District Orchestra Assessment

District 12 Orchestra Assessment Information

In 2017/2018, TJMS Orchestra received a rating of “Superior.”  That’s the best!

This year’s District 12 Orchestra Assessment will be held on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2 at Kenmore Middle School.  Orchestras from Arlington and Fairfax Counties perform a program for a panel of 3 professional string judges to receive comments that serve as feedback on our orchestra program.

This is a mandatory performance, equivalent to SOL tests for instrumental music.

This is a fun and educational event, as students have the chance to perform together, receive valuable feedback and get to hear other groups perform (if time permits).

We will be taking a school bus to the location. We will meet early in the AM at Jefferson and return by 1:00 p.m or so on March 1 or 2.


Some frequently asked questions about District Assessment:

  • What is District Assessment? District Assessment is a two-part performance event where local music ensembles perform both prepared and “new” music for a panel of judges.  All Arlington schools are assigned to District 12. Separate middle school and high school events are held for band, orchestra, and chorus.
  • How does it work? On stage, the ensembles perform three prepared selections (a warm-up and two “concert” pieces) for a panel of 3 judges. After the stage performances, the ensemble moves to a separate room where they will preview and perform a piece of music they have never seen before within a set time limit.  This part of the event is also judged and is called “Sightreading.”
  • Why are those people talking in the back of the auditorium? While the students are performing, the judges record comments using a voice recorder to give the young musicians tips on how to improve in the future.  These recordings are given to the director after the performance.
  • What’s a Superior? What does “C/O” mean? 
    Some ensembles perform for “Comments Only” (sometimes marked as “C/O”), and receive only written and verbal feedback for their performances.  For the remaining ensembles, judges will use a rubric to give the band, orchestra, or chorus a rating for their performance.  The ratings from the four judges (3 stage/prepared and 1 sightreading) are combined for an overall rating or “assessment” of the ensemble.  The rating scale (from each judge and for the combined score) is as follows:

    • I = Superior (the highest rating)
    • II = Excellent
    • III = Good
    • IV = Fair
    • V = Poor (the lowest rating)
  • How is a Grade II different from a Rating II? 
    A separate Roman numeral scale is also used to classify the difficulty of music students perform.  The Virginia music difficulty scale ranges from I (beginning music) to VI (advanced high school music.)  Across the state of Virginia, most middle schools (including TJMS) perform Grade II and Grade III music, although some middle schools play Grade IV music. Most high schools perform music in the Grade IV, V, and VI range.

What else should I know about District Assessment?

  • It’s not a competition.
    Although a standardized scale is used to assess performing ensembles, District Assessment is not a competition. No numerical score or ranking is given for our performances.  The performances are more like a “grade” for our ensembles, which is sometimes compared to being an “SOL” exam for music ensembles.
  • Are parents/families allowed to attend?
    Yes, please plan on attending!
  • Should I clap?
    Just like any other performance, our students appreciate applause to recognize their hard work, rather than awkward silence in between pieces.  Even if you hear the judges talking into their voice recorders between selections, it is still appropriate to acknowledge our students’ performances!