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A Virginia Honor Band

13 years of being a Virginia Honor Band, 11 of them consecutive:














What is a Virginia Honor Band

Any school that receives a final rating of I (superior) at both the State Marching Band Festival and at Concert Band Festival with its highest graded ensemble is given the title of a Virginia Honor Band, a practice established in 1982. Schools are given special recognition if they win Honor Band Award 10 times and 15 times. Any school that wins the Virginia Honor Band Award 20 times or more is given the "Hall of Fame" designation.



State Marching Band Festival

The State Marching Band Festival is held in five different school sites throughout the Commonwealth, which are the West, Central, East, Northeast, and Southeast. Most schools in each of the competition sites are roughly located in their respective region within Virginia. Groups are then classified by the marching band's number of playing members (winds + percussion), from 1A (smallest, 50 or fewer members) to 5A (largest). 

Unlike many other band competitions, there are no awards for 1st place, etc., but every band receives a rating of I (Superior); II (Excellent); III (Good); IV (Fair); or V (Poor). In "Olympic Festival" format, a panel of five judges rates each band. The highest and the lowest ratings from individual judges are removed before determining the band's final rating. An example would be if a band receives one I rating, three II ratings, and one III rating; the I and III would be removed, giving the band a final rating of II, which is the average of the other three judges who all gave the band a II.

District Concert Band Festival

Each band is classified by the grade of music they are playing, which ranges from I (easy) to VI (hard). Most high school bands play music that range from grade IV to VI; middle school bands tend to play music in the grade II or III category, and some middle school bands with a high degree of talent play at grade IV. 

In the concert band festival, most bands choose to play three pieces in an auditorium. The repertoire always consists of one march, one piece from an overture or suite, and one piece of their choice. A panel of three judges then grades the group a rating from I to V, similar to the way judges give ratings at the State Marching Festival. After the concert, the band will go to a different room to sightread a piece. The piece is always two grade levels below the repertoire they played at the concert (A band that plays Grade VI in the concert plays a Grade IV in the sightreading), unless it is a Grade II or I band who would play a beginning level piece. The sightreading judge then assigns the band a rating from I to V. 

Some bands choose not to do sightreading, and perform only in the concert. By doing so, they are to prepare four pieces (one march, one overture/suite, and two other pieces of the band's choosing at the same level). During the festival, the band will still play three pieces like other bands who do sightreading because of time constraints. The three pieces are chosen in this order. First, the march will be played. Of the remaining three pieces, the judges (about a week before the festival) get to pick one of the three remaining pieces, and the band chooses the third piece of the remaining two after the judges pick.

The four judges' ratings are all averaged (but weighted more heavily towards the concert judges) to determine the band's final rating, which ranges from I to V. For example, a band that received two I's and a II from the third concert judge, and a II from the sightreading judge will receive a final rating of I, but a band with two II's and a I from the third concert judge and the sightreading judge get a II, though both bands had two I's and II's.

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