USSBA Introduces Criteria-Based Judging System for Class A Bands

Educational Perspective Will Help A Bands Thrive

A hallmark of the US Scholastic Band Association has always been the offering of two competitive levels for participating bands. Now, for the first time, the USSBA judging criteria will reflect these differences and provide feedback which is specific to the educational needs of each classification.

“It is the same concept which has been used in the USSBA indoor circuit for the past two years,” explained USSBA Acting Director Rich Hammond. “You wouldn’t hold an AP English student to the same grading rubric as a student in basic English. This is the same concept. By judging bands on skills relating to their class and learning process the judges and the system are providing the bands fair tools to develop and improve.”

The new sheets will still utilize a box scoring system, as well as the weekly sliding scores that the USSBA has been a trademark of the USSBA. The difference will be that the skills adjudicated on the new Class A sheets will be basic to intermediate skills with basic to intermediate mastery. The new Open Class sheets will outline intermediate to advanced skills and mastery.


“This is something we have been using for two years in the USSBA Indoor circuit and it has proven to be a most effective tool for everything we are trying to accomplish,” elaborated USSBA staffer Courtney Beard. “It gives each level of program clear, specific, attainable goals to better themselves. The goal of the USSBA has always been to help band programs improve by using adjudication as an educational tool. After two years in indoor it was clear to us that criteria based judging is a stronger tool.”

“I’m thrilled with the adjustment,” commented USSBA judging coordinator Gino Cipriani, who is the brass caption head for the World Champion Cadets. “It allows for multiple things. Criteria-based adjudication will allow for more effective numbers management. Previously we’ve had to fit A and Open bands into the same 100-point scale.  By treating each class separately it expands the scores available to each judge resulting in more accurate and consistent numbers placement.”

Cipriani added, “Another big point for me is that it allows the judges to fairly be able to delineate and identify when an A band has grown in to an Open program.  In the past the jump from A to Open has been based on a number, now the transition will have defined, educational value.”

The USSBA is leading the way with the new system, “Most organizations have varied levels of competition but the USSBA is the first marching band circuit that I know of offering this kind of class-tailored feedback.  It’s something new,” remarked Youth Education in the Arts CEO and founder of the USSBA, George Hopkins.  “The USSBA is dedicated to providing bands with what they need to achieve at the highest level and I consider this change to be a significant improvement toward that end when compared to what we have been doing.”

With the two classes being treated completely separately the top 10 percent of the scale will no longer be virtually off-limits for Class A bands.  The change in the adjudication system is one of several features in the 2011 USSBA dedicated to improving the experience for bands of all levels.

USSBA band relations representative Jon Swengler explained, “We added an Class A National Championship and at the same time expanded our offering of the DeMoulin Challenge series, events which we know strongly appeal to our Open Class bands. Every member of a band deserves to have a fabulous experience regardless of their program’s level. Everything that we’ve done is working toward that end.”

Currently undergoing final revisions the new sheets will be available for download on the USSBA website in the next week.  For questions or comments contact Rich Hammond via email:


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