Guidelines for All Judges

Judges must agree to abide by the rules of the competition.

Written comments

Criticism should be offered in a constructive manner with specific suggestions for improvement. It is helpful for the student to know what you liked about a performance as well as what improvements could be made. Personal preferences for specific editions, ornamentation, articulation, etc. may be mentioned, but should not prejudice the comments and the overall decision.


In addition to the written comments, the judge will check a grade on each comment sheet. (The scoring system varies among the various competitions).

Interacting with teachers and others:

Judges are not to speak with anyone other than the chair(s) or monitor(s) at any time (including breaks), until after the competition is over and the results have been announced. Teachers attending competitive events may not sit with or identify their students in the presence of the judges. Teachers are to refrain from conversation with judges until all decisions have been announced. Violation of this rule (at the discretion of the chair(s)) by a teacher could result in disqualification of that teacher’s students.

Balloting procedure:

At the end of the performances, the judges will be sequestered for the balloting procedure either by removing the audience from the room or by moving the judges to another room.

  • For competitions and festivals without monetary prizes:  Balloting procedures are defined differently for each event. The chairman of the event will provide instructions to the judges.
  • For competitions with monetary awards:
    1. For competitions with monetary awards, judges must award one 1st place and may award one 2nd and one 3rd place; award levels may not skip a place and there can be no ties.
    2. Offer encouragement with as many honorable mentions as possible. (Guideline: between 25%and 50% of candidates should receive a prize or honorable mention)
    3. In the Piano Concerto Competition, the cadenza rule must be observed.
    4. Before judges ballot, the monitor (or chairman) tallies the scores. The rating sheets are then returned to the judges. Judges are instructed that once the scores are tallied the scores cannot be changed.
    5. Each judge is given a ballot for first place and each judge will choose, independently, the contestant that he would like to receive first place.
    6. If at least two out of three judges choose the same contestant, that contestant is the first place winner.
    7. If a majority is not reached, then a second ballot must be taken to try to find a first place winner.
    8. If a majority is achieved in the second ballot, then that contestant is the first place winner.
    9. If a majority is still not reached, the judges must then discuss among themselves, with the balloter present, so that they may come to a consensus of whom the first place winner should be. At this point, a third ballot is taken.
    10. If a majority is still not reached with the third and final ballot, then the balloter will choose a first place winner from the three contestants who are under consideration for first place by referring to the scores on the tally sheet.
    11. In the event that two or more contestants have the same score, then the judges are required to deliberate until a first place winner is chosen.
    12. The above procedure will also be used for selecting second and then third place winners.

Honorable mentions are at the discretion of the judges, with the guideline that between 25% and 50% of the entrants should be awarded a prize or honorable mention.