As I mentioned in the last post, I was in Alma this weekend past. Bob Worrall and I drove down together (well, Bob actually drove the whole way and back. I offered. Honest.), and over the course of the 10-plus hours of Michigan and Ontario there was, as you might expect, a lot of enlightening conversation. Bob is always great for really well considered opinion. He’s one of the smartest people I know in piping.
At one point we got to talking about the whole judging thing. Bob’s been judging regularly for some 25 years now, and does a lot more of it than me. He’s somewhere judging and/or conducting workshops and recitals probably three-quarters of the weekends every year. Other people who commit similar amounts of time, like Ken Eller, Ed Neigh and Reay Mackay, always have intrigued me. Sure, you’re paid, but the time commitment is massive, especially when you have a job and family.
Bob noted that, as a long-time high school teacher, judging might come more naturally to him. He’s professionally trained to provide constructive criticism to students, so applying that skill to piping and pipe band contests is almost second-nature.
And then came a realization: the common denominator with many really good judges is their ability to teach. The aforementioned folks are all professional teachers. The more skilled the teacher, the more skilled the judge. Those who can impart their knowledge in a critically constructive way are usually more effective at judging, which today goes far beyond – at least in North America – simply determining a prize-list. Accounting for that list, and ensuring that competitors know exactly how you arrived at the decision, is essential to a competition in which competitors leave knowing exactly where they stand, and what they need to work on to improve.
There are some judges who still feel that they are not there to give lessons. But the reality is that teaching, by providing constructive and informed criticism, is an important skill for every judge to have.