­Technology Strategies to Get You a Superior Adjudication!

Use Technology to Enhance Your Adjudication Experience 

By NAfME Member Peter J. Perry, D.M.A.


As the last memories of winter break melt away, our thoughts move from winter concerts to the upcoming “festival” or adjudication season. Depending on where you are and what you teach, this is closer than you may want and can be hindered by weather delays, holidays, and other distractions. Additionally, the pressure to perform well at these adjudications can become an obstacle in itself (both for you and your students). Altogether, this can become a hectic part of the year and can elicit anxiety and stress. Many people believe there is nothing “festive” about festival. Using some specific technology strategies, however, can be helpful and make the season both instructionally effective and hopefully a little less stressful.

young woman using laptop to review adjudication

iStockphoto.com | Slavica


While the “assessment” or “competitive” aspects of adjudication can focus us and force us to find a “competitive edge,” this mindset is not the healthiest (either for us or our students) and can distract from having an instructional focus. In my experience, an effective and healthy approach to the adjudication process includes the following:

  1. Find the most appropriate quality literature for your ensemble.
  2. Prepare the ensemble literature focused on the instructional needs of the students.
  3. Perform the literature as musically and expressively as possible.
  4. Use the adjudicators’ feedback to build students’ understandings about performance and assessment.

This approach can be time-intensive, and therefore, technology can be useful in making it work well for you in your teaching situation.


Make a Plan

Planning out rehearsals and measuring out the time you have to prepare for the adjudication is important. Setting performance goals throughout (see below) and identifying ways to determine if you have met them will help keep everyone on task. Making the students aware of this timeline using a communal calendar like Google Calendar or one included in a Learning Management System (LMS) like Canvas or Google Classroom can place everyone on the same page.


Find and Identify Your Ensemble’s Strengths (and Weaknesses)

Within the timeline, recording the ensemble periodically can be a wonderful tool. Reflecting on these performances and how they compare to the goals you have set will give evidence of the degree of improvement that has been made. A Bluetooth microphone (I use a Blue Yeti) in coordination with an application like Band Lab can be useful for this. The recordings can be edited as necessary in Band Lab and then posted on the LMS you use. Using the STREAM page in Google Classroom (or another message board style format) allows students to comment on the recording remotely and outside of rehearsal. These discussions can be used to develop critical thinking skills and teach students how to talk/write about music both critically and constructively. Additionally, you can use Google Forms to create a digital version of the adjudicator’s rubric sheet and have the students use that to score their performance. This method focuses the students’ comments on the aspects they will be assessed on by judges and allows you to better inform them on the different criteria (e.g. tone, intonation, technique, other factors, etc.).

young woman playing saxophone

Photo: Bob O’Lary


Concurrently, I use individual performance assessments to assess the individual needs of my students. Typically, I assign sections in the music that the students need to especially work on and practice. A platform like Google Classroom or Canvas can let you:

  • Assign the assessment to the entire ensemble.
  • Listen to all the student assessments remotely
  • Assess all performances using a self-created rubric
  • Provide individual feedback directly to the student.

I use video performance assessments assigned and submitted on Google Classroom. See a method I outlined in a previous blog here. More formalized technology with error detection tools, like SmartMusic by MakeMusic or PracticeFirst by MusicFirst, are also good options for this.

2020 ANHE male Jazz saxophonists

Photo: Bob O’Lary


I listen to these assessments in one sitting. While this seems like an exercise in self-punishment, I feel I get a deep understanding of what my students are capable of and what their immediate needs are. I use the data I get from these assessments to adjust my ensemble’s performance goals and timeline. A side benefit of assigning such performance assessments is that while students are working on the assigned excerpts, you can focus on the other material for adjudication in the full rehearsal, maximizing both your workflow and effectiveness.


Reflect on the Results

Once the adjudication is completed, I find it very important to create an open dialog with students that includes the following:

  • the judges’ scores and feedback
  • the student’s own experiences
  • my impressions

Synthesizing these aspects makes the adjudication experience more meaningful than just a bunch of scores (good or bad). Equally important, I believe in using the adjudication as another benchmark in the growth process and using the feedback from these discussions to further augment the goals I set for my ensemble. One technology tool that can visualize these discussions (either what the judges wrote or what the students felt) is a word cloud (Fig.1). Here, the words that appear the most in the comments appear larger than those that appear less frequently. Create a word cloud online for free here.

word cloud with adjudication terms

Figure 1 Word Cloud courtesy Peter Perry


I outline these tips as well as many other ways to use technology in ensemble teaching on my website: www.peterperrymusic.net and in my new book Technology Tips for Ensemble Teachers published by Oxford University Press. Feel free to check them out, and Happy Festivus!

Previous technology articles by Peter Perry:

About the author:

Peter Perryband director is a lifelong Maryland resident, and has traveled the world teaching and performing music. A NAfME member, he is currently in his twenty-fourth consecutive year as Instrumental Music Director at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. Here he conducts the: Chamber Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble, Concert Band, and Marching Band. These ensembles consistently receive critical acclaim on local, state, and national levels.

Dr. Perry is a strong advocate for music technology usage in the large ensemble. His doctoral dissertation, “The Effect of Flexible-Practice Computer-Assisted Instruction and Cognitive Style on the Development of Music Performance Skills in High School Instrumental Students,” focused on how the practice software, SmartMusic™, and the cognitive styles of field dependence and field independence affect musical performance skill development. His book, Technology Tips for Ensemble Teachers, published by Oxford University Press, is the first text to specifically outline technology use and instructional strategies using technology in the large Ensemble.

He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Education from Shenandoah Conservatory, as well as a Master of Music Degree in Music Education-Instrumental Conducting Concentration, and a Bachelor of Science Degree-Instrumental Music Education, both from the University of Maryland. While at the University of Maryland, Dr. Perry was awarded the prestigious Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship in Music.

In 2006, Dr. Perry received a Japan Fulbright fellowship and participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. In 2009, Dr. Perry received the Presidential Scholar Teacher Award. In 2019, he received the Brent Cannon Music Education Alumni Achievement Award from Kappa Kappa Psi, recognizing outstanding contributions to secondary music education. In October 2019, he took a group of student musicians to Yilan, Taiwan, to perform in the Yilan International Arts Festival, representing the United States (the third American ensemble in the festival’s history). He is an active guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, lecturer, author, composer, and performer.

Follow Dr. Perry on Twitter: @peterperry101 or at www.peterperrymusic.net.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. February 4, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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