sized group of judges.  The judges score on a score sheet and their scores are converted to a rank (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.).  In most ranking based systems those ranks are then totaled to get your result.

For example:

Group A's Ranks:  1 1 2 5 1 2 = 11
Group B's Ranks:  2 2 1 1 2 2 = 10
Group C's Ranks:  3 3 3 3 4 3 = 19
Group D's Ranks:  4 4 4 5 4 5 = 26 a traditional ranking system Group B would be the champion because they had the lowest aggregate total thanks to the 4th judge giving Group A 5th place.  However, that doesn't reflect the consensus of the judges.  In the Fehr Fair system you start by determining which group received the most 1st place ranks.  In this case Group A is your champion nullifying the unusually low ranking given by one judge.  You continue in that manner looking for the group that received the most 2nd place ranks, etc.  There are more complex tie-breakers, but that's it in a nutshell.

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