Each team is made up of three students. An adult coach or advisor oversees a team (or teams) from a particular school or organization. There is no limit on the number of teams a school or organization may sponsor, however only one team from a school or organization may advance to the Championship Contest. Teams may designate a fourth person as an alternate who competes only in the event one of the original members cannot.
What is the test like?
The test involves five separate rounds. Each round is worth 20 points, with 100 possible points total. Two rounds ask students to identify titles and composers by listening to MLC Playlist excerpts. One round contains multiple choice questions relating to the study materials. Another involves both listening identification and multiple choice questions as applied to the example. One round will include music that is not on the MLC Playlist but similar to it.
Are the Study Guide and Playlist important?
Yes. All of the correct answers as well as the decisions made by the contest judges are based on these materials. Round 5 — the “Mystery Round” — uses music ‘similar’ to samples on the MLC Playlist.
What are the best ways to prepare for the contest?
Each team member (and the coach) will receive a comprehensive Study Guide with access to the MLC Playlist (through www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/Naxos). Students should become familiar with all of the information contained in the Study Guide and Playlist. Team members may choose to become an ‘expert’ on some portion of the material. Teams will often divide the materials into thirds for ‘expert’ study. Coaches and team members may use the materials and other recordings to create practice tests, study sheets and listening tests. Regular consistent study is extremely important; cramming last minute doesn't work.
Is it true that spelling counts? I thought this was a music listening contest.
Yes, spelling counts. Spelling is an academic skill that is expected and practiced at all levels of education. The spelling rule helps our judges to be objective about test answers. To aid students, each piece's testable title and composer's name are listed on a page in the Study Guide. Our musicologists try to use only these testable titles when referring to the pieces throughout the Study Guide. Usually students need to provide the composer's last name only for answers in the competition. Learning correct spelling encourages participants to be accurate and prepares them for life as musicians and scholars beyond their high school experience.
Is the entire musical selection heard during the contest?
No. Most of the time short musical excerpts from the repertoire are played. The ‘Lightening Round’ is the most exciting portion of the contest because very short listening excerpts are used.
Can team members discuss each question before answering?
Yes. Members may quietly discuss answers before writing them down.
Do teams compete directly with one another or ‘head to head’?
Each team takes the test in its own area within a large room. Each round is conducted separately with the correct answers being read after answer sheets have been collected. Teams each receive their own final scores privately. Final scores are shared anonymously at the end of the contest.
Does the contest use a buzzer?
No. Each team is given a designated amount of time to discuss and answer each question in written form. The final round of the Championship Competition uses buzzers, but only the top two teams in the event participate in this round.
How do students progress to the Championship Contest?
The two teams with the highest scores in each region of 10 Regional Contests advance to the Championship Contest. However, only one team from each school is allowed to advance to the Championship Contest. In the unlikely event that the two highest scores are from the same school, the next highest-scoring team from another school will progress to the Championship Contest. Other teams scoring in the top 10 percent contest-wide may be invited to the Championship Contest. However, only one team per school or organization will be eligible to advance to the Championship Contest.
Could you give me more details about the regional contest?
The regional contests are held at 10 different sites across Minnesota and one in Utah. Registered teams are assigned regions based on geographical locations (with consideration for a balance of school representation at each site). Each regional contest begins at 1 p.m. and is usually completed between 3 and 3:30 p.m. The top two regional teams from different schools or organizations advance to the championship in February.
Why are you eliminating CDs this year?
A big change to the contest this year is the elimination of contest CDs and a move to Naxos streaming as the official listening platform. As an organization, we believe that trends in technology are dictating a move away from compact discs. Just as the contest transitioned from cassette tapes to CDs in the 1990s, it is time to move from CDs to a digital format. In addition, there has always been a bit of unease on the part of the MLC Board about copyright and the distribution of CDs to all participants. While legal consultants felt that we were compliant given the narration voice-over and the educational nature of the contest, the change to streaming removes any doubt for the program moving forward. Lastly, the loss of a major sponsor this year forced the board to reevaluate our annual budget. Given the rationale above, the costs associated with producing the CDs was seen as a line item on the budget we could do without.
No doubt, there will be some "growing pains" associated with this shift away from the familiar CDs. To help ease the transition, in addition to the Naxos' MLC Playlist, our musicologist has developed a Spotify playlist with the contest selections (downloadable for offline listening for Spotify Premium subscribers) and a detailed list at the end of the guide with information about the "official" recordings and where to find them for purchase.