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NAfME (National Association for Music Education) designates March as “Music in Our Schools” month. I thought that in response to this it would be good for everyone to have a little more information on the Music Department’s major evaluation of the year – Large Group Performance Evaluation. Every year parents and teachers alike ask, “What is LGPE?” and in education, with all of our acronyms, it is easy for it to get lost in the shuffle. So here is a little explanation of LGPE.

LGPE is sponsored by the Georgia Music Educators Association and stands for Large Group Performance Evaluation. This means that the ensembles that participate should have at least 17 members to perform. (It should be noted that groups with less than 17 members can participate in Solo and Ensemble, which a separate event sponsored by GMEA.) Any school can take as many groups as they wish and for a number of years, Fulton County has asked that each school have at least one ensemble from each area (band, chorus, and orchestra) go to LGPE for evaluation. For many years all of Milton’s curricular ensembles go to this event for evaluation.

You should know that these events are public evaluations. Anyone came come to these performances. Many times when we perform for LGPE there are students and parents from many different schools in the audience. Each group performance is evaluated by a panel of 3 judges. Sight Reading has a separate judge to evaluate that portion of the experience. The judges are approved by GMEA by a panel of teachers on the individual councils (i.e. Band, Chorus, and Orchestra). Once the list of approved judges is out for each year, a district can choose whomever they wish from that panel. One judge has to be the head judge who makes all final decisions and runs that event and well as making sure that the judging is on a similar page. All head judges are assigned by GMEA and have to go through additional training for the responsibilities associated with that job.

The judges have score sheets for each ensemble. Each of the elements of judging criteria is based on the National and State Music Standards. These are elements that are worked on from the beginning of the year and in many cases are overlapping standards. We rarely work on the standards separately for they are occurring at the same time during each particular piece of music. It is possible to choose selections that focus on a specific idea but we are always working on breathing techniques, tone, and intonation. Those concepts are present at all times. (It should be noted that there are some differences between then instrumental and vocal groups on specific standards and some differences in how to do sight reading but the big picture items are the same.)

The selection of repertoire may be the greatest challenge of the entire evaluation. Part of the director's responsibility it to choose which level each ensemble will participate in the evaluation. Not all the groups are created equally so it is on the director to determine the level of the group and choose appropriate music for that level. GMEA provides a list of repertoire and each group must perform at least one selection from the provided list of repertoire at the level for which they enter. The choral ensembles perform in Class A, B, C, or D with A being the most advanced. Band and Orchestras enter in Grade 1-6 with 6 being the most difficult. It is a challenge each year to determine the level of the group and then choose the appropriate music they can perform to the best of their abilities.

Here you can see the ratings that are obtained from the ensembles for the performance and sight-reading at LGPE. This is directly from the GMEA handbook.

  • Superior (1): Outstanding performance. Worthy of distinction of being recognized as among the very best.

  • Excellent (2): Unusually good performance in many respects, but not worthy of the highest rating due to minor defects. A performance of distinctive quality.

  • Good (3): A good performance, but not one that is outstanding. Shows accomplishment and marked promise, but lacks one or more essential qualities.

  • Fair (4): A performance that shows some obvious weaknesses, generally weak and uncertain.

  • Poor (5): A performance that reveals much room for improvement. The students reveal almost a complete lack of preparedness and understanding.

The final component of LGPE is the sight-reading portion. It is expected in our music classrooms that we work on sight-reading skills. Not only should each individual be able to read but the group should read at a certain level. In this portion, the students AND conductor are handed a piece of music at the corresponding performing level (i.e. – A class A performing group should be reading at a Class A level.). The instructions vary a little between vocal and instrumental groups but the basis is that they get a preset amount of time to work on the examples using the skills from class. At the end of the time, the ensemble will perform the example live for the sight-reading judge. The ensemble is then graded on this performance and practice. It is important to note that a portion of the grade is based on their practice. This part of the process is most important for, without a method, they will not be able to read the music. They must demonstrate a competent reading method during this time.

As you can see there are many, many elements that go into this evaluation and it is no small feat to continually earn Superior Ratings. It is a huge honor that we do not take lightly here at Milton. All of the Milton High School Music Ensembles participated in Large Group Performance Evaluation over the past couple of weeks and every single ensemble received Superior Ratings in performance and most of the groups received Superior Ratings in Sight Reading as well.

There are many comparable things to the evaluations that go on in core curriculum and there are some major differences but the unifying element is that we begin this in August and it is cumulative. I hope that this is some information that you can use and see a little bit of the behind the scenes in the music classrooms.

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