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A Quick Look: ISSMA Scholastic and Festival Class

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    Marching band is a sacred activity in the Hoosier State, producing the highest caliber groups in the nation and boasting some of the most well-rounded programs anywhere. As we start the 2016 season, it's a good idea to have a refresher on how marching band is organized and judged here in Indiana.

    Next in our series we delve into the world of ISSMA Scholastic Class and ISSMA Festival Class. Lets begin with Scholastic Class!

    An Overview of Scholastic Class

    Scholastic Class began three years ago as an alternative means of competition for programs in Indiana to compete who may not have the resources as other programs in their class or for groups who may be younger and need more time to develop but still want to compete. While Open Class divides their membership by school size, Scholastic Class uses a combination of both school size and band size to make up their enrollment.

    Scholastic A (Large) includes programs who would in Open Class be a Class B or Class A program, BUT cannot have more than 110 total members. Scholastic B (Small) includes programs that would be in Open Class C or Class D but has less than 55 total members.

    At the invitational level, contest hosts can determine if they will have Scholastic Class as a competitive option. If not, Scholastic bands may compete with their Open Class counterparts. While Open Class has qualifiers for their state events, Scholastic Class has events of their own. On October 8th, Scholastic bands compete for ratings at one of three sites (Homestead HS, Jasper HS, Whiteland HS). Those bands who receive a Gold Division Rating qualify for Scholastic Class Finals.

    Scholastic Class Finals is held at Lawrence Central HS and features both classes competing for the title of Scholastic Class Champion. At the end of the night, the top five bands are announced in both Scholastic A and B and the newly named Class Champion receives an invitation to perform in exhibition before Open State Finals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    An Overview of Festival Class

    This classification is for programs who wish to enter into the marching band activity and receive feedback, but do not want to compete. This class was designed for bands that may have limited resources that could include; staff, rehearsal time, facilities, budget, local expectations, etc. The option to compete in Festival Class is open at any invitational, and ISSMA does host two Festival-Only events on October 1st at Crown Point HS and Southport HS. Unlike Open and Scholastic Class, there is no limit to the number of students at a school or number of members in a band, the enrollment possibilities are endless.

    Judging Breakdown

    So, what are these judges looking for? ISSMA utilizes six judge panels in their events. Two music judges; one in the press box and one on the field, two visual judges; one in the press box and one on the field, one music general effect judge; in the press box, and one visual general effect judge; in the press box.

    Music Judges

    Music Ensemble: This judge's purpose is to analyze how and what the band is playing. They take in the performance from the press box and evaluate many aspects of what the band is performing on a macro level. Some things they consider: tone, balance and blend, dynamics, difficulty, and technique.

    Music Individual: This judge analyzes the performance from field level, you may see him / her walking in and around forms as the band performs. This adjudicator is the micro-level lenses as they look and listen to individual tone, performance quality, technique, simultaneous responsibilities, and dynamics.

    Music General Effect: While the previous two judges analyze a performance, the primary motivation for the GE judge is to react to a performance. They take a look (well, listen, rather) to how the music relates to the show and how effectively it translates. They react to the pacing of the program, making sure there is a logical flow and order to a program as well as offering advice to make a program even better.

    Visual Judges

    Visual Ensemble: From the press box, this judge takes a look at "the big picture." They will look at and analyze form control, spacing, horn angles, feet timing, color guard performance / vocabulary (what they are doing), amongst others.

    Visual Individual: Takes a look at the marchers from the field. Individual technique, micro-level spacing intervals, instrument carriage, and color guard technique are just a few things in the visual individual judge's radar.

    Visual General Effect: This judge reacts to the entire performance from a visual perspective. Is there a logical flow? Does the drill motivate the music? Does the music motivate the drill? Is what is happening visually helping convey the desired emotion? They will also look at how the color guard integrates with the marching members and what their motivation in the show is.


    So, how do we come to a score? The music caption is allotted 40 points (out of 100), divided between both the music ensemble judge and the music individual judge. The visual caption is allotted 20 points between the ensemble and the individual judge, each getting 10 points. The effect judges both get 20 points a piece. This adds up to a perfect 100. While each band at an ISSMA competition will receive a score, that information will never be released to the public as ISSMA's philosophy doesn't allow for the publication of scores. This isn't the case with local invitational's (or any other circuit, for that matter), as all scores from those events are public information. If you happen to hear of a score from an ISSMA event, keep it off of the web!

    If you've finished this article, you can head to the next contest as an expert in ISSMA Scholastic and Festival Class in the stands! Be sure to share your newly found knowledge with others so that Indiana can have the most informed audience in the activity.

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    About Author

    Christopher L. Drake
    Christopher is a 2010 graduate of Boone County High School (KY), but his love for all things pageantry began in Angola, Indiana where he lived for 3 years. Since joining the IM staff, he has engrossed himself in ISSMA, BOA, IHSCGA, IPA, MEPA, OIPA, WGI, and most recently spent the summer as a Tour Admin with the 2016 DCI World Champion Bluecoats from Canton, Ohio. Christopher is currently a Political Science student at Northern Kentucky University.


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  1. SaxMaster
    Is 110 the large school limit? I'm up in Bluffton and there's a Scholastic group here listing 119 in the program. Of course I didn't actually count them.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Laura Estridge
      I've heard the limit is 125, but I haven't checked any reliable sources other than hearing it from my director
    3. Matt Bonfield
      This is incorrect. Chris is right, it's 110. This changed last season.
    4. SaxMaster
      I'll add (since I posted the original comment) that the band that listed 119 in scholastic didn't appear to be that large on the filed. More like 100 would be my guess.
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