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 Post subject: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:06 pm 
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I apologize for what is going to be a long and rambling review.

I earned a reputation here many years ago for being a blunt and honest (and sometimes tactless) reviewer who simply called things how he saw them. I'm trying to get back to everything but the tactless part. We'll see how well I do. Be forewarned: I'm not going to step lightly to avoid landing on people's toes. Some of you might agree with my rant. Some of you will likely think I'm a big, bloviating idiot. I won't argue either interpretation.

So, without further ado...

On November 9th at the Bands of America Regional in Indianapolis, Marian Catholic (IL) was in trouble. They were on par with Lake Central (IN) and Centerville (OH), just behind the first and just ahead of the latter. All three were on the bubble for BOA Grand National Finals, in danger of missing out. For Lake Central (pushing for their first ever Finals berth) and Centerville (one Finals appearance in the past seven years) this was a familiar spot. For Marian Catholic (30 consecutive years as a BOA Finalist, 7-time National Champion) this was an unheard of proposition.

But at Bands of America Grand National Semifinals on Saturday, Marian Catholic was suddenly almost five full points ahead of Lake Central and over seven full points ahead of Centerville, and safely in Finals. Did they really pick up five and seven points on two national-caliber bands with LESS than one week of rehearsal? Possibly.

Or did cognitive dissonance set in? Did the judges see "Marian Catholic" and think, "Oh, there's no WAY Greg Bimm's band isn't fantastic" perhaps judging (even subconsciously) 90% the actual performance and 10% the name/legacy of Marian Catholic?

EVERY band judging circuit, even the mighty BOA, has some level of inherent bias. In some cases it is overt. In most cases (I like to think, optimistically) it is subconscious, even inadvertent.

In the 1960s, an era with tons and tons of great high school marching bands in California, the Arcadia Band Review saw SEVEN different parade champions in the nine years it was held.

In the 2000s (indeed, the past 15 years, since 1999), an era with still a lot of really, really good high school marching bands, the Arcadia band review has seen... two different champions.

I was not present for Arcadia band reviews 1999-2012, so I cannot argue the results at all. It is surprising to me that, not even one year did a Mt. Carmel, Diamond Bar, Glendora, El Dorado (etc.) just happened to have a better year. But RB and RK are fantastic bands year-in, year-out, so it's certainly within the realm of feasibility.

60th Annual Arcadia Festival of Bands, November 16th, 2013

Contrary to what some people might think, in my opinion the bar of expectation is set LOWER for the top bands, not higher. Sometimes, it seems like the consistent winners (in ANY circuit) just need to show up in uniform holding their instruments correctly and they've already got 85-90 points. It seems as if the top bands don't COMPLETELY fall apart there's no way they won't win.

I'm not even saying I'm immune to this subconscious bias: initially I had Rancho Bernardo as the highest rated band. But walking the several blocks back to my car, I had an internal debate: did I *really* think RB was the best band of the day (no), or was I just putting them first because I was EXPECTING them to be spectacular, and since they were pretty clean and mostly solid... good enough?

I kind of got that impression from Rancho Bernardo and Riverside King on Saturday. They both felt like they were playing to "not lose" Sweepstakes as opposed to "trying to win" Sweepstakes. I was standing right next to several King parents who were very distressed by King's performance. Now, these parents/boosters (I'm assuming) aren't musically trained and can't nit-pick a musical performance, but they HAVE seen the band perform this march probably dozens of times and ARE in a position to compare THOSE performances and determine that one is weaker than the rest. Not that I'm saying King or RB were bad, they were very good--and you'll see a very tight spread at the top of my own rankings at the end of the post--but it sure felt like they left the door open for another band to swoop in and steal Sweepstakes.

I don't want to harp on this, because the sweepstakes results of Arcadia is my minor gripe. I think you could make an argument for ANY of the top four bands winning Sweepstakes, and I just felt it should be someone different. Enough said.

Now for my major gripe.

I really wanted to see Golden Valley. I wanted to see how they stacked up. Before the review, I felt they were out of their element in Class AA, doomed to get stomped... but I thought they could have placed well in Class A or B. I also was very skeptical that they would get a fair shake from the SCSBOA judges.

I'm declaring myself correct on both counts.

