Marching Program Holistic Scoring

In 2004, the staff members of the Chicago Voxitatis, in consultation with music educators and drawing on scoring rubrics used in other states and by other organizations, developed a general-purpose scoring rubric for evaluating marching band programs in place at high schools across the United States. I have published the revised guidelines below.

Level 5: Exemplary (Very competitive)

If the band competes, the band often places in the top group (say, top 20 percent or top five bands).

The work ethic and discipline of the students and staff show a desire for continuous improvement.

In music and maneuvers, complexity is often attempted and almost always achieved.

The group fully and consistently integrates marching maneuvers with musical selection to complete an artistic or aesthetic expression.

Level 4: Good (High, lacks element integration)

The show is very entertaining, from an artistic standpoint, both musically and visually.

The group demonstrates evidence of a solid work ethic.

All elements of the performance work well to support the theme, but integration of those elements may be incomplete in some small way or show evidence of gaps or flaws.

Students build and develop patterns in music and marching, and execution of music (e.g., ensemble playing, dynamics, intonation, articulation) and marching (e.g., body and instrument carriage, sharpness, ensemble form) mostly conforms to standards established by the governing organization.

Level 3: Conceptual (Lacks higher-level skills)

The field show uses music and/or visuals to adequately express a theme or aesthetic idea.

The group’s members routinely apply a good work ethic.

Although some elements may be good, other areas may have deficiencies, such as musical performance, visual performance, or general effect.

High-scoring elements roughly balance out the low-scoring elements.

Level 2: Minimal (Several components unaddressed)

Support in the performance for thematic or artistic elements is minimally effective and may show evidence of serious deficiencies.

The work ethic of some members may not provide positive encouragement for others.

There may be very little movement, poor musical execution, or no attempt to develop aesthetic or artistic expression.

Overall, relatively few high-scoring elements in the show fail to compensate for those elements that would merit only very low scores from adjudicators.

Level 1: Deficient (Low or None)

Although the school has a band program, there may be no marching band.

If a marching band exists, the work ethic is poor.

Review by judges would do little to improve the quality.

Level 0: (N/A)

The school does not have a band program at all.

Purpose of This Rubric

We hope that students can use this rubric to evaluate your program, the program at other schools, and professional, competitive or show organizations. We believe this is in keeping with goals set forth in fine arts education by the Illinois State Board of Education and other state and federal agencies.

As with most rubric-based scoring, even in other content areas of the curriculum, the number of bands that meet most of the Level 3 descriptors will be large, while those meeting most of the Level 5 and Level 1 descriptors will be low. A traditional bell curve is expected.

Furthermore, a band’s score in one area of the performance, such as individual music, may be in the “4” range while another component, such as ensemble marching, may be in the “2” range, resulting in an overall, holistic score of about “3.” In addition to this type of balancing, holistic scoring also uses a range within each score point. For example, some bands performing at Level 4 will be much better than other bands that also perform at Level 4. We often represent this as comparing a 4.8 with a 4.1 band. It’s still a “4” band.

We welcome your comments to this rubric, in the interest of developing improvements through the years.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.