Annual LGPE program evaluates high school bands
In perhaps the largest gathering of musicians in the county, more than 50 high school band groups from throughout Cobb County will perform over three days in the annual Large Group Performance Evaluation (LGPE) program at Lassiter High School, March 17-19.
More than 2,800 high school musicians will participate in the annual event, sponsored by the Georgia Music Educators Association. The event is open to the public, and usually is well-attended by thousands of parents, family members, schoolmates, and others.
A total of 17 high schools from the Cobb County and Marietta school districts are performing. High schools include Allatoona, Campbell, Harrison, Hillgrove, Kell, Kennesaw Mountain, Lassiter, Marietta, McEachern, North Cobb, Osborne, Pebblebrook, Pope, South Cobb, Sprayberry, Walton and Wheeler. Each high school is eligible to participate with concert, symphonic and wind bands
Performance Standards and Evaluations
Performing bands in each category are evaluated by a panel of 10 music experts with distinguished achievements as professional musicians and music educators at the high school and university level. All music performed by the bands must be selected from a grade-appropriate, state-approved list. The performance evaluations are comparable to standardized tests or end of course exams for other courses.
In addition to scoring each group’s overall performance, the evaluators also provide helpful feedback to directors and the high school students themselves designed to improve section, group and individual performances.
Evaluations are both intense and detailed, with each band receiving verbal and written feedback following their performance plus a professional audio recording for at-school review and teaching. Bands can earn one of five overall scores, ranging from superior to failure. Letter grades also are assigned on fundamental musical elements. All evaluations are conducted by comparison to a national standard of performance achievement.
Directors Are Graded, Too
And it’s not just the students who get graded. The band directors themselves are video recorded during the performances. A conducting evaluator records commentary about director performance in musical communication and interpretation.
After selecting music that meets program requirements for level and difficulty, bands rehearse for months before LGPE. Many use the last week before LGPE to stage concerts at their schools as a final dress rehearsal. But they can’t prepare for everything.
A key element of LGPE evaluation is sight reading evaluation, in which bands must perform music distributed to students and directors for the first time at the competition. Each band member has minutes to review, acclimate to and practice their parts. Immediately following, the band performs the music for the first time as a group – under the watchful eyes and ears of the evaluation panel. It’s a nerve-wracking process, all designed to test and improve the skills of each section and the entire band.
Music, and a Massive Logistical Feat
While music is first and foremost at LGPE, behind the scenes a massive, coordinated logistical process is required to stage the event. Hundreds of volunteers fill key roles in hospitality and event management.
One of the most critical volunteer tasks involves getting every band member to every performance. That’s no easy feat given the usual distractions that can quickly redirect the attention of even the most focused teenager. But it’s all closely supervised by the volunteers, and precisely timed to keep the event on its fast-paced schedule.
Immediately on their scheduled arrival at Lassiter by school or chartered bus, bands unload their instruments and store them. Then, bands may enter a designated area of the performance hall to watch and cheer on other high schools. Approximately an hour before their own scheduled evaluation, each band retrieves its instruments then proceeds to warm-ups. On the move again, the band stands by in a backstage waiting area. As the previous band wraps up its performance and leaves the stage, the next band is ushered into performance position on stage. In minutes, it’s showtime and each band member focuses their attention on the director, ready for their prime-time performance.
Lassiter High School’s 1,000-seat orchestra performance hall will house the 2022 LGPE event. Completed in 2013, the Lassiter Concert Hall can house a 100-seat orchestra on its stage. In addition to high school music programs, the Lassiter Performance Center is home for the Cobb Wind Symphony and has also hosted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Expert Evaluation Panel
The panel of expert evaluators for 2022 LGPE include:
- Robert J. Ambrose, Director of Bands, Professor of Music and Associate Director of the School of Music at Georgia State University.
- Alfred Watkins, retired Director of Bands at Lassiter High School and Co-Founder, Conductor and Musical Director of the Cobb Wind Symphony.
- Shelby Chipman, Associate Professor and Director of Marching and Pep Bands at Florida A&M University.
- Bobby Lambert, Director of Bands at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
- Gary Gribble, former Director of Bands at Pope High School and a four-time recipient of the National Band Association "Citation of Excellence" for outstanding contributions to band and band music.
- Lauren Denney Wright, former Director of Wind Ensemble Activities and Assistant Professor of Music at Berry College in Georgia.
- Greg Williams, retired former band director at North Cobb High School, and a nationally-known judge for Drum Corps International and Music for All.
- John Lawless, Director of Percussion Studies at Kennesaw State University, principal timpanist of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra, percussionist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and a well-known studio and pit percussionist.
- Sue Samuels, Director of Bands and Coordinator of Music Education Studies at Furman University.
- Freddy Martin, band director at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, an active adjudicator for Bands of America for more than twenty-five years, and a frequent judge Bands of America National and Regional Championships.