An overhaul of DCI's current judging system is at the center
of this year's annual winter business meeting in Chicago.
There is only one rules-related proposal on the docket at Drum Corps International's annual winter business meetings that will take place Jan. 19-22, in the Chicago area; the consideration of a new judging system that was trialed this past summer. Spearheaded by DCI Artistic Director Michael J. Cesario, who was charged by the voting member corps with the task, this might be the most scrutinized and discussed systems change ever regarding how DCI corps are judged. What will be presented to corps directors, judges and instructors this coming weekend has been seriously considered and tweaked since the Fall of 2010. The proposed system looks to simplify the judging sheets utilized by adjudicators to determine and record their scores. The first incarnation of these sheets was put into use during DCI's 2011 Tour of Champions event series. After further refinement, they were then trialed by "ghost judging panels" as the season progressed, notably at the DCI Premier Events in San Antonio and Atlanta, and at the World Championships in Indianapolis. The purpose of these ghost panels was not to see if the scores under the new system would align with those awarded by the actual panels, but to determine if the sheets were indeed easier and clearer to use. As such, no one ever saw the results of the ghost panels' scores. Why is this happening, and why is it happening now? "It's been a long time since we had an overhaul of the entire judging system," Cesario says. "It's time for us to reexamine, refresh and renew what we value and how we want that rewarded." According to Cesario, certain words used on the current judges' sheets—over time—have taken on different meanings, resulting in a need to sort out the intent of these words in a contemporary context. In some cases, different words now present a more concise way of expressing a comment or thought than those used 20 years ago. One benefit of this is that it is believed these clarified sheets will allow for better recruitment of new qualified judges and a better retention rate of DCI's best judges. Also, Cesario asserts that these new sheets will be much more accessible to the drum corps fan. "The fans will be able to look at the sheets and understand what is being stated. They will see how the Music and Visual sheets parallel each other ... where they are the same and where they are different," he said. In defining this new system, many configurations of judging panels were considered, including the use of an Overall General Effect judge and different numbers of judges in many different combinations. In the end, things won't change as dramatically as they may sound. The sheets settled upon for voting at the upcoming annual meeting include General Effect Visual, General Effect Music, Visual Analysis, Visual Proficiency, Color Guard, Music Analysis, Music Brass, and Music Percussion. Charged with developing this new system has been DCI's Rules and Systems Task Force, which is comprised of eight instructor members and two advisers, with an equal number of music and visual instructors represented. To this mix is added an Open Class representative and a chair, plus two advisers from the judging community who are experienced in the way total systems are put together, as well as the Judge Administrator and six judge liaisons. Should this new system be approved by the voting member corps this weekend, there will be multiple judge-training seminars scheduled in the spring to prepare all adjudicators, old and new, prior to being implemented this summer. In addition, supplemental materials will accompany each new sheet, offering further vocabulary, detail and interpretation of how to use each sheet. They'll also include such clarifications for judges as to the meaning of a tenth of a point when awarding a score and how to utilize each tenth to more adequately make distinctions between groups. The underlying idea behind all of this is to take the judging process and turn it into a simpler, clearer and stronger process. "It's an aspirational change, opening up opportunities for corps to be rewarded for new things they bring to the field in both design and performance," Cesario said. "It opens up the process for rewarding things we haven't even thought of yet. It should allow the judges to have open minds to whatever is being presented. We want to stimulate a blend of great shows and great performances." Details on this proposed judging system will be reported on once it is voted on this weekend.