Don't mistake me: I'm not saying Golden Valley was Parade Sweepstakes caliber. They weren't. I myself had them 9th out of 11 bands in Class AA. There were too many individual musical performance issues. But the overall ensemble sound was surprisingly solid. The musicality of the group, the phrasing and dynamics were very good. The march was challenging and handled well. The marching was no worse than any of the top Class A bands. The showmanship and guard were solid.

The guard! Several years ago, I called into question the auxiliary results from the Chino Invitational field show. Valencia had won guard sweepstakes over a very clean El Dorado squad. One of the aux judges from the event sent me a message, and explained how the layering and difficulty of Valencia's show was so much greater than what El Dorado was attempting that year.

So, keeping that knowledge in mind... does uh, that not apply to parade, too?

Because while Golden Valley's flags weren't as clean as most other AA guards, Golden Valley also had two things almost no other band tried: rifles and individual shields. One of the guards rated far ahead of Golden Valley had a whole SIX flags and a bunch of shields-on-a-pole. Cleaner than GV? Well of course. As complex and difficult as Golden Valley's 30-member guard (12 flags, 10 rifles, and 8 shields)? Give me a break. Not even close.

To me, the message from SCSBOA judges at Arcadia was unmistakable:

Dear Northern California bands,

Don't bother coming down here. We don't like your kind. Just stay home and we won't embarrass you and publicly rub your nose in how inferior we view you.

Sincerely,
SCSBOA


Golden Valley was badly, badly underscored by every judge. Some of the bands at Arcadia that were scored higher than the band from Merced were down-right HORRID. TERRIBLE. ABYSMAL. Poor intonation. Unbalanced sound. Voices sticking out the ensemble. Incomplete phrasing. Dropped melodies. Missed notes. Inadequate instrumentation for the march being performed. Marchers out of step. No diagonals. Bouncing like they're on a trampoline. Dropped flags. Pauses in routine because they're lost.

I OPENLY call into question the impartiality of any judge who thought Golden Valley was the 34th best band in the parade.

HOSTRAUSER'S ARCADIA RESULTS

(Due to rain/traffic, I arrived late and missed the host bands and Arroyo. Apologies.)

CLASS C
90.5 Beckman
88.2 El Rancho
87.1 Temple City
85.9 South El Monte
85.6 Downey
80.4 Workman
78.3 Valhalla
77.8 Patrick Henry
74.7 Point Loma
--.- Arroyo (sorry!)

CLASS B
92.9 Cypress
91.5 Whitney
91.3 Westview
91.0 West
90.4 Olympian
90.1 Schurr
89.7 Shadow Hills
88.8 Esperanza
86.2 Rowland
81.6 Bonita Vista

CLASS A
93.0 John F. Kennedy
92.6 Mayfair
92.2 Diamond Ranch
91.7 Montebello
91.1 Mira Mesa
90.8 Eastlake
90.3 Loara
88.5 Santiago
87.4 John Glenn
86.9 Garey

CLASS AA
96.0 Mt. Carmel
95.8 Rancho Bernardo
95.6 Riverside King
95.5 Diamond Bar
94.9 El Dorado
94.5 Glendora
93.7 Chino
93.3 Notre Dame
92.5 Golden Valley
92.3 Arlington
92.0 Kaiser

Hostrauser's Music Sweepstakes: Mt. Carmel
Hostrauser's Parade Sweepstakes: 96.0 - Mt. Carmel


Last edited by Hostrauser on Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
fixed grammar, missing words


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:47 am 
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Well, I'm glad SOMEONE said it. To me, it's worse to pretend like nothing is wrong rather than calling it like you see it. I agree with most of what you've said. However, I think the biggest thing I would challenge you on is the absurd amount of hype had Golden Valley coming in. Everything I heard (mostly from this website) was about how this god-like band has dominated NCBA the last couple of years. So, if anything, the legacy argument is more suitable for GV in my mind. I had fooled myself into thinking that they were going to show everyone how its done up north and just blow everyone out. I think they faced some unreal expectations that it was automatically between them, RB, King, and that nobody else mattered.

