Honor Orchestra Competition Rules and Entry

HS Full, JH/MS Full, and JH/MS String Orchestras
Part A must be completed by May 1.
Part B & C and recordings must be completed, printed and submitted by June 1.

HS String Orchestra
Part A must be completed by September 15.
Part B & C and recordings must be completed, printed and submitted by October 15.

The responsibility for the Honor Orchestra Competition lies solely within the domain of the Orchestra Division Chair.

Revised 1/30/2019


Based on entries and judging results, up to four Honor Orchestras perform at the TMEA Clinic/Convention the year following their selection:

  • HS Full Orchestra
  • HS String Orchestra
  • JH/MS Full Orchestra
  • JH/MS String Orchestra

1. The winning Honor Orchestra of one category cannot apply for that same category the following year.

2. The winning HS Full Orchestra cannot apply in the HS String Orchestra competition in that same year.

3. At least five entries must be received to select a JH/MS Full Honor Orchestra.

4. If a JH/MS has entries in the final rounds of both Full and String Honor Orchestra contests and is named the winner of the first contest judged, that school’s entry will be removed from the final round of the second contest prior to judging. The JH/MS String Orchestra final round will be judged first.

5. An orchestra is not eligible if there is a change of directors between the time of the recorded performance and the time of the TMEA performance. The director must notify the Contest Chair if a change occurs.

6. No composite groups will be considered (i.e. groups with students combined from two or more schools). Orchestras from fine arts magnet schools (that are not also “neighborhood schools”) will not be allowed to compete.

7. An orchestra may be disqualified from Honor Orchestra competition based on verification of unacceptable practices (including unethical recording practices detailed in Recording Requirements Rule #8). Information concerning unethical practices must be filed in writing using the TMEA Appeals Process.

Entry Requirements

1. The Competition Intent, Director’s Clinician Report, and Application must be completed online by their deadlines.

2. The following entry materials must be mailed in the same package to the Contest Chair, postmarked by the postmark deadline, and must be mailed using a track-able mail delivery service:

  • Completed and printed application from the online entry system
  • Superintendent letter (Rule #3)
  • Music scores (Rule #4)
  • Entry fee (Rule #5)
  • Prepaid return postage envelope for scores

3. The letter from the school district superintendent must state the orchestra will be able to perform at the following TMEA Clinic/Convention.

4. At least three scores of each selection must be included (Five scores preferred). Observe all copyright laws. School names on the scores must be removed and scores should be cleaned of any critical markings from previous judging.

5. A non-refundable fee of $250.00 payable to TMEA is required for each Honor Orchestra entry.

Recording Requirements

1. All performers on the recording must be full-time students at the school of the organization entering the competition. (See Eligibility Requirements for TMEA Activities, Section 1, Article II)

2. Recorded selections must have been recorded at a live concert during the current school year and this fact must be verified on Form C by the signature of the school principal.

3. All music must have been from the same concert performance. Material from two or more concerts is not acceptable. The order of selections uploaded on the TMEA website can differ from the performance order.

4. Full Orchestra recordings CDs should only contain full orchestra selections. String Orchestra recordings should only contain string orchestra selections.

5. There should be no announcements or any verbal identification on the recordings submitted. Identification of the school or group name is grounds for disqualification.

6. Each entry must upload the recorded tracks to the TMEA website. (The shorter director’s choice CD has been eliminated for all contests.)

The complete uploaded recorded program must not exceed these time limits:

  • HS: 30 minutes
  • JH/MS: 20 minutes

7. For *optimum sound, all recordings should be in stereo, WAV format (uncompressed), Sample rate 44,100 Hz, 16 Bit (required). Any deviation from this standard may result in a loss of sound quality. Do not use any type of enhancement technique to change the quality of the live performance.

a. Recording standards accepted:

  • *Preferred: WAV (Uncompressed); Sample rate: 44, 100 Hz; Stereo; 16-Bit (required)
  • m4a (AAC-LC); Sample rate: 44,100 Hz; Stereo; Bitrate: 256 kbps, constant
  • mp3; Sample rate: 44,100 Hz; Stereo; Bitrate: 256 kbps, constant

8. No excerpts of pieces may be submitted in any Honor Orchestra competition. The piece or movement must be submitted in its entirety (no fade in and fade out). Pieces must begin at measure one and end at the conclusion of the selection or movement.

