Jury Etiquette

Yesterday I attended the juries of my guitar students at The University of Rio Grande and sat in on the juries of several other students as well. Although I was impressed with most the performances I heard, I have some real issues with the way some of the students chose to present themselves. As an associate instructor, it’s not really my place to mandate any type of jury etiquette, but I saw some really surprising behavior. Below are some quick notes I made to share with my students so they can be well-organized and prepared going into their next jury.

Think audition
Treat this as an audition for next semester. How would you prepare for an audition? Dress for an audition? (Rio Grande is a pretty casual place, and while jeans and a t-shirt won’t necessarily hurt your grade, dressing up a bit for your jury would be a nice touch.) If you treat this experience as you would an audition for a great gig, everything else should be common sense.

Be on time
This seems like it would be a real no-brainer but several students were coming into the Fine Arts building just in the nick of time to make their juries. Arrive early, give yourself a chance to tune up and warm up and then be waiting outside the location of your jury about 5 minutes before you’re scheduled to appear. Don’t make the faculty wait for you.

Have your instrument prepared
If you were early and warmed up a bit before your jury this wouldn’t be an issue, but please have your instrument out of it’s case and tuned up. This was possibly my biggest irritation of the morning. I do not want to sit and watch you take the instrument out of it’s case and tune it up. For one student, we actually had to sit and wait for them to take their instrument of of the case, assemble the instrument, AND tune before they were ready to perform. Good grief. The one exception to this is if you have an accompanist and need to tune to the piano.

Have everything else prepared
At Rio Grande students are expected to have prepared evaluation sheets for the faculty to fill out during the jury. Some instructors may also ask students to bring extra copies of their music for faculty members to review. Check with your instructor to see if you will be required to bring any additional documentation or music to the jury. Prepare and organize everything BEFORE the day of your jury and put it all in a folder to bring with you into the jury. There will be so much less to worry about on jury day, and you’ll look like you really have your act together.

Scale and arpeggio requirements
I could (and probably will) dedicate an entire post to this sometime. Most instructors have some scale and/or arpeggio requirements and students should expect to be asked to play a few of these rudiments in the jury. I saw several students who constructed the scale in their head while they played, and while they played the correct notes of the scale, they did not play it in a musical fashion nor did they demonstrate a command of the material. Being asked to play a random scale or arpeggio may seem like a daunting task, but please take your time with this and trust our instincts. I’d much rather hear a student play a scale in time using a confident sounding series of long tones than listen to them start and stop as they try to think of what the next note might be.

Yeah, there will definitely be more on this topic in the future…

Final Thoughts
Finally, remember that the faculty members at your jury are not simply there evaluate you and to assign a grade. One day, they will be your colleagues. You’ll want them to recommend you for gigs, hire you for private parties, and talk you up to their contacts in the music business. Prepare well, and look, act, and play professionally now, and you will be planting the seeds for future successes!

5 thoughts to “Jury Etiquette”

  1. I teach Liberal Arts, not music, but similar behaviours in students occur in my classes when they give presentations. Some students aren’t prepared, their Powerpoints don’t work, they’re not appropriately dressed, they haven’t practised, etc. I am now considering giving them a checklist with requirements which must be satisified or they will receive a grade of zero (presentations are worth 40% of their final grade). If one student has this happen, the rest of the students will find out very quickly via their grapevine that not meeting requirements has severe consequences and that I am absolutely serious about them. Maybe you should do likewise.

  2. Thanks for your comment Brian. Last semester I simply gave each of them a hard copy of this post. I was pleased that every one of them was there on time and dressed better than I have ever seen them! So I guess I made my point.

  3. Although some of the students you have and evaluate are/were somewhat sloppy in their preparation, etc., they are interested in something creative and are motivated to learn the skills and, when told what you expect, they do try to comply. That’s progress!

  4. Oh yeah, they are all great people and very talented. I just wanted them to polish their presentations by looking and acting as professional as possible!

  5. It’s interesting that famous musicians/groups which have reputations for outrageous behaviour off stage appear to be hard working professionals when they perform.

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