Well-Known Member
How many of you are sick and tired of "Obvious" adjudicating anomalies??
I have known many fine top section "Star" players in my time, who have failed abysmally with a stick in their hand (My current Conductor excluded !)
In my opinion, no one should be allowed to adjudicate at contests unless they have been a successful, prize winning CONDUCTOR.
However brilliant a player a guy/gal may be, or have been (Stars included) , in my opinion, if they have not CONDUCTED winning performances at a respectable level then they are not qualified to judge their peers - what we have is "Players judging players" - We should be judged by those who have accredited experience of contesting success with a baton..
This is where the rot lies - just look at the list of most employed judges - there are many famous names there, how many of them have conducted a band to success at the top level ??
With regard to the comment on 4br that Keith Wardle is "Bitter and Twisted" - anyone who knows Keith will tell you that he just speaks as he finds (Perhaps with a hint of cynicism !) - but his comments are always made with the good of our movement at heart.
I'm on holiday for 2 weeks now, but I will be interested to read your response on my return - We MUST feel satisfied that those who judge us are at least acquainted with a successful baton.
I think that it is important that our adjuicators are familiar wit our band movement both conducting and participating, most adjuticators are fair but some I just don't know where they are coming from. :?


tMP Founder
Staff member
Hi Ian...

This topic/subject surely has to be one of the most interesting conversational pieces relating to our movement... the actions, training, quality and decisions of our emminent adjuducators....!

For what it's worth, here's my £0.02p....

Firstly, in my opinion this is a very emotive issue with many, many people - and in the main I don't see why it should be. I think it becomes this because we start to tread into the 'uncomfortable zone' where anyone speaking out against the current setup is then perceived as challenging the system, or causing trouble or are bad losers etc. It is this perception by the authorities that is wrong. Why can that not be perceived as looking for a better way, or looking to improve the situation for the band movement as a whole? Reminiscences of ... 'get back in your kennel'... :?

Now, I think it is widely accepted by most people in the movement that we have a broad range of capabilities and experience within our current group/selection of adjudicators. Most of them have character, are pragmatic and are extremely talented musicians, others are not quite so talented, and a minority few are quite simply not cut out for the role and are a few sandwiches short of a picnic when it comes to being able to judge the winning order of a set of performances. But "sod's law" states that we all think the adjudicator belongs to the latter group when we are at the bar or on the coach returning from a competition having done not as well as we'd hoped :!:

This is why the subject is emotive. It's predominantly based on subjective opinion.. one mans tea is anothers poison etc... (or whatever the saying is)

So in offering some suggestions as to trying to determine why this is so, I'll stick to facts, plain and simple;

  • * Adjudicators are not accountable to anybody (and should be as the decisions they make carry significant responsibility)
    * Perceived as being a 'golf club' mentality (closed shop)
    * Quality standards and the performance of adjudicators are never measured
    * No "people appointed" controling authority
    * No role description
    * Nothing upon which bands will be able to understand on what it is that they are being judged
I could go on ....

We will never get away from the subjectivity of what adjudicators have to do, and having done this a few times can vouch that adjudicating really is not an easy task, but we certainly could/should put controls and measures in place to ensure consistency in performance and approach. It's the consistency factor that in my opinion causes such emotive feelings.

I'll also be interested to read other tMP'ers views and opinions on this...



Staff member
Just off the top of my head, as I've only got a couple of minutes, I don't think that a successful adjudicator needs to have been a conductor, at least not at the top level, but I do feel that they should have a wide range of experience either as a player or as conductor.

I am also very much in favour of some indication being given beforehand as to what the adjudicators are going to be looking for. There have been occasions when one adjudicator has placed great emphasis on the conductor's interpretation of the score, whilst not being too concerned about slips made by individual players. If that is going to be the case then you run the risk of having a conducting competition, rather than a band contest.

A balance should be maintained, but if some guidelines are issued, as I believe has been promised for the forth-coming Scottish open, at least conductors and bands have some idea where the goal-posts are, and can prepare accordingly.

Either way, we are never going to have a system that suits everybody, and we should remember that banding is not unique in facing these problems :- several of the international piano and singing competitions have also come up with controversial decisions from time to time - what if the adjudicators at the National decided not to award a first prize because they didn't think any of the bands were good enough?!!!!

Roger Thorne

Active Member
A few years ago an Adjudicators Course appeared, at Salford University and I am pleased to see the course has been re-instated, again at Salford (see article on 4BarsRest/below).

What I remember about this course, was that you had to be more than a ‘has-been’ brass player to even get past the preliminary stages.

As the contest season is nearly upon us, we will no doubt see the same old faces being chosen to adjudicate not only at our local contests but even at our National contests.
Now I am a firm believer that even though you may have been a very gifted cornet or euphonium player in your day, or you may still be a top notch conductor or player, it doesn’t give you the necessary experience required, in my opinion, to sit at a contest and judge others.

Here are one or two questions I would like answering:

How many people have completed this 'Official' Adjudicating Course and who are they?
Have these people been invited to Adjudicate at any contests?
How many present adjudicators on the circuit at the moment have enlisted for this course?
If any, how many passed with flying colours?

