Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Subjective Tense

Obviously, there are a lot of differences between musical and athletic competition.

But the primary difference is one of scoring.

In athletics, there is no question who has scored the most goals, runs, baskets, touchdowns, you name it.

But scoring in musical competition is by its nature subjective. Judges, experts all, decide who "sounded better," a subjective decision if ever there was one.
Photos by Evan Brandt
The Pottstown High School Jazz Band prepares to perform Friday.

Certainly, they have done what they can to create a structure within which the scoring occurs.

So, as the announcer explained Friday night at the 26th Annual Cavalcade of Bands Jazz Band Championships at Souderton Area High School, the judges are required to score each band on such variables as tone and timing, phrasing and syncopation.

But in the end, it's still inherently subjective. I like blueberries more than raspberries and if I'm judging a pie contest, I don't care how good the crust is on the raspberry pie, I'm going to lean blueberry.

Whatever subjectivity the judges bring to any particular competition, a parent and a member of a school community is going to be more than subjective. They (I) will be positively biased. That's why they aren't the judges.

That said, there are those in the Pottstown Jazz Band community who nevertheless found themselves bewildered by the "Outstanding" rating given to the Pottstown players Friday night.

Understand, only a "Superior" rating is above "Outstanding," so it is nothing to sneeze at. But it was nevertheless difficult to understand given the context of the performances observed.
The Cavalcade of Bands has been invited to send
a marching band to the next Rose Bowl Parade.
This is the uniform, which was on display Friday night.

Not having seen any of the other bands that played before Cheltenham, I have no comment or complaint about their ratings.

Nor do I dispute that both Cheltenham and Perkiomen Valley deserved the "Superior" rating they received. They were both top notch.

But so was Pottstown.

I know I cannot claim complete objectivity, nor do I make any claim to it. But as a journalist I do have some experience with practicing objectivity.

I am not shy about acknowledging when Pottstown performs poorly or gets it wrong and from my vantage point, Pottstown's performance was crisp and tight and as good as I've ever heard them play, and I have heard every one of their performances this year.

But I can argue until I'm blue in the face. So I say don't take my word for it. Make up your own mind.

By chance both Souderton, which also received an "Outstanding" rating, and Pottstown played the same piece of music -- "Two Seconds to Midnight" -- Friday night, so an apples-to-apples comparison is possible.

Here is Souderton's performance:

And here is Pottstown's:

Did those two performances seem to be worthy of an equal rating to you?

If so, then you've probably stopped reading by now and have already chalked this post up to sour grapes. That is your prerogative.

This is the hat for Cavalcade's Rose Bowl Band
If they did not seem equal, even if you thought Souderton's to be the better performance, it does leave one wondering how they could both receive the same rating does it not?

Perhaps the answer is subjective.

Anyway, enough about that.

The highlight of last night's competition was the All-Star Jazz Band Souderton Jazz Band Director Adam Tucker put together to play three songs while the judges compiled their scores.

I'm posting their three performances here as something that has not already been posted on this blog multiple times.

As usual, I have posted video recordings of all three Pottstown performances, as well as all three performances by Perkiomen Valley, which was the only other local band competing and played very well.

Additionally, I have added the three All-Star performances and Souderton's as well to a playlist on my YouTube channel, which I have posted below.

Pottstown trombonist Sherif Mohamed as well as saxophonists Tamer Mohamed and Marley Bryan were among those chosen for the All-Star Band.

Since all the names of all the performers were not listed in the program, I can't list them here. But I was savvy enough to record Tucker's recitation of all the names prior to the first number, "Vine Street Rumble."

The second number the played will be familiar to Pottstown Jazz Band veterans, "The Running of the Bulls," which was part of Pottstown's repertoire last year.

Sadly, although my battery lasted until the end of the performance, my recording capacity did not and the last 40 seconds or so of the final number, "Birdland" was cut off. My apologies to the band members and lovers of jazz for poor camera storage management.

Friday night's competition at Souderton, which looks more like a wing of the Smithsonian than a public high school built, was in the Maynard Ferguson Division

The same night, at New Hope-Solebury High School, the Glenn Miller Division held their championships. It did not include any local bands.

Saturday night, the Woody Herman Division will be held at New Hope-Solebury High School, with Methacton being the only local band to compete.

At Souderton, the Duke Ellington Division will compete, which is where you will find the Boyertown Area High School's Big Band, led by Brian Langdon. Good luck to them.

Here are the scores for Friday's Maynard Ferguson competition:

Receiving "Superior" ratings were jazz bands from the following high schools: Bensalem, Radnor, Cheltenham, North Penn Columbia Jazz Band and Perkiomen Valley.

Receiving a "Outstanding" were Penn Wood, Archbishop Ryan, Souderton Lab, Pottstown and Souderton.
  • The Best Rhythm Section Award went to Cheltenham. 
  • The Best Saxophone Section Award went to Cheltenham; 
  • The Best Trumpet Section Award went to Radnor; 
  • The Best Trombone Section Award went to North Penn Columbia;
  • Best Sight Reading Award went to Radnor.
Here are the soloist awards:
  • Best Soloist - Ethan Lee Radnor
  • Best Soloist - Noah Becker Cheltenham
  • Best Soloist - Tajh Williams Penn Wood
  • Best Soloist - Neil Williamson Bensalem
  • Best Soloist - Marley Bryan Pottstown
  • Hon. Mention - Alex Dubuck Arch. Ryan
  • Hon. Mention - Dave Perlman Bensalem
The Overall Champion was Cheltenham who, in my subjective opinion, deserved it. I would say they were "excellent," but that is a lower rating

The judges for the evening were Jim Capolupo, Matt Gallagher and Frank Kosmaceski.

1 comment:

  1. Evan, this is not uncommon. During the 2004 Boyertown Cavalcade, Pottstown put on a great show. Even the people from Boyertown commented that they should win. But when a school wins 3 times, they get to keep the traveling trophy. So another school was up to win a third time. They won and got the trophy for keeps. Everyone was upset, even Boyertown. This is true, I was there. My child was in the band.