Prior to the Tour of Championships event last week in Houston, Texas, I was able to enjoy a long conversation with several judges regarding the prototype judging system being employed for Tour of Champions Series events this season. During the Southwestern Championship weekend in San Antonio, DCI Artistic Director Michael Cesario joined me to further explain some of the reasons for trying out the experimental system. Cesario has spent several months providing guidance to an instructor-led task force. This group is still in the process of developing the prototype system, which is intended to provide a fresh approach to the manner in which corps are judged. It's important to realize that this prototype system is not necessarily what will be proposed to the corps directors at the upcoming DCI Annual Meeting in January. After trial and research, some elements of the system may be altered or even deleted prior to the presentation, and although it may seem unlikely at the moment, it's even possible the entire system as now utilized could be abandoned in favor of something else entirely. By the time the rules are presented as proposals at the 2012 Annual Meeting, they will have been researched, analyzed and evaluated for more than a year. The specific system currently being used in trials has been developed and examined for several months and was one of four systems that were introduced to corps directors, designers and instructors at the 2011 Annual Meeting. The eight corps participating in the Tour of Champions event series agreed to be judged under this prototype system for each of the five Series events, allowing all involved to get a good read on how such a system might work for the entirety of corps participating in Drum Corps International-sanctioned events in the future. To the seasoned observer, one thing that will likely jump out in the eight-judge recaps are two new "Design" captions that replace the current two "Ensemble" captions under the "Visual" and "Music" headings. On first glimpse, these captions seem to evaluate the creative results of the designers, but they are intended to go far beyond that, and don't really bleed over into what the General Effect captions accomplish. Also, under the "Visual" heading, the word "Performance" has been replaced by "Proficiency."

A look back at the Tour of Champions Series event Friday, July 22 in Houston.

By the time the final system is proposed for the next Annual Meeting, there might even be something else in place of these new captions as this is a system that is fluid and evolving based on consideration, evaluation and feedback. So, what is the purpose of proposing a new system of adjudication? There are many benefits: To recruit new judges and a new audience, DCI must utilize a judging system that is highly understandable and fan-friendly. The new system is designed to be easier to use and easier to understand due to its overall simplicity and the sense of direction offered to the judges. The new systems are written in educational terms that are more easily and universally understood than the current system which has evolved over the past several decades. Consequently, the system allows both new and veteran judges to start on the same page, providing an opportunity to update judges' training across the board and establish a unified philosophy from and for directors, instructors and judges. The system will be geared to provide easier comprehension for the audience. When fans look at the scores and recap sheets, they'll find it easier to understand how the scores were determined and presented to each corps. Seasoned fans and newcomers alike will be more aware of how the marks were derived without having to intensely educate themselves about the intricacies of the judging sheets. Comprehensive materials will be developed and distributed, providing direction on how to properly use the sheets, fully explaining each caption in "plain English" terms. These materials will be published in digital form, making it easier to share with the community of drum corps fans who wish to dig deeper into the system. It is felt by many that what we currently have is the most effective system for judging corps from the past. Corps performance levels have advanced so far that the corps have outgrown the systems created to reward their efforts. What is being trialed in prototype form during the Tour of Champions series is a system for tomorrow, one that is designed from the ground up to be flexible enough to change with the corps as the corps and drum corps activity continue to evolve.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.