In My Experience: An Interview with Colorado Adjudicator Tim Tilley

| September 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Timothy Tilley is a native of Tifton, Georgia.  He is a member of the Colorado Bandmasters Association, Rocky Mountain Color Guard Association, United States Scholastic Band Association and the Noncommissioned Officers Association.  He has adjudicated, designed and taught marching bands across the United States and Germany for over 20 years.  He performed with the Spirit of Atlanta in 1988 as a Soprano.  Mr. Tilley retired from the United States Army in 2009, completing over 20 years of active duty in the US Army Signal Corps and Combat Aviation units, as well as having served as an Army Recruiter.   He completed his Army career as a Sergeant First Class and Platoon Sergeant of a Kiowa Warrior Helicopter Platoon with the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) during Operation Iraqi Freedom VII-IX.  He completed assignments in Germany and Korea and was deployed in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bosnia Herzegovina in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Mr. Tilley resides in Colorado Springs; CO is married to the former Sarah Faye Foxx and has three children:  Michael, Blake and Gabriella.  He is currently a Protocol Specialist and Heraldic Equipment Manager for the Mission Support Element, Office of Executive Services at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Number of years in the activity: 
 25, including involvement as a member, instructor/designer and judge.

What inspired you to become involved in judging color guard?  
Having marched indoor during high school, I was inspired to give back to an activity that provided me a second home and an outlet for my artistic and athletic energy.  I had already adjudicated for marching band, so indoor was a natural next step as a judge.  I love color guard, whether judging or spectating.


What is your experience as a performer?
  I marched and played in the marching band and symphonic band at Kendrick High School and Tift County High School as well as 1 year of indoor guard and 1 year of indoor percussion.  I went on to perform with the Spirit of Atlanta in 1988, the Petrouschka year, as a soprano bugle player.

Why is this activity so important for today’s young people?  Every pageantry activity, whether indoors or out, provides a place for young people to learn leadership, teamwork, discipline and keeps them focused in a positive direction.  You also can’t argue that musicians and performers become better students and that translates to a positive addition to adult society as they move on from their pageantry performance career to the big world of life.  As we’ve grown up in the pageantry activity as judges, designers, instructors and staff, we’ve watched as the distracters and unsavory activities our young men and women are exposed to grow and grow.  Our activity is so very important in that it is positive, it helps build confidence and self-esteem through healthy competition and all of us who participate, whether performer, staff or judge, grow into a strong family system, ready to help each other in moments of achievement and when the going is tough.

What is your experience as a judge? I initially trained as a judge with the Atlantic States Judges Association, both indoors and out while assigned to duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  As I moved in conjunction with military assignments, I judged at every opportunity available.  While assigned at Fort Carson, Colorado, I became involved with the Rocky Mountain Color Guard Association, the Colorado Bandmasters Association, as well as the United States Scholastic Band Association.  When my wife and I retired from the Army in Colorado, one of the determining factors between staying here and going back to the east coast, where we are from, was my involvement with CBA and RMCGA.  My experiences here with judging mentors and our personal growth were so positive that we wanted to continue participation in these great organizations.

What are a few of your most memorable moments as a judge?
There have been some very wonderful moments of feedback from instructors and students when I was able to assist in their program development.  While it has been infrequent, I feel most strongly about the times when conflict or stressed communication was worked out and eventually led to better relationships and improved bonds with growing guards.  When we sit down and talk to each other we can learn so much.  I truly love when we can build lifetime bonds between staff, performers and adjudicators by simply understanding each other better.  Seeing growth of a guard all the way from struggle to success is simply the best long term experience you can have as a judge.  To know you had a little piece in that big puzzle is humbling.  My favorite time of the year is to stand in the shadows as our guard members take the stage, together for the last time… the growth over a season is amazing.

What insight do you offer to instructors looking to take their programs to a higher level of achievement?
(speak to a new instructor and then a seasoned one)
For a new instructor, find and latch on to someone you trust as a mentor and sounding board for your ideas.  Be honest with yourself about what you are trying to achieve and don’t let your ego get in the way of a positive experience for your performers.  Develop a strong dialogue with and build solid trust with your performers and their supporters.  The most valuable piece of personal advice I was ever given was to be able to admit when I was wrong, and then do something about it.  Make each shortfall you encounter a learning tool for the future.  Be loyal to your students, your staff and your supporters.  Stress the process and its importance over the score and the placement of your team.

