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SCJC Reduces International Judging Panel

SCJC Reduces International Judging Panel

The Society Contest and Judging Committee (SCJC) is tasked with regularly reviewing its rules and practices to ensure that they are efficient and serve the Society. This includes challenging their own assumptions in order to guard against continuing to do something a certain way because “we’ve always done it that way”, all the while being mindful of perpetuating an artform that, by its very nature, places great value on tradition.

One of the many things that SCJC discussed at the 2024 Midwinter Convention in New York City was the size of the International judging panel. Beginning with this year’s International convention in Cleveland, the number of scoring judges per category will be reduced from five to four. Additionally, in recent years, the Society Contest and Judging Chair has been serving on the International judging panel as the Contest Chair. As a result, SCJC believes the International contest only needs one additional administrative judge on this panel as opposed to two.

Regarding judging panels at district contests, the size of panels is driven by the number of judges needed to deliver feedback sessions to competitors (more competitors require more judges). Since SCJC does not deliver feedback sessions to competitors at International, the size of the panel there is driven only by what is necessary to ensure scoring accuracy.

“By way of history, when SCJC adopted the current judging categories in 1993, we also went from having three judges per scoring category to five judges per category,” said Steve Armstrong, chair of the Society’s Contest and Judging Committee. “This was necessary at that time to give us the best chance at arriving at the truth in the crowning of our champions and medalists. Since that time we have seen greater consistency in scoring from our judges due to a focus on scoring accuracy in our ongoing training. So because of the work we have done to improve scoring accuracy, it is now time to reduce the number of scoring judges per category at our International competition from five to four.”

"As an added benefit, we recognize that this decision represents a cost-saving measure due to the reduction in the number of judges. Providing excellent training and being good stewards of the Society’s financial health is always a goal of SCJC,” Armstrong said.

Currently, judges score a playlist of performances prior to judging a contest to ensure those skills are sharpened before they are used in a live contest. “Methods exist to track scoring accuracy both for these video playlists and also at live contests,” said Armstrong. “ In addition, a variance process has been added to contests whereby a score that is significantly different from other judges is flagged and then at the next break, all the judges in that category have the opportunity to discuss and possibly revise their scores. That constant attention to training and accurate scoring is what allows us to make these changes.”

To learn more about the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Contest and Judging Program, visit: