Every year our high school is a host site for the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Festival. Bands and orchestras come from all over the state (actually we had some from Connecticut and New Hampshire this year) to perform for judges. The judges rate them according to a set of standards, awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals. They record their critiques during the performance and these recordings are given to the directors. After a group’s performance, they move from the stage to the band room to have a short master clinic with one of the judges. Especially for the young performers, like the 5th grade band above, this can be a fabulous learning experience, performing in an unfamiliar space, hearing other bands, listening to feedback from a different director (they usually think whatever the judge says is the word of God, even if their own director has said it a million times). Gold medal winners have an opportunity to play in Symphony Hall in Boston, one of the most acoustically pleasing and accurate venues in the world.
What am I doing during MICCA, other than taking pictures? I’m a judge’s assistant for those two days. When a band or orchestra arrives and checks in, a student brings the scores (music) to me in the band wing. When the band goes on stage, I make sure the judge’s have the scores. And here’s where it gets confusing–when the band is finished, I collect the scores and their scores of the performance (i.e., the ratings). Another assistant and a student helper make sure all the recordings get copied to CDs. I tabulate the scores and afix the proper medal to the right plaque. I keep everything in order so the MICCA representative can get through the awards ceremony as efficiently as possible.
The best part of the two days is listening to music all day. The next best part is working with the student volunteers from the high school. They are fun to be with, are always helpful and courteous to our visitors, and they work hard–and I mean really hard. On top of that, they have to perform, too. And more often than not, they win gold medals. And the third best part is being around other music education professionals and sharing stories and learning from them.