The JUDGES and SCORING are probably the one thing everyone hears that is griped about most at a contest. Most of the time it’s sour grapes from people who didn’t win…but there are steps that can be taken to ensure that YOU have a fair contest.
I have been IN several national competitions- and have BEEN TO several competitions. The most outraged I have ever been was when I traveled 7 hours to watch a contest one of my proteges was in. I freely admit that my student shouldn’t have won. I knew going in he wouldn’t . He had lots of work to do and this was a learning experience for him. There were about 50 people in this contest. They all had to “qualify”, then win their local venue to get to the regional contest. They had come from 3 different states. So I know they had some pretty hefty travel expenses just like we did. This national competition is a valid and reputable competition and I have supported it from the start. But this particular hosting venue almost ruined the competitions credibility.
They had local “celebrity” judges and that was fine. But what wasn’t fine was that the judges got free drinks all night and by the end of the contest they were glassy eyed and obviously very drunk.
The venue’s waitress was bringing them drinks and sitting with them to make sure they had whatever they needed while the other patrons packed into this place like sardines got no service. I mean that quite literally. The only waitress sat at the judges table and only ran drinks to them. The bar was 3 and 4 deep with people trying to get drinks.
But service is not my beef with this place. Out of the 50 or so contestants there were 5 who had a shot of winning the national competition (remember this was a regional). One guy in particular had it hands down. I had a copy of the judges scoring criteria and I was scoring contestants as they went for my student to see who and what was winning…and this guy had perfect scores across the board including crowd response! The other 4 singers I mentioned were all amazing vocalists with decent stage presence but THIS guy was fabulous. Had he or any of the other 4 great singers won I would not have had a problem. But he didn’t…he didn’t even place. Neither did any of the great singers.
The winner was this sad little girl who had a decent voice. She sang a Gretchen Wilson tune. I won’t lie and say she couldn’t sing, she hit the notes. But she wasn’t even in the same league, (on ANY of the criteria the contestants were scored on) as the other 5 singers.
DID I forget to say that she was the “lone waitress” for the judges and also host venues contestant? Have any of you ever been to a contest where, when the winners are announced there is no clapping from over 300 people, (except from the judges table) just dead silence. Then people just start leaving. I have never seen such disgust from an audience.
I told the national representative that this was a farce and that he needed to tell his boss that the venue had so blatantly rigged the outcome. He was very embarrassed. It was ironic when that same contest called ME, as a previous winner of it, to judge the national finals that year. I told them I had to disqualify myself because I couldn’t in all fairness judge it because I was already biased against the contestant from my region. They asked me why, and I told them that the girl from my region had won in a rigged contest and she didn’t have a chance in hell of placing at the competition.
THEY were embarrassed. Note…the girl didn’t even come close to placing at the finals. Bottom line is that I think venues for national competitions should NOT be allowed to have a “local’ contestant. They are making plenty of money. I think it’s a conflict of interests to have a home court advantage like that. Just my personal opinion.
Now on to the judges. I know that it’s not realistic to have “qualified” judges that all have vocal training to judge your contests. But it IS POSSIBLE to have a well rounded panel. I don’t think WHO you have judging is as important as the kind of judge you have, and the method of scoring used.
Judges should have three things at a minimum:
1) They should be UNBIASED( DON’T call someone to judge if they have competed against and been beaten by one of your contestants-Uh- HELLO??? don’t call them if they are “friends” with one of your contestants I know in a perfect world they can be unbiased towards that friend…but it’s NOT a perfect world and they will have to answer to their friend afterwards so DON’T put your contestants or your judges in this situation. And YES I have seen both of these done more than once!
2) They should have a written set of criteria to score contestants on-preferably with as little “wiggle room” for personal taste as possible(see the scoring sheet I am including).
3) They be requested to conduct themselves with a little class while judging. IE- no DRUNK judges! It is your responsibility as a venue to try to adhere to these three thing at a bare minimum. You can also throw out the highest and lowest scores to prevent skewing of the scores in either direction if you think your judges may have a personal bias in any way.
As I said- I have competed in more contests than I can even remember…but I am including the BEST score sheet I have ever seen here. I’d also like to note that I DIDN’T win this contest- I came in second and lost by one point…but I completely agree with the outcome. This girl had her stuff TOGETHER and though we had comparable voices…she just plain and simple had a better PERFORMANCE than I did. The venue and Kj went to GREAT trouble to ensure that this was a fair contest and it is apparent that they took into consideration every ‘gripe” that has ever been uttered in connection with a contest and tried to prevent it at this contest. They completely succeeded!
If every contest used a score sheet like this it would virtually eliminate “beeyotching” afterwards because there is NO subjectivity- even if a contestant sings a song that isn’t particularly to the judges personal taste. The judges have 3 choices for point value. Zero, one half of a point or a full point. They also have to put their names on the score sheets and are held accountable if there is an obvious “false” score. I love that there isn’t a wide point margin available for each individual’s “personal discretion”
And most of the criteria is pretty straightforward…no wiggle room!
Each judge has to circle the point value for each criteria.
0-1/2- 1 Is the singer on pitch
0-1/2- 1 Did they hit the notes without sounding weak/or straining
0-1/2- 1 Did they choose a song suited to their vocal ability
0-1/2- 1 Did they stay in time to the track/music
0-1/2- 1 Were they able to sustain notes/phrases without losing their breath
0-1/2- 1 Did the singer “control” the song(or sound like they were about to lose it)
0-1/2- 1 Did they avoid obvious mistakes
0-1/2- 1 Did the singer utilize the mic properly( pulling away for loud notes-closer for soft)
0-1/2- 1 Was the singer’s phrasing well done( no breathing when they shouldn’t)
0-1/2- 1 Did they have their own style or did they mimic the original well(either is fine)
0-1/2- 1 Did they use loud /soft/dynamics to make the song come alive
0-1/2- 1 Was the singer’s vocal rendition suited to the song
0-1/2- 1 Did they sound like they connected with the lyrics
0-1/2- 1 Did the singer show knowledge/mastery of the song
0-1/2- 1 Did they perform the song in an entertaining manner
0-1/2- 1 Was the outfit/costume appropriate/suited for the song
0-1/2- 1 Did they utilize choreography
0-1/2- 1 Did they draw the crowd/you into the performance
0-1/2- 1 Was the use of props appropriate/well done
0-1/2- 1 Was the costume/outfit flattering to the singer
0-1/2- 1 Were they able the sing the song without looking at the monitors(did they know the song well)
0-1/2- 1 Were they enthusiastic/ emotionally in sync with the song
0-1/2- 1 Was the singer confident on stage and comfortable with the song
Extra credit- only give to those who exhibit these “above and beyond” performance attributes
0-1/2- 1 Did they show unusual talent/range/skill or even a “pro” level skill
0-1/2- 1 Was their costume “extra special” for the performance or did they do anything unique to set
them apart from anyone else you have heard sing this song
0-1/2- 1 Was the timing and or lyrics of the song selection “challenging” (changing tempos, tricky
A perfect score would be 23 and the highest score possible- a 26- judges can give o points, ½ a point, or 1 whole point. The extra credit section is only for those contestants who “go the extra mile”
Ain’t THAT a BEAUTIFUL score sheet? Even if they individual judge HATED the song…this forces them to be subjective. It also allows each contestant to see where and how they can improve for the next performance. Please feel free to copy this score sheet for you own use or to email this to anyone who wants a copy to use for a future contest or reference regarding one!
Hope this turns out to be informative to both contestants, KJ’s, and judges!