As for major gripes, the biggest problem I have with the event is that the judging for the parade seems to be more about ranking the bands than giving an accurate score or spread. The margins in field are so razor thin that if you aren't in the top 2 or top 3 in parade, you don't stand a realistic chance of taking combined sweepstakes unless your field show is just ridiculously good. To me, that is the biggest reason RB has taken that award every year since 1999. They are likely going to earn anywhere from 92-96 at any given year at the band review, so even if you had a show of the quality you see the first week of October, the parade score of the top bands are so high, that they would have completely fall apart not to be in the running for the combined awards. Biggest example of this: The spread between Rowland and King in parade vs. field. The difference in parade scoring is so huge, that even though I felt Rowland was a few levels above King on the field, the combined scores are overwhelmingly in King's favor. And it's really not even close.

Now, this isn't to discredit the performances of the students, nor the judges. The competition is so close, that it's an extremely difficult event to judge. That being said, it is UNDENIABLE that legacy plays a role. If I asked you who the favorites to win next year's Arcadia are, it's probably going to be between RB and King once again. As far as Golden Valley is concerned, it's laughable that someone would put them 34th/41. I do think they had a tough draw though. I would have liked to see them spend a few years in one of the lower divisions to get acclimated first, and work their way up like King did.

This will undoubtedly rustle some jimmies, but the event has become so predictable. The same 5 bands are at the top every single year. Maybe it's time to stagger the performance order?

Still, I feel like you're on to something. It's just like there is an unwritten rule that only the previous winners can earn a top score. It's almost as if the other scores have become arbitrary, and it's more important to get the ranking correct. At the end of the day, I don't think you can really argue with the rankings too much. I would have had a much smaller gap:

Rancho Bernardo 94.60 (High Music)
Riverside King 94.55
Mt. Carmel 94.20
Diamond Bar 94.15
Chino/ El Dorado 93.75


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:42 am 
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I agree 100 percent. The Arcadia band review has become like DCI. I felt Golden Valley should have earned a 92.00. Tops. The guard score is an INSULT. Whoever judged guard should be NEVER judge a band review competition again. sickening. People online know it, the fans know it. :evil:


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:40 am 
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Please lets be respectful of the the judges. They make split section decisions based on decades of experience. You do not have to like their decisions, but you should at least be mature enough to be respectful of their dedication to the activity. It is appropriate to question judges outcomes, however it is not appropriate to slander a judge in an online forum.

My band went up north last year and competed at the Foothill Band Review. On my tapes from NCBA, many judges said that they appreciated us doing our normal routines from SCSBOA but that there were different expectations in NCBA so there were some places (showmanship for example) that we could not get the points that some of the other bands were given. I knew going into the competition that this was an issue, and I prepared the students for it. We have to understand that NCBA and SCSBOA judge bands very differently (neither is wrong, I for one, find things I like from both associations.) SCSBOA puts the majority of their emphasis on cleanliness from music to marching, drum major to color guard. Everything is about precision, and very little of it is about content. Whether it is right or wrong is not for people not part of the association to question. If you want your opinion heard, join the association and be part of the change.

Respectfully submitted,
Brennan England
Whitney High School

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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:46 am 
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DMJUDGE wrote:
You do not have to like their decisions, but you should at least be mature enough to be respectful of their dedication to the activity...We have to understand that NCBA and SCSBOA judge bands very differently (neither is wrong, I for one, find things I like from both associations.) SCSBOA puts the majority of their emphasis on cleanliness from music to marching, drum major to color guard. Everything is about precision, and very little of it is about content. Whether it is right or wrong is not for people not part of the association to question.

Here's my problem, Brennan: it's not a matter with agreeing or disagreeing with the criteria SCSBOA uses to judge their bands. It's not a north or south preference issue.

It's a matter of the SAME criteria being applied to ALL bands EQUALLY across the competition, and I most certainly feel that DID NOT happen at Arcadia.

IMO, there is no way you can say "well, Golden Valley didn't do this or wasn't clean enough in that" and not see those exact same issues (to a greater extent) in some Class A, B, and C bands that were scored higher than Golden Valley. If you or anyone else points out a flaw in GV's performance, I can point out another band who was even WORSE in that area... yet was scored higher.

The same criteria was not applied equally to all members of the parade. That is my complaint.


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:58 am 
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I was not on the stand and I do not have time to go through each video so I will not comment on how the criteria was applied. I wish I could have heard Golden Valley's performance and all of those of the AA bands but I was with my kids instead.

