Frequently Asked Questions about the TCW Bands Program

(Scroll Down to see District Assessment Questions.)

How much of a time commitment is Band at TC Williams?

“Seated” band, like in middle school, is during the regular school day.  Jazz Band meets before school.  Marching Band meets after school, the same as some middle school band classes.  Many of our most successful students participate in all three performing groups!

How do I know what band to sign up for?

When you select classes for next year, just pick band. The band directors from TCW will come by the middle schools to listen to everyone and determine what band will best suit your needs.  If you placed in All-District Band, there’s a good chance you’ll be in Symphonic Band.  Don’t forget to sign up for jazz band!

Do I have to join marching band? Why?

The Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes marching band as part of the complete band experience.  In fact, to be a Virginia Honor Band, we have to excel in the concert hall and on the field. At TC, we have a school that is reflective of our society in the diversity of backgrounds of its students.  The marching band proudly demonstrates that diversity at work and is truly representative of the whole school. The members share unique experiences and develop strong bonds across the entire school community.

In addition to being a lot of fun, marching band helps students develop and reinforce the following skills which will come in handy in all walks of life:

  • Leadership and organizational skills
  • Teamwork, communication, and collaboration
  • Personal responsibility
  • Physical and mental strength and endurance
  • Spatial awareness and gross motor skills
  • Service to the school and community, school pride and camaraderie

I love volleyball/football/cross country, and I also love band.  What can I do?

You can be in Jazz Band and “seated” band during the school day.  If you participate in a VHSL fall sport at TCW, you are exempt from the marching band component of band.

How much of a time commitment is Marching Band?

Marching Band Camp is two to three weeks before school begins in August.  Then we have 2-hour group practices 2-3 days a week September and October.  We play at home games, some away games, and 3 competitions.

I like jazz band.  How do I fit it into my schedule?

Jazz band meets in the mornings before school so it won’t interfere with any classes.

I don’t own an instrument.  Will one be provided?

If you rented a school instrument in middle school, you may continue renting in high school.  We also provide large instruments for practice at home.

I did band for 3 years in middle school and am kind of tired of it.  Should I even bother with the TC Williams Bands?

Every person in the band will tell you that band, especially marching band, is completely different from what you did in middle school.

What if I don’t play a band instrument?  How can I be in the band?

You can be in the color guard!  The guard is the visual component to our musical show.  They are very important.  We need people who like to dance and are creative.

Will Band fit in an aggressive academic schedule?

Yes! We have students who are planning to enter all fields in college. There have even been a number of National Merit Scholars. Also, band participation is a qualification for nomination to the Tri-M National Music Honor Society. The class schedule at TCW allows students to take a rigorous course load and participate in band all four years.

Check out these tips on how to fit band into a rigorous high school course load.

How good do I have to be?

All interested students with at least one year of experience are admitted into the band program at TCW.

This next bunch of questions is all about the District Band Assessment.

What is District Assessment?

Every Spring, the TC Williams Bands participate in the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors’ Association (VBODA) District 10 Band Assessment. Virginia is divided into 16 districts. TC is in District 10, which includes Alexandria, Falls Church, and part of Fairfax County (Annandale, Edison, Falls Church, Hayfield, Lee, Mount Vernon, JEB Stuart, South County, George Mason and West Potomac). Bishop Ireton, Episcopal High School and St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes are also in District 10. For reasons I know not, districts are often referred to by their roman numeral, so we are in District X.

The festival is a musical competition that is based on each band’s demonstration of musical knowledge and skills, as well as their appearance. Each band performs three selections (one march and two concert selections) before an audience and the judges. After their performance, the band moves to another room for the sight-reading test.  Only the judge is present for the sight-reading test. Then the band waits for their scores to be posted.

How does the scoring or judging work?

All of the prepared selections are performed before a panel of three judges. Each judge has a copy of the score for each selection and follows it as the band performs. Often, a judge will use a tape recorder to record comments during the performance. They use these comments to determine the band’s score and to provide detailed feedback to the band’s director. The judges look for many things, from basics such as playing the correct notes at the right time, to overall musical interpretation and expression.

The music’s difficulty is also a factor in the scoring. Band directors select music with standardized difficulty levels from the Virginia manual of graded music. It assigns music to one of six difficulty levels, ranging from 1 (easiest) to 6 (most challenging).

Each judge rates the band’s performance by assigning a rating from “I” (Superior) to “V” (Poor). A band can also perform for comments only, which is what the TCW Concert Band will be doing.

Here are the forms the judges use to score each band and the rubric they apply:

What is sight-reading?

The sight-reading part of the competition tests each musician’s skill with their instrument and the band’s ability to work together quickly. After performing their prepared pieces, the band moves to another room and is given music they have not seen before. The musicians and the director are allowed only seven minutes to review the music and discuss how they will play it – no practicing allowed! At the end of this time, the band plays the piece for the judge who scores it just as if it was a prepared piece. The selection chosen by the judges is usually an easier grade of music than bands select for their prepared pieces.

Why the emphasis on uniforms?

The band’s appearance is also a factor in their final score. It is important that a band not only play well together as a team, they also need to look like a team. That’s why the girls should be wearing black flats and not accessorizing their concert dresses. And it is why the boys need black socks, all black shoes, and tux shirts to complete their ensemble. The band may sound great, but they can lose points if some band members are not dressed appropriately.

How have TCW Bands done in the past?

TC Williams Wind Ensemble under the direction of Mr. Carlos Gonzalez in performance.

TC Williams Wind Ensemble under the direction of Mr. Carlos Gonzalez in performance. (Courtesy of Paul Taylor)

In 2014, the Wind Ensemble, for the 4th consecutive year, earned a Superior (I) rating playing grade VI music, the most difficult grade, a level that college bands perform. Around 6 percent of the over 500 Virginia high schools attain a superior rating playing grade 6 music, so TC is in an elite group. Symphonic Band earned a rating of Excellent, meeting the goal Mr. Rogers set for this year.

Hear the Wind Ensemble performance yourself with these video clips (courtesy of Kevin and Sharon Dooley).

In 2013, the Wind Ensemble earned a Superior (I) rating playing grade VI music. Symphonic Band was one of only two bands at their level playing grade V music; but they faced personnel and equipment challenges and earned only a Good (III) rating. Both ensembles earned a rating of Excellent (II) in sight reading. Concert Band performed for comments only and received valuable feedback.

Check out the Wind Ensemble’s Superior performance with this YouTube playlist.

In 2012, both the Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble earned Superior (I) ratings. Symphonic Band played grade V music; Wind Ensemble played grade VI music.

Check out the bands’ 2012 assessment performances with this YouTube playlist.

In 2011, Symphonic I, TCW’s top performing ensemble, earned a Superior (I) rating playing grade VI music; the Symphonic II band earned an Excellent (II) rating playing grade IV music. Concert Band performed for comments only.

Use this YouTube playlist to listen to all the bands’ 2011 assessment performances.

Can I come and watch?

Yes! Parents, family, and friends are encouraged to attend the performance of the band’s three prepared pieces. No audience is allowed for the sight-reading test. (You do get to wait nervously for the performance scores to be posted and speculate about how the sight-reading test is going.)

Please plan to come hear the band and cheer them on! Check the newsletter and calendar for performance times.

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