What I remember about the criteria of this course was that it wasn’t easy.
You really had to be an exceptional musician to get through. One of the requirements of this course was to be able to transcribe a section of Orchestral score for Brass Band. (How many of today's adjudicator's/player's/conductor's can do that?).

What I would like to suggest is that all the adjudicator’s on the circuit at the moment take the opportunity to sit this new course over the next twelve months, regardless of any other musical qualifications he/she might have. In the year 2004/5 every adjudicator who passes this course would, again in my opinion, be qualified to sit and adjudicate any bands performance, but only because they would have all been trained to the same standards.

So come on all you adjudicator’s, let’s see how good you really are . . .
and hopefully all adjudicators in the future will have the letters LDBBA after their name (Licentiate Diploma in Brass Band Adjudication)


Here's the link to the article on 4BarsRest:



Active Member
Hi there Roger, regarding your question of qualified adjudicators, my former teacher Maurice Preistly was (i think!) the first person to recieve the Licentiate Diploma and is only one of a few. As for the amount of adjudicating jobs he's done i'm not too sure, although he has judged at the 2001 4th Section Northern Area and judges at Denton Whit Friday Contest.


Judges. Are they qualified

The Organisers of a contest are responsible for appointing the adjudicators..At the Area Contests, B & H, followed by the National Contesting Council, sent each area a list of "approved" adjudicators..The NABBC started a course (accredited by Salford University) which is the one Roger refers to..As an executive member of the NABBC at the time this scheme was started, I can assure you that as Roger says it was a very difficult course of study over a long period, the progress of each candidate was closely followed by very eminent Conductors/Adjudicators, who were all members of the NABBC, If I remember correctly, certainly Roy Newsome, Sydney Swancott,, can't remember any more but James Scott, David Read I think were involved..There have been several applicants, but many failed at one stage or another..Certainly Maurice Priestley was one of (if not the first) to be awarded the LDBBA (Licentiate Diploma in Brass Band Adjudicating). But again it comes down to individual contest promoters, who tend to go for the name rather than those with the Diploma, who they may never have heard of..The Adjudicators Association I believe is now accepting the newly qualified people with the LDBBA...but I may be wrong on this..


As one of those who have been conferred with the LDBBA, (only the 4th person to have been so conferred), I am pleased to see that the "grass root" bandsmen and women wish to see qualified experienced conductors take this diploma.

The problem seems to be in Contest Organisers using, us. Perhaps you could all give them a prod!

From memory those conferred are;

Maurice Proestley (North East)
Gareth Pritchard (Wales)
Simon Applegate (Channel Islands)
Stephen Tighe (North West)
Paul Norley (Royal Military School of Music)

I also believe that the conductor of the Meltham Band in Yorkshire has been presented with his diploma recently!

many thanks.


Does this mean that we'll be told in advance that a particular adjudicator marks on technical accuracy or musicianship or preferably both?

Surely an adjudicator should be a musician first & foremost? I know of brass players that were/still are brilliant players, but I wouldn't necessarily class all of them as musical.

Surely a conductor should be a musician first & foremost? Just because they played principal cornet for 25 years with a name band doesn't automatically confer upon them the necessary skills to be a conductor... (And then, by right of passage, automatically become an adjudicator).

Dodgy adjudication is a subject close to all of us. Our Area Committees are comprised of members of our bands. Tell your committee member that you would like to see an LDBBA qualified adjudicator used for contests.

Ahhhhhhh, better now...


conductors and interpretation

Having not been on for a while I was interested in reading about this particualr topic. I have, for a time now, thought that the job of an adjudicator is a pretty hard job to do. Damned if you do damned if you dont. The choice of who sits as adjudicators, the criteria for adjudicating and also should bands get parameters given to them before hand signaling how the adjudicators would judge the performances on the test piece.
Taking the latter subject first. Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree that a setting of parameters would certainly make the contest a lot closer, since all bands would stick within those parameters if they wanted to win. BUT surely a contest is a musical occasion, 18 bands playing approximately the same would push even more people away from going to contests to listen. The closer the performances the more intense the pressure will be on the players to attain perfection or crash and burn after a split. Listening to 18 similar versions of Enigma would scramble my brain. Music is something which begs for variety, variety for the listener, performer and conductor. Is not the adjudicator a form of audience member too ? Should they not be allowed to argue that a performance (with a few slips)moved them whilst a technicaly profficent performance, although sparkling in places did little for them.
As for criteria, why is it assumed that a contest should be adjudicated by only conductors and players ? What about the composers? Those who study music as an occupation i.e lecturers etc. The contest for me has become an event dominated by the desire for technically perfect performances. Music, in any form is never ever perfect. Should there be a diploma of a sort which people will have to take to adjudicate. In practical terms that would be an ideal solution. However!!!!! If a person has studied long and hard at university and achieved a degree, masters or even PhD in music. Does that not mean that they are qualified musicians and are qualified enough to sit and adjudicate on a brass band contest ? What do you think ? Would you make Dr Derek Bourgeois or Phillip Sparke do a diploma in band adjudication ?? hmmm....interesting idea!
A lot of people in banding hark on about the past...and perhaps they do have a point to an extent!! in the early part of the last century an adjudication panel consisted of 2 or 3 adjudicators who were a combination of 1 adjudicator from the military for example and perhaps the others being, a former conductor and a member of the Salvation Army. Why cant there be a good cross section of adjudicators today in every contest ? Occasionally the mix is right and when that happens no one can complain.