My issue is of people on this forum being disrespectful towards judges (I do not believe you were Hostrauser) That is something that I believe there is no call for and should be removed from this forum.

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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:17 am 
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Thank you Brennan, and I enjoyed your band's performance greatly.

In fact, enough negativity. Here are some things I loved at Arcadia on Saturday...

* John A. Rowland H.S. gave a very respectable performance considering this was their first time competing in parade in... what, years and years? A good showing from the field-emphasis band, hope to see them in more parades in the future.

* Cypress H.S. blew me away. I know an early-season LA Fair video is not the best thing to judge a band by, but I was still amazed by how much they had improved. They were terrific and will be a fine representative in the Rose Parade. I also loved that they were playing a Sousa march that hasn't already been done 400 times in the past few years.

* Both Mayfair and Kennedy were terrific, and I had a tough time choosing between the two for the top of Class A. Great bands, great sound, great guards. Total package. I was also especially impressed with Kennedy's drum major, although that is admittedly the area of my least expertise.

* Golden Valley looked and sounded better than I expected. I was expecting this huge yawning chasm between GV and the rest of Class AA in terms of musicality, but it just wasn't there. Golden Valley had a lot of individual music problems (go figure, a school with an 88% poverty rate doesn't have the entire band in private lessons), but their ensemble sound was actually BETTER than a lot of bands. They had a terrific, uniform approach to how to perform the march, wonderful balance and blend, and plenty of emotion.

* Glendora's drum major was just unbelievable. Ridiculously good. No question the best drum major of the day.

* Diamond Bar and El Dorado both played "Solid Men to the Front", and they both attacked the march like they had something to prove. I actually had Diamond Bar slightly ahead of King in my rankings until I watched Luis's videos and admitted that King was better than I had initially remembered.

* Mt. Carmel was the one and only band of the day that made me stop mid-thought and say "Holy balls, they sound unbelievable!"

* The rain stayed over in Monrovia and the parade stayed dry. Yay! 8-)


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:35 am 
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An interesting discussion.

I think both Hostrauser and DMJUDGE made some very good observations.

I have watched with interest the changes to concept, quality, emphasis and all the other major differences occurred in So Cal and Nor Cal over the last 40 years. I grew up in SCSBOA, taught there briefly, and spent most of my career teaching and judging in NCBA. I think this gives me a somewhat unique perspective.

Suffice it to say at one point the differences in all these things were minimal.

As far as judges go, I will make two observations: one, that they are human and have all the foibles from large to small that humans have. Secondly, that the parade format does not allow the time for thought and reflection that field or concert do.

Lastly, I will observe that in the past, the resources available to each group, although never the same, have become exponentially different in this era. That is not a judgement, it is what it is.


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:02 pm 
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I was unable to attend the band review, so I relied on the Luis' efforts (thank you Luis) to see/hear what transpired.

Rancho Bernardo (based on a non-Luis recording): Technically proficient. Concert band sound on the street. But, I think Bullets demands more..., if you aren't going to test the edge of the envelope, then the intro needed greater precision. RB's marching was strong overall but not spectacular.

Riverside King: I'm very curious to know King's view of their performance. To me, it didn't sound like their best performance of the year. Some individual voices, some blend and balance between sections early. And based on the quality of the King program, this march doesn't seem to provide a great challenge. Again, the marching was strong, but un-King like.

Diamond Bar: Another strong musical performance with Solid Men. While not all the way to the edge of the envelope, the volume and precision of attacks/releases created a certain level of energy which were lacking from both RK and RB (particularly in the intro + 1st). In my opinion, DB took a big step-up on the street this season, with the time and effort visible on the street.

Mt. Carmel: Any spectator not looking north on Baldwin when the Sundevils played their first note are probably nursing sore necks today. The think the best way to describe what I heard (and I believe what Kevin heard) was a very un-Mt.Carmel performance from Mt.Carmel. Where was the concert band on the street sound? And where did this bold, energetic, confident introduction to Gloria come from? To quote Bull Durham, they certainly announced their presence (on the street) with authority. At the same time, the group managed to keep control of the larger sound. Good job to the students on the street and thanks to the band's leadership for taking a chance, since many groups have lost control of the tiger once the cage is opened.

