What is Chair Testing and Placement?
Chair Testing is a process by which all students are assessed and evaluated on their personal musical progress. Students are assigned a "chair" based on their musicianship and technical abilities. "Chair placement" refers to the seat that a student holds in the band. In our popular culture (and common practice in bands across America) you might have heard the phrase "first chair". A student who is "first chair" has been evaluated as among the strongest musicians in their section.
How does this process benefit students?
The initial process of chair testing is beneficial to students as it allows them to see an honest evaluation of their current musical progress. It further allows students to develop a plan for improvement through "chair challenges".
A chair challenge is when a student seeks to improve their chair by "challenging" the student above them. Similar to student athletes competing for starter positions, a chair challenge has two students performing for the same chair. While it sounds a bit "cut-throat" to people who have not been a part of programs where chair placement and chair challenges are common, the actual practice and implementation is very supportive and effective when related to student musicianship and growth.
Additionally, the entire experience is a low-stakes audition. The more that students are exposed to the audition process, the easier future auditions become. Consider it like a "practice interview" - the more interviews you have, the easier and less stressful they become!
Chair Testing Materials
- All students in the section will perform the same excerpt from an assigned etude.
- Students may prepare in advance as little or as much as they prefer for the audition date.
- The audition will consist of one attempt at performance.
- Students should be as accurate as possible with tempo, notes, rhythms, and dynamics.
- After all students have completed the audition the directors will determine chair placements using the appropriate WSMA rubrics.