2014 MCBA Score "Norming"

We want to apologize for not posting Novi scores last night; we had graciously received them via Facebook, but we felt that there was a potential scoring miscalculation and chose to wait until MCBA posted the event recap to see if an issue had occurred.

What we found out, and what is crucial for everybody who uses to this site to know, is that there was an MCBA rule change that greatly impacts the future of MCBA scores in Michigan.

Regarding MCBA scoring, MCBA states on their website:

MCBA currently utilizes MCBA constructed judging sheets and criteria. Seven adjudicators are utilized in the scoring system:

Music Field Judge – 10% of the total score

Music Ensemble Judge – 20% of the total score

Visual Field Judge – 10% of the total score

Visual Ensemble Judge – 20% of the total score

Music General Effect Judge – 20% of the total score

Visual General Effect Judge – 20% of the total score

Total possible score = 100

To first explain: the seventh adjudicator is the Timings and Penalty Judge, who only impacts scores in the case of point deduction for rules violations.

From what we can gather, this system is not changing; bands are still being scored on the above criteria.

The difference, as we were informed this morning, is that now, a band’s individual caption scores from the above criteria will be added together (to receive what, in years past, was the final score), then is divided in half, and “normed” by adding 50 points.

What this means now is that MCBA competitions are more equivalent scoring to a Scholastic (SMB) competition, and no longer reflective of how bands would be scoring on a National linear level.

Let’s look at last night’s Novi competition. I’m going to break this into two portions, as Flights II and I were moved indoors for a standstill due to weather. Additionally, I’m listing the announced score from the competition, plus an “Earned Score” which removes the scoring norming to show what a band would have earned otherwise.

Full Marching Performances:

Band Novi 2014 “Earned Score”
IV – Durand 79.050 58.10
IV – Burton Atherton 77.575 55.15
III – Ferndale 85.425 70.85
III – Mt. Pleasant 81.425 62.85
III – Cedar Springs 80.950 61.90

Indoor Standstill:

Due to the fact that Flights II and I were conducted as indoor standstill performances, Visual captions were not judged, and their scores should have been only out of the Music captions, which factor to 50% of the score. Nobody should have had higher than 50 points in an indoor standstill performance.

Band Novi 2014 “Earned Score”
II – Flushing 66.600 33.20
II – Carman-Ainsworth 66.125 32.25
II – FH Harrison 65.975 31.95
II – Lakeland 65.250 30.50
I – Lake Orion 69.300 38.60
I – Troy Athens 68.275 36.55
I – Clarkston 67.825 35.65

We’ve suspected there is a flaw in the tabulation sheets that still allows the 50 point “norm” for the standstill performances. We suspect, for full functionality on this system, the “norm” for a standstill should be 25 points, as half of the captions cannot be judged.


I am not including these scores here to discredit any effort bands made last night at Novi; I am sure the performances were their best performances yet and that every student put forth 110%.

However, where I am upset, is that this will seemingly give a false sense of success. Scholastic Marching Bands started in the early 1990s in reaction to MCBA. Less competitive bands were displeased with the low scores they would receive, and a “norming” system where bands could receive no lower than a 50 was created. These higher scores were a great indicator to school administrators that a band was doing well, and Scholastic has grown immensely since.

MCBA, however, continued to score bands from 0 to 100. This meant that bands could receive a 40% score, or lower, or higher, depending on their performances. Now, with this new system, the lowest a band can score is a 50.


I am honestly flabbergasted by this change. I see it as another effort of MCBA to gain enrollment without acknowledging other issues at hand. MCBA in recent years has seen a great decrease in member bands, and have tried multiple efforts to increase enrollment. Ford Field expenses have meant that State Finals have gone from 10 to 12 bands in competition, and even ticket prices for State, which had been $16 for many years, have finally had to increase. I suspect that this “score norming” was put into place to make MCBA scores more appealing to non-MCBA bands.

What upsets me the most about all of this is the lack of transparency from MCBA. There was no communication with the general public about this change. I know that there are going to be very, very upset parents when a band like Jenison goes to Grant on September 27 and scores in the high 80s (potentially the low 90s), and then goes to BOA Toledo on October 4, and earns a score in the high 70s/low 80s range.

It has always been disheartening to me to watch band parents struggle with differences between SMB and MCBA. That struggle will be gone; the scores will be rather reflective of one another. It’s going to be even more disheartening to have these parents, and potentially these students, get discouraged when their scores drastically drop between an MCBA and a BOA competition.

I’ve heard this described as “feel-good” judging. After all, Ferndale, for example, last year at State [the end of their competitive season] earned an 85.400. Last night they earned an 85.425. I am not discrediting this multiple State Champion band – every accolade they receive they clearly earn – but I know a flaw in a scoring system when I see one, especially when their first score of the season is higher than their State Championship score from the previous year.

If anything, instead of continually changing our scoring system for MCBA, we should adopt the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) mentality: Scores are never announced. Bands receive a Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating.

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