I preferred the DB and Mt.Carmel performances, but my bias is clearly to those groups that attempt to create energy/excitement with their performances.

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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:25 am 
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I think Dr. Hostrauser's evaluation is spot on. I brought my band from Fairfield High School down several times only to politely have my lunch handed to me. There are differences in the philosophies of SCSBOA and the NCBA. One would expect that. I was trained in the south and my first teaching assignment was in Orange County. When I moved north to teach I was expecting to fall into a black hole of bands...as that was the mindset in Southern California. I was completely surprised when I discovered some pretty damn good bands in Northern California.

That said I will also give my opinion that the parade band activity in Northern California is on the decline. Budgets, testing, lack of training....all of it. I attended the Lincoln Review of Champions in Stockton on Saturday and the performance level was not as good as I had hoped....certainly not as strong as a decade ago. The scores reflect that decline as well.

I don't have an answer as to why that is happening but it does make me sad.

SO....Northern California Bands.....by all means go south...the lunch they hand you isn't that bad....and all y'all southern bands come north...we'uns will be happy to return the favor.

Stay in step!!

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The American Indians found out the hard way what happens when you don't control immigration.


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 Post subject: Re: Hostrauser's 2013 Arcadia Review
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:51 pm 
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Hostrauser wrote:
* John A. Rowland H.S. gave a very respectable performance considering this was their first time competing in parade in... what, years and years? A good showing from the field-emphasis band, hope to see them in more parades in the future.

As a Rowland booster, I thank you very much for the recognition! The last time Rowland competed on the street was in 2006. Many of the kids at Rowland come from the very good feeder Alvarado IS Marching Matadors. Many of us coming from Alvarado miss the street and feel Rowland could put out a pretty good parade band if they really dedicated themselves to it. :)

horns2thebachs wrote:
As for major gripes, the biggest problem I have with the event is that the judging for the parade seems to be more about ranking the bands than giving an accurate score or spread. The margins in field are so razor thin that if you aren't in the top 2 or top 3 in parade, you don't stand a realistic chance of taking combined sweepstakes unless your field show is just ridiculously good. To me, that is the biggest reason RB has taken that award every year since 1999. They are likely going to earn anywhere from 92-96 at any given year at the band review, so even if you had a show of the quality you see the first week of October, the parade score of the top bands are so high, that they would have completely fall apart not to be in the running for the combined awards. Biggest example of this: The spread between Rowland and King in parade vs. field. The difference in parade scoring is so huge, that even though I felt Rowland was a few levels above King on the field, the combined scores are overwhelmingly in King's favor. And it's really not even close.

I've also wonder about the spread differences between street and field. The spread between the top five parade bands was only 1.45.

95.50 Riverside King
95.25 Rancho Bernardo (San Diego)
94.85 Diamond Bar
94.45 Mt. Carmel (San Diego)
94.05 Chino

Whereas the spread between the top five field bands was quite a bit larger at 3.7:
93.60 Mt. Carmel
93.50 Chino
93.10 Rancho Bernardo
91.00 El Dorado
89.90 Rowland

Combined:
188.35 Rancho Bernardo
188.05 Mt. Carmel
187.55 Chino
183.95 El Dorado
183.50 Riverside King

Rancho Bernardo wins the combined portion every year because they are just so darned good at both, and not far off from the top scores when they don't win. Look at El Dorado, who was six places behind Riverside King on street with a 92.95. Riverside King was only two places behind El Dorado on the field with a 88.00. El Dorado beat Riverside King in combined score because of the spreads in the field competition.

Has this changed over the years? I was just looking at a video from the 1982 Tournament of Champions. At the awards it was announced that the top five groups had a combined spread of about 1.4 points. The top four bands received the following scores:
191.13 Magnolia
190.57 Arcadia
190.48 Poway
190.05 Los Altos

I've never seen the recaps, but I recall hearing that Magnolia (this was my senior year there) was 2nd on both field and street. Arcadia was 1st on street and 6th on field. Los Altos was 1st on field and 7th on street. Poway tied for 2nd on field. Neither Arcadia nor Los Altos were that far off despite being solid in only one portion of the competition, but the order of finish does seem to indicate that street decided the order of finish.


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