For seasoned instructors the challenge is to stay true to what brought you into the activity in the first place.  Stick with that and be open to constructive criticism.  Value your experience, dream bigger and bigger and bring all that together to your team for growth and success.  Teach your members for life… not just a winter guard show.

To every instructor, highly value each opportunity you have to use your judges, both local and national level for advice and constructive critique.  We are on your side, pulling for, loving and respecting your design and your performers just like you do.  Without “you”, there is no “us.”



What do you wish all instructors knew about the activity before enrolling a unit to compete or before they start teaching a unit?
All of us live a dream and we challenge ourselves, give our time and effort and our sweat and tears to make that dream a reality for us and our performers.  As you begin to imagine how wonderful it truly can be to see a guard grow beyond dreams, keep in mind that everything you get out of this magical activity is manifested through a performer bringing your ideas and thoughts alive on the floor.  The human factor in all of what we do is the secret ingredient to success, regardless of a score or placement.  Focus on the person behind the costume… the performer.

What kind of relationship between judges and instructors do you think would best benefit the activity?
As a community, we must break down the barrier that separates the staffs and performers, judges, and supporters of our activity.  Countless times I’ve heard a staff member comment on the unfairness of a score… a performer in ruins over a misunderstood placement and a supporter that really doesn’t understand the process, other than their performer should have been first.  Most of the time there is a simple misunderstanding about how the system works and why we use competition as our tool for empowering performers.  I strongly believe that if we can develop a strong bond between all in the color guard activity, especially the staff/performer and judge relationship, we can do great things to push our activity to a higher level of return for the teams and performers we are privileged to assist.

The key is effective, open and honest communication that fosters a dialogue between the staff and the judge that is focused on building up the team and the activity, not tearing it down or settling for less than true achievement by the performers.

From your perspective as a judge, how would you like to see the activity evolve in the next decade?
I really look forward to seeing new and innovative ideas from the World Class teams and how that filters and trickles down to the other classes. It is amazing to see how quickly and intelligently our Open and A classes take the new ideas and modify them for some really cool stuff within their own classes. It amazes me how quickly these classes seem to adapt and make their own the great stuff that our World Class guards bring to the floor.  What is truly spectacular is when an Open or A class challenges us with a new idea… they just keep getting better and better.  I think some of the ideas our sister activities are presenting would work well with color guard, especially a greater focus on pre-performance dialogue with the adjudicators and a greater effort to get both sides involved in making the activity stronger for performers.

What is the most important advice you would give a novice instructor?  


Understand the expectations of your class, communicate these expectations to your members and give the members your best in everything you do, from design to instruction to feedback.  Set a good example that shows your members what is right.

What is something you have learned along the way that you wish you had known from the start about judging? 

In a training session with the USSBA, the training facilitator made a comment that sticks with me and something that I wish I’d had in my bag of goodies since I was a beginning judge.  He said to all of us that we are here to judge, not be judgmental.  We have a set of criteria and all the tools to be a successful adjudicator, but we have to avoid letting our personal taste and emotion be the sole driver for how we judge.  Clear now that I’m getting older and more seasoned but very hard to understand when I started.  We progress from performer, where emotion and feelings and “being” a character are stressed as a performer, then to staff and then judge, where we have to set that aside and consider defined criteria.  Judge from the heart, but be fair in applying the criteria across the full spectrum of the competition.

Anything else you would like to share about the importance of this activity that’s relevant to both performers and instructors?
Know yourself and seek to improve in everything you do.  The lessons that we’ve learned and that we do our best to impart to the performers will stay with them for a lifetime.


Thanks Tim for taking the time to share your thoughts with Color Guard Educators.

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Category: Interviews

About the Author (Author Profile)

Darcie Gudger has a B.A. in psychology from Houghton College and and M.A. in Education from the University of Colorado at Denver. In high school, Darcie marched outdoor and indoor guard for Lake Lehman High School in Lehman, PA. She instructed an award winning color guard at Sheridan High School in Denver, Colorado for eight years. Currently Darcie teaches color guard at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and will be starting her 8th year as an Individual Analysis Equipment judge for the Rocky Mountain Color Guard Association . In addition to teaching guard, Darcie is the Outdoor Recreation Examiner for Examiner.com and has completed her first young adult novel which includes the world of color guard. Currently, Darcie’s agent is shopping her manuscript to potential publishers. Hobbies include hiking, camping, biking, knitting and singing.

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