Up Close and Personal with a NJNJ Judge — Bobby Jones


What are the credentials of an aspiring designer?  Years as a musician? A former performer in drum corps? A graduate with a music degree?  An understudy in a successful program? All of these help but are they essential?  As a representative of the American ideal that anyone can live his dream, Bobby Jones has proven the prerequisites for the visual arts activity are not necessarily those normally presupposed.

Relying mainly on his inquisitiveness with what makes things work and his passion for the activity, Bobby, over the course of twenty years, developed the wherewithal to make himself a premiere designer for countless major marching band and drum corps programs, which include the show coordinator and designer for the Reading Buccaneers (the current DCA world champions), drill writer for the DCI Jersey Surf and an often sought-after adjudicator for marching bands and winter guards.  Since the inception of the New Jersey network of Judges (“NJNJ”), Bobby has been an on-going participant on many of our panels and he now offers his special insight for our readers.

1. You pursued this non-conventional career that lacks much of that comforting predictability others chose to follow with pensions, vacations, sick days, etc. to be a designer for the visual arts activity.  Does this require that you sacrifice certain things that you would otherwise like to experience?

Well, I do give myself sick days sometimes – although I don’t abuse that perk.  And I also throw office parties that at least my puppy is always glad to attend.

2. Are there idiosyncrasies in your schedule the average person might find avant guarde? 

Maybe it would be that my favorite time to write is from the time my wife goes to bed till the time she gets up.  For me, that time offers fewer distractions. And when she goes to work, I go to bed for a few hours. This allows me to spend 99% of my time with her when she comes home.  This allows our marriage to work for us.

VacationDrum corps writing and marching band writing have different requirements.  With marching bands, I have a lot of groups with over-lapping deadlines.  So, I’ll give myself blocks; I say, “For these five hours I’ll work on this team, take a nap, and then repeat that process. When I am really pressed, I’ll sleep on the floor so that when my alarm goes off, because I am uncomfortable, I will get up.  I will actually put the alarm on the other side of the room so that I am forced to get up.

3. When working with a staff, what happens?

It’s a vision.  As the program coordinator, I think about the big picture; I don’t think about drill.  If I pick a piece of music, I, along with other creative staff members, determine what sections to use that conform to that vision, estimate the amount of time to devote to them and lay out the structure.  From there we will discuss how those moments will fit in with what we hope to communicate to the audience.  This is then put together into a power point presentation.

4. How does your design background impact upon your judging?

I’m still a fan when I am watching a show, whether I am in the audience or putting a number down.  That’s why I enjoy doing Effect: because I get to react to the performer.  I am constantly watching shows to determine the rhyme or reason why someone chose that vertical moment, how they did it, how they completed the idea, how it was planned and how it affects the over-all message.

5. How do you find judging Design Analysis different that General Effect?

When judging DA, it is always fun to talk about design, but the other half of it is so black and white, they are either together or they are not.  I don’t feel this gives me the opportunity that I really enjoy.

With Effect, I don’t always have to worry about the “most cleanliness” thing. I want to feel how the performers react to their show and how I react to them. I am a designer, so I do watch the show from an analysis standpoint, but because I am such a fan of the activity, I want to react to it and get personal with the show, the performers and the instructional staff.

6. As a judge, what single aspect would you hope the staffs do that would help their programs?

Try to listen to the judges’ commentaries before coming to a critique.  I know how I would prepare myself if I were on staff, so I establish the opening dialogue with a staff with the question “Did you get a chance to listen to my commentary yet?”   “What questions do you have for me?” It is the staff’s responsibility to be likewise prepared and not be just concerned about the numbers because numbers are subjective. I would rather a staff satisfy that and, if necessary address the judge’s points and say, “Here’s my reasons for those decisions and next time you see us, maybe you can see it from our standpoint when we put the show together.

7. What do find a judge should keep in mind when giving commentary?

You never know who listens to it.  Besides the staff, it could be an administrator, another adjudicator or even a parent.  With that in mind, the comments should always be made in a professional manner.

8. What challenge does the future hold for you?

Dinner.  Experimenting with kale.  Mastered mashed cauliflower, made in a similar fashion as mashed potatoes with possibly sour cream, butter and milk.  Always trying to expand my horizons.