Competition Basics – Field Tournament Competitions 101

For new band parents and students, here’s a view of what happens at Field Show Competitions from a parent’s perspective. Hopefully you can get some insight on how important these competitions are and why it’s imperative that students attend the competitions ready for the drill – a missing student would create a hole in the routine and could result in reduced scores for the entire Band and Colorguard which has worked so hard for these competitions.

The football half-time shows are merely dress rehearsal opportunities for the Field Show Tournaments and Competitions. These are sponsored by various High School Band organizations. The biggest organization in our area is the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA). This group is composed of Junior and Senior High School Band and Orchestra Directors.  Some competitions are independent offerings sponsored and scored by the host school. The Surf City competition is independent and the scores earned there are not entered into the SCSBOA compilations.

Bands are judged by a panel of experts – and the difficulty of the music and the show are taken into consideration. There are required movements. Everything is very regimented since these tournaments
and Marching Band originated out of the military tradition. There is little to no flexibility or consideration of circumstances. A few years ago Edison Band and Colorguard was disqualified from receiving any awards simply because the Assistant Band Director touched an amplifier on the field – at the time it was a recently enacted violation that was so obscure none of the Band Directors there had even heard of it! Field Tournament rules can be found at the SCSBOA website listed at the end of this lesson.

Here is how the day transpires:

Students report to school to leave for the Competition. In the past couple of years they’ve come early in street clothes to run thru the drill on our field and then change to uniforms before boarding the bus.

When the Band and Colorguard get to the Field Show location they warm-up. The Roadies get the equipment ready to take to the entrance. About 15-30 minutes before performance, the Band and
Colorguard get into position. Once they are called, they enter the field. They have a limited amount of time to get onto the field. The Roadies drive the cart and equipment onto the track and get everything in position. The Band is given a 4 minute warning. There will be deductions for any time taken over that. The Roadies must leave the area before that time elapses. The Drum Major gets into position and the announcer asks if the Band is ready. The Drum Major salutes the judges to acknowledge readiness and the competition begins.

The field show must fit within certain time and musical parameters. The judges watch very closely to see if the band is synchronized, in step and for the spacing that occurs. They judge the quality of the music performance as well. Another judge or two is dedicated to judging the Color Guard or other Auxiliary.

Competition classes depend on the number of instrumentalists in the Band.  Bands of similar sizes compete against each other, within their class. There are breaks in the competition between class
performances. If a particular class has a large number of bands, the class is often divided into groups of 4 to 6 bands.  No one in the audience is allowed to be seated (nor should anyone leave) during a band performance. There are breaks between categories. After a band performs and marches off the field, the
kids often change into school colors or band tee shirts and get something to eat and sit in the stands to
watch other bands.
Most Competitions and Tournaments give out the all important awards at one time. The Judges’ evaluations are given to the Band Directors at one time. The Band Directors go and add everything up – bands have won prizes by percentages of a point – just like the Olympics. During this period the Directors can challenge mathmatical mistakes only.

The Award Ceremony is a treat unto itself. The Drum Majors, Percussion Captains, and the Auxiliary Captains (Drill Team, Tall Flag and Color Guard) form a horsehoe on the field. Sometimes they start a wave or group visual of some kind. Often their bands will yell at them the traditional: “Hey ________, how do you feel?” and they’ll yell back and accompany it with some kind of routine they’ve established. This quickly becomes a competition of its own. Some bands are extremely regimented and do none of this.

Each size class has 3 or more categories of prizes: Percussion, Auxiliary and general band. First thru Third Prizes are announced – then there is Sweepstakes which is the best of all. All are awarded strictly by the judge’s calculations.

When an award is given, the band’s leadership team steps up to get the trophy and usually does some kind of distinguishing choreographic routine before actually taking it. Sometimes the routines get very complicated. The awarding group also responds with a routine of its own. There’s a lot of saluting going on. After the Award Ceremony is over (and they can take awhile!) the kids board their buses and go home.

The Tournament is hosted by the Band or Band and Colorguard Boosters at that school. They can earn quite a bit of money by charging admission and selling concessions. Most schools have barbeques going and sell homebaked items as well as a variety of pre-packaged food. Funnel cakes and Kettle Corn are big crowd pleasers. The choices are different at each competition.

There are programs available for purchase. Usually there are photos of the bands and auxiliary as well as the program order. The times listed in the program are very accurate.
Attending the Award ceremony is extremely important – and unless there is a major time lapse between performance and the award ceremony, the band always stays for the whole thing. Parents are
encouraged to come and cheer the band on – this is a competition after all!
The SCSBOA website is You can navigate to Field Show Competition schedules, rules and the scores. You can also go to the Solo/Ensemble, Jazz and Band Festivals from that site.

Dana Hills High School Instrumental Music