Anyway, after the results are read out if you havent won then you always complain about the adjudicators who would you blame if they couldn't be!! Music will always be subjective, take the element of variation in musical performance it becomes a brass band technical challenge and it would become a major sporting contest than a musical event.

Richard Jones


Active Member
well this is a wasps nest we've opened up!!!!

Firslty I've won when I haven't deserved to and lost when "we were robbed". I've been at contests where adjudicators say things and you think what? for example, Were competing at the Malton entertainment contest when a "experianced" judge talked during his closing about the playing of quavers during a 6/8 march, this was obviously a pre-concieved idea as listener's to the full section struggled to recall any 6/8 marches!!!! I've also had a adjudicator saying he disliked the use of a Kit bass drum (could he also say didn't like the band using a besson cornet) The bass drum coment was at a national final (if he'd have understud the difficulties of drumming and human anatomy he'd have realised that I didn't have 6 arms). And then (last one i promise) At a marching contest the adjudicator come out if the box and explain he didn't like the use of percusion on the stand, maybe it would have been nice to early warning of this personal opinion!!!

I think what we all would like is simply consistancy!

I read an article in the Independant (very posh i know) About Journalists who were taken by the FA (football folks) into a room, they were shown several incidents on video (at full speed) and they were asked to give their judgment (i.e. red yellow card, talking to, free kick). They all had a different opinion at the begining and through the course they had a better understanding of the referee's job. Maybe simlar courses could be run for conductor's (and anyone else) listeneing to 10 test piece's and giving there idea's with the adjudicators from the day giving there remarks and reasons for them... Maybe the problem is just poor communication.

It'd be nice if the adjudicators would stick to the piece at hand in the summing up, There are adjudicators who are on the circiut and we know exactly what their likely to say in their summing up, and that goes to show that it's pre-planned or at least some of it is. I'll leave you with a quiz on this one topic! (no offence meant to the person involved)

Who says at the end of every set of comments "if you like my results my car is read, if you don't it's blue"?


Active Member
Just a thought.....

Perhaps there ought to be 2 categories, Technical and Interpretation with marks awarded for each. Since interpretation can be very subjective then in the event of a tie the highest technical mark gets it.

If nothing else this would point out to bands in which area they are going wrong (that is whether its the Band that needs to work harder or the Conductor).

Additionally this would reduce the damage from those adjudicators who tend to mark on whether they like a performance or not (regardless of whether the band could actually play the piece).


I'd hate to be an adjudicator (although many times I come away from contests feeling I could do much better!!).
They have a thankless job as they know that there is very little chance they will leave the building without someone 'gunning ' for them.
I don't know whether the fact an adjudicator was qualified would make any difference or not.
What sort of things do they learn on a course?
I suppose just learning to be fair would be a good start!


Supporting Member
The more I read on this thread, the more I'm convinced the Masters system is better - at least there all the judges are forced to make their own choice and stick to it, rather than come to a consensus.

Slightly off topic.... does it bug anyone else that there's only one guy in the box at the areas but 2 at the the finals? Given the promotion/relegation issue, the area result is much more important for most bands - especially in L&SC where there are so many in the lower sections.

At the end of the day though, its all subjective so noone is ever going to get it right in everyone else's opinion, and 100 years of training and experience ain't going to change that.


At the finals the two adjucation system seems to be a good idea, but would it be better if each adjudicator was in a seperate box? Thus not giving them the opportunity to influence each other.


Staff member
With two adjudicators sitting separately you would need a system for settling things if they disagree. If one then has any form of "casting vote", then that would be the same as if they were together and he just "influenced" the other. At least if they are able to discuss they can each put their view across.

With the three at the Masters, the fact that there are three does tend to even things out, although as we have seen it does throw up considerable differences at times, and again a tie-break system is often needed.

James McFadyen

New Member
The British Bandsman printed an article of mine a while ago about about the contesting fiasco.

And I'll say it again..............The composer of the piece should adjudicate. Of, course this wil shortlist the pieces, the composer would have to be available and alive. He or she would also have to know the adjuication proceedure.

But, it would solve all problems, because at the end of the day, the adjudicator is just a conductor, and like conductors, they have their own interpretation, which could be way off what the composer intended.

If the composer was the adjudicator, then, there can be no fuss, as the only person who can tell you if the interpretation is right, is the composer of the piece. Things like tuning and balance are general musicianship things, so these are not the issue.

noone, that I know of, seems to be thinking of this obvious way to fix the contesting arguments.

If anyone has any points to argue why my Idea is completely stupid, then please tell, because I feel that point is a bit to obvious for noone to have really thought about.

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