9. Verification of unethical recording practices is grounds for disqualification. Examples of unethical practices are:

  • Private recording sessions
  • Recording in a recording studio or under studio conditions (i.e. use of microphones for individuals or small groups, or multiple microphones placed within the ensemble)
  • Multiple recordings of the same selection during a concert
  • Any engineering, editing, or tampering with the recording after the performance in any way. Note: The only allowable technical alteration to a recording is adjustment of the master volume.


Zone Contest Rules will be used for all contests, with the following exceptions:

  • HS contests: If 14 or fewer entries (based on the number of Letters of Intent submitted), Zone Contest Rules will not be used.
  • JH/MS contests: If 22 or fewer entries (based on the number of Letters of Intent submitted), Zone Contest Rules will not be used.

Round One judging will consist of two Zones.  These Zones are both geographic and represent equality in numbers and strength of programs. (Updated 9/13/2016)

Zone A (15):  Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 16, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 29, 30, 31

Zone B (13):  Regions 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23, 26, 27, 28, 32, 33


One five-member judging panel will judge Zone A and a separate judging panel will judge Zone B.  Both panels will hear the complete program in Round One.  Both panels will judge at the same venue, on the same day.


One of the five judges could be a director entered from the opposite Zone.

Judges can be hired who have done a clinic(s) in one Zone only.  If hired, they would then judge in the opposite Zone.


HS contests will advance 6 groups to the final round unless using Zone Contest Rules (more than 14 groups). JH/MS contests will advance 6 groups to the final round unless using Zone Contest Rules (more than 22 groups). Zone Contest groups will advance from each Zone to the finals based on the number of adjudicated entries at a rate of one group to each four entries in that Zone.

1 – 3 groups            1 Advances

4 – 7 groups            2 Advance

8 – 11 groups          3 Advance

12 – 15 groups        4 Advance

16 – 19 groups        5 Advance

20 – 23 groups        6 Advance

24 – 27 groups        7 Advance

28 – 32 groups        8 Advance

1. If more than 10 recordings are submitted to the Contest Chair in any category, an elimination round will be held for JH/MS String, Full, and High School Full Orchestras prior to July 1 and at least one day before the final round of High School String Honor Orchestra.

2. The order of recordings will be determined not by the contest hosts, but by the State Chair through the use of either a random draw or a random sort through the Filemaker Pro tabulation solution.

3. The TMEA playback equipment will be used for every round of judging.

4. Recordings played at the auditions will be started at the beginning and played, non-stop, only for the amount of time allotted. Those running longer will be stopped at the maximum time. (See Recording Requirements, Rule #6).

5. Five-member judging panels will be utilized. Rankings will be assigned using the Olympic scoring system.

6. Finalists will be announced in alphabetical order by school. All participating directors will be notified of the finalists. A different panel of judges will then hear and rank the finalists recordings in Round 2.

7. If three of the five judges declare that no orchestra is qualified to perform as Honor Orchestra at the TMEA Clinic/Convention, the ranking of the groups will not be made available to the public.

8. Individual judges’ rankings will be available to each director involved in the competition, but not made available to the general public. The judges’ rankings will be documented from low to high score so as to maintain the judges’ anonymity.

9. Final round orchestra rankings will be announced after the final round is complete, or a winner determined.

Honor Orchestra and Finalist Acknowledgment

All finalists will receive a certificate from TMEA acknowledging their placement in the rankings. The Honor Orchestra director and group will receive a plaque in acknowledgement of their achievement.

Honor Orchestra Rules

Each new Orchestra Vice-President will appoint a committee of 3-5 directors to review and make recommendations on the Zones in the 1st year of their term.  This committee will make recommendations to the Orchestra VP between November and February.  The Orchestra VP will seek approval from the TMEA Board for the committee recommendations at the March Executive Board Meeting.