Judging the Kapiti College Variety Concert was so much fun. In the end the audience was happy with our choices for winners. I saw a lot of people that I hadn't seen since college which was really great. Attending the concert made me wish that I had gone to many more things like that.
Firstly, can I just say it is way easier to think you know who should win something like this when you are watching it purely for entertainment, or even with the bias of supporting someone who's participating. With the weight of responsibility (that sounds so serious but just bear with me) that judging brings decisions are much harder to make. I know what it's like to be on the other side of things, thinking you know who should win. Both as a contestant and a spectator. I wanted to make the right decision, one that I felt was fair, but one that the contestants would respect and the audience would agree with.
Much to the disgust of some, the judges were invited to watch the dress rehearsals on Wednesday afternoon to get an idea of judging level. I ended up really appreciating this because I felt more prepared to score on the night and be confident in my scoring. They hadn't allowed any time for judges deliberation this year, because they didn't want us to deliberate. They gave us three judging categories: Technical Ability, Entertainment Value and Performance Presentation. We were to mark each performance in these categories but against the others in their performance category (music, dance or drama). The score sheets would then be collected from us and tabulated and the winners announced, one for each category and from those winners an overall winner, without us necessarily choosing the winner, but the scores determining who would win.
Their reasons for this judging method was because of bad experiences in the past. Judges deliberation would take too long and be a giant lull at the end of a huge climax of a concert, and pushy judges had meant decisions were made that almost no one was happy with. (I think they might have chosen us "ex-students" this year because of this previous bad example as well, hoping to have more humble amateurs rather than arrogant professionals)
The concert was very impressive. The level of performance of these kids was so high, I said to Erika that they would open their mouths and these massive, adult voices would come out. All the drama skits were entertaining rather than eye rolling and cringe worthy like they were in my day, and the dance was varied and very good too. There were even a couple stand up routines in the drama section, and The Comic Musings Of Kurt was one of my highlights.
The judging panel consisted of, probably, my ideal companion judges. My sister Erika was one, and my mentee from peer mentoring back at school, Matt Fraser, was the other. He went on to be Head Boy at Kapiti College and then to study Music and Te Reo Maori at university. He's also a member of Vocal FX, New Zealand's premiere male barbershop chorus who placed 10th internationally in 2009. I like to think that my "mentoring" did a lot more than it probably did. We've kept in touch a little bit since school, enough for him to see Sadie at rehearsals and say "I haven't seen her since she was all wrapped up still!" which was nice. We all had different preferences (despite performing in the 2003 Variety Concert together in a tap dance) but similar scoring. They were great to consult with but I don't think any of us would say either of the other judges were pushy.
It came to the final act and Matt leant over to me and said "Can we walk out after this and ask for a minute to go over our scores? I'm not ready to hand it over yet." He'd done what we'd all done: calculated the scores as we'd gone and tried to determine who the winner would be. All three of us had decided who we would choose to win the dance and drama sections, but for the music section, which was twice as big, none of us had come to a decision yet. And so the deliberation that they had tried to avoid began.
Very quickly we decided who would win the music section. Then we had to decide who would win overall. This was the big one. The scores were meant to be what determined the winner, but we'd been marking each act against the others in their performance category and so the scores didn't necessarily show which of the three we thought was the best overall performance. We were hung between the dance item and the music item. We decided the dance item, which had a higher score, should be the winner, adjusted scoring between us to make sure they would be, and handed our sheets in. I said "I don't think the audience will like that." Erika said "I guess we just have to not worry about what the audience will think."
They took us backstage to worry about what we would say when we delivered the awards. I couldn't think of anything. If my terrible wedding speech didn't teach me I don't know why but I hope this one will, to PLAN THE SPEECH AHEAD OF TIME.
I started to feel uneasy. Partly because of nerves of going on stage, but mostly because of our decision.
"I think we've made a mistake"
I checked with the stage manager then ran down the hall with Matt to the office where they were counting the scores.
"We want to change it!" I said as we burst in.
They told us they'd just tallied the scores and ended up with a tie anyway, so who did we want to win. Lucky we hadn't left it to our hasty maths skills!
We ran back to the stage with the awards just in time, Erika was already on stage about to deliver some news. I gave my terrible speech, a very awkward hug that was preceded by an an equally awkward hand chase but no hand shake. Erika and Matt did much better. Then it was done.
There were more awkward hugs and lots of catching up with teachers and classmates and parents of old friends.
I feel like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, because really, they're not going to ask me again are they? And I loved every minute of it.
Erika said it's made her consider teaching secondary school sometime in the future, because of the co-curriculars you could get involved with. I must say it's crossed my mind since then too!