UIL Music Benefits Many in the Name of Student Education

Connexeo - 06/07/2018

Part I of a three-part series on the University Interscholastic League of Texas’ music programs

The University Interscholastic League of Texas’ music programs mean different things to its different constituencies; each of them lead in the area of student enrichment. 

For our readers outside of the state of Texas, we encourage you to read on. The UIL is a case study in pioneering K-12 enrichment and curriculum support.

  • For the student, UIL music programs offer the opportunity to compete at regional, area and state levels, improve his musicianship by advancing through class levels, and performing a variety of prescribed works.
  • For the music educator, the UIL experience can serve as a road map for the year’s curriculum. Being able to pick and choose the music from the UIL’s Prescribed Music List allows the teachers to play to their ensembles’ and soloists’ strengths, as well as select appropriate pieces to assess students of all levels.
  • For the music education community at-large, The Prescribed Music List serves as a model that other states and nations either copy or adapt for their own modeling.

“At the UIL, our hope is that through the events we provide, students receive enriching experiences to help them grow not only as musicians, but as young people in general,” said Dr. Bradley Kent, the UIL’s State Director of Music, who oversees a program that serves about 750,000 students each academic year.

The UIL – which uses and is expanding its use of the CHARMS music education software – conducts state championship competitions each year in marching band, and state evaluation competitions in solo and small ensemble in band, choir and orchestra; and concert and sight-reading evaluations in those three disciplines. The evaluations do not crown state champions, per se, but rank contestants on a 5-point scale, with a “1” being the best.

“The marching band competition is the most visible of the UIL music competitions.  It receives a lot of recognition from media”, Kent said. The competition is possibly the most strenuous, as it occurs during football season. Most band competitions take place on Saturday, with preliminaries often beginning early in the morning – less than 12 hours after the bands performed at halftime on Friday night. The finals do not end until after dusk on Saturday evening.

UIL also sponsors evaluation competitions for medium- and large-size ensembles at the regional level, but they do not advance to the state level. It also has two statewide festivals – woodwind and mariachi – for groups that received a Division I rating at a regional contest.

The Wind Ensemble festival does not offer ratings, but does name outstanding performers. The mariachi festival, a first-in-the-nation pilot program that began in 2016, offers both ratings and outstanding-performer awards.

Outside all the competitions, Kent believes that one of the most important services the UIL provides is the document from which the student competitors (and their teachers) choose their performance pieces: The Prescribed Music List.

“The Prescribed Music List contains pieces for all programs, and directors choose their music from that list,” Kent said. “It contains the very best literature in the field.”

Three seven-member committees – one each for band, choir and orchestra – spend three months each year listening to various pieces, deciding which to add, subtract and transfer among the six grade (class) levels. Publishers may submit music they would like to have considered for the list, as may school music directors and others.

Publishers certainly have big dogs in the hunt. Not only is Texas one of the largest states in the nation with one of the largest population of music students, the UIL’s Prescribed Music List also forms the basis of many other states’ programs.

“Our Prescribed Music List is public domain,” Kent said. “Other states and other countries use it. “We wanted to keep it in the public domain so we can be of service to the entire music education community.”

Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina and Idaho are among those that use the UIL’s list either exclusively or as an option, showing that the UIL music programs’ influence ranges nationwide.

Music, along with athletics, has been a cornerstone of the UIL, almost since it was established by the University of Texas (which still operates it) in 1910 – one of the older interscholastic high school associations in the nation and the second oldest, behind Arkansas’, west of the Mississippi River.

“Going back 100 years, we have a great infrastructure for music and music education in Texas,” Kent said. “The other organization we work with is the Texas Music Educators Association, which dates back to 1920. Those two organizations have been strong supporters of music education. It all works symbiotically.”

“Part of UIL music’s strength comes from the organization’s unified structure and system of governance”, Kent said.  “We have an executive body made up of those who work at the state office, a legislative body made up of 36 superintendents and a judicial branch called the state executive committee. We’re very fortunate we have this type of organizational structure.”

The executive branch helps function with the CHARMS software from Connexeo. The UIL music department recently expanded its use of the system to add registration and scheduling capabilities. “Music directors at schools can now use CHARMS to register their groups for regional and state competitions, and the UIL can schedule competitions and performance times more efficiently,” Kent said. The result: Time savings.

Most people know the UIL for athletics, but music has long been an important component for an organization that also has strong academic and drama programs. As it keeps innovating and as Texas keeps growing, UIL music will continue to be at the forefront.

For over a century, students and parents coming out of Texas have transplanted to states around the country and abroad, and have helped engineer other programs, helping carve new inroads in youth enrichment in their communities.


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