5 Things to Consider as you Prepare for a Band Festival

By Dennis Ullmanm, C.M.F.A.A.

What should first time festival participants, both students and directors, keep at the foremost of their minds when preparing for a festival?

Festival participants should focus on performing well, hearing great music and learning how to improve their overall musicality. The best performances demonstrate a variety in repertoire. The performance should focus on playing with great intonation while maintaining proper balance and blend. Ensure that the melody is heard at all times.   An ensemble that performs with varied levels of dynamics is always enjoyable to hear.


Aside from the excitement and motivation of being adjudicated, what are some of the other benefits every participant will receive from participating in a music festival?

It is important for students and teachers to dedicate some time hearing the other ensembles. If clinics are available, students should take advantage of the opportunity to learn from others – even their peers provide some great ideas.


How much do you see student or director nervousness affecting their performances? Is this a major factor, in your opinion?

One main area that may be negatively impacted by nervousness and anxiety is the concept of proper breath support. All in all, anxiety does not usually impact an entire performance, once the performance begins everyone tends to settle into the concert. It is recommended that all tuning be completed in the warm up room and not on stage. The performance of a short chorale is beneficial prior to the performance of the festival repertoire and does help to minimize performance anxiety.


As an adjudicator, can you tell when a band is playing music that is too easy for them, perhaps because they are worried about making a poor showing?

The choice of repertoire is a task that should be given serious consideration. For example, jazz ensembles are encouraged to play swing, ballad and Latin funk – be sure to include improvised solos. Concert band repertoire should include a lyrical selection along with a march, transcription, or something that is contrasting to the first two selections.

Adjudicators have differing opinions regarding this issue. Personally, I would prefer to hear a band perform music with confidence and expressiveness. It is much more encouraging to recommend that a band start performing music at the next level, rather than telling them a selection appeared to be too difficult for the band to perform in a truly musical manner. Bands performing music that is too difficult often have challenges keeping the tempo/groove consistent and often the balance and intonation are very weak. Having one selection that is more challenging than the others demonstrates that the band is striving to improve.

One more tip: it is appreciated if all of the measures are numbered on each score. This makes for easy reference when adjudicators are making comments and enables them to focus more on listening and less on trying to find a reference point to support a comment.


Dennis Ullman

Mr. Ullman has worked extensively in music education and performance for over 30 years. He has adjudicated at regional music festivals, Canada’s Wonderland School Music Festival and affiliate festivals of MusicFest Canada, is a member of MusicFest Canada Division Committee and is Regional Co-ordinator for OCM. Mr. Ullman is a member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association.

Recordings include Kawartha Jazz Ensemble’s “Duke’n It Out”. He is currently performing with Icy Redd and Reddemption Road. More information is available at www.drumsinc.ca or via drums@sympatico.ca .


This article is reprinted courtesy of Greater Hamilton Musician Ezine, a new publication dedicated to boosting and connecting musicians and music in the Greater Hamilton Area.

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