Judges will use five criteria to assess submissions:
- QUALITY: The overall musical quality of the piece.
- TRADITION: Compositions should be steeped in the traditions of jazz.
- ACCESSIBILITY: Compositions should be musically accessible to both the audience and the performers.
- DIFFICULTY: The difficulty level of the compositions should be such that they are playable by high school honor jazz bands, college bands, and professionals alike. Brass range should be considered in terms of the related aspects of (1) not being too high, and (2) allowing enough time for players to rest. Both aspects should be considered for brass playability.
- NOTATION: Compositions must be professionally notated and clear. Clarity includes (but is not limited to) aspects such as:
I. Scores should be bound properly, and parts bound/taped with well-considered page turns.
II. Clear roadmap (repeats, D.S., D.C., coda, etc. should be easy for everyone to follow)
III. Commonly known/used chord symbols.
IV. Well-considered spacing, bars per system, etc.
V. Sufficient rehearsal letters/numbers (at least every 8 bars, or 12 bars perhaps for a blues)
VI. Page orientation and how it relates to page turns (scores should not turn vertically, for example).
VII. Clear style, with sufficient articulations and dynamics.
Winning pieces, composers and guest artists from previous years are listed at https://www.ithaca.edu/academics/school-music/ensembles/jazz-ensembles/composition-contest/previous-winners.