[Bards] Standards

Alden Drake alden_drake at sbcglobal.net
Mon Jan 7 10:53:18 PST 2008

Standards for bards...or by what I gathered from the response...bardic 
standings.  One of the prime problems we seem to face as a community is 
that our personas represent an enormously broad geographic and temporal 
span.  This makes it incredibly difficult to come together as a cohesive 
community.  We also consider many factors in who we are and what we do 
that make us more individual.  This is the dilemma we have when 
discussing MANY topics like this.  Other groups have great communities, 
because their differences are fewer and less ethereal.  The rapier and 
archery communities have a good sense of group identity and internal 
systems because what they come together for is very specific.

How do you "rank" as a bard?  Do you answer this question based on a 
personal evaluation, or on an external evaluation?  Is it more important 
to you to rank yourself? [I know X songs, Y poems, Z stories...I feel 
like I'm an accomplished bard]  Do you look to external sources of 
confirmation? [I get asked to perform in circles, but no one invites me 
to participate in a showcase, so I guess I'm an ok bard].  Do you break 
down your performance styles and rate them individually?  We all have 
different answers to these questions, and that's fine.

I consider myself a bard.  The ranks I used for myself stemmed from my 
relationship with my teacher.  She started out calling me her "baby 
bard".  When the time came for me to leave the nest, I called myself a 
"fledgling bard".  After I felt like I could fly on my own and hold my 
own among other bards, I called myself a "bard".  I have an Iris of 
Merit.  This was a recognition granted to me by the Crown, as 
recommended by other people.  It's certainly an honor, but I don't rank 
my skill as a bard on it - especially when a newcomer comes along who 
has an advanced degree in vocal performance, or is a professional 

Archers have an internal system that they use, based on Royal Rounds 
scores.  It doesn't rank them in any heirarchy, but it does provide a 
standings roster.  It's a great tool to encourage archers to improve, 
and they get awarded colored tassles as a mark of their skill.  It's a 
very simple and self-rewarding thing.  Brewers have competitions and 
guilds and rank themselves according to their judged brews at certain 
events.  It's a great way to gauge the caliber of a brewer, so you have 
an idea of what you're getting when a recognized brewer gives you a 
bottle of homebrew.  None of these systems compete with SCA awards.  
None of them are used to alienate members of different standings.  I've 
seen no competitions require a level or above to participate, though I 
have seen a level or below to participate (like in a newcomer's archery 

What would having bardic standings do for us?  Would it encourage us to 
work towards improving our craft to get the next cookie?  Would it 
promote competition among us?  Would it be used to divide us into who 
can and who can't participate in something?  Would it be used to back up 
award recommendations?  It begs questions, certainly.

How would the standings be determined?  Who would be the evaluators?  A 
simple approach would be to use what we already have - judging forms.  
Submit a minimum amount of judged forms to obtain an average score in a 
discipline to be ranked in that discipline.  Set a score range for each 
discipline to qualify for a different rank.  This is much like how the 
Royal Rounds works in archery.  You shoot a round and your score is 
submitted in a style category.  You need a minimum number of scores in a 
category to get an average score, and that average score puts you in a 
rank category.  You can rank in several categories (open bow, period 
bow, open crossbow, period crossbow...)  Someone is responsible for 
maintaining the scores, and marshals are responsible for submitting the 
scores.  We could do something similar with judges submitting scores.  
Is it a perfect system?  Probably not.  But no system will be without flaw.

Would it be required to participate to consider yourself a bard?  Of 
course not!  It should just be meant to be a tool.  Whether or not it's 
a tool you want to use is up to you.

Would participating bards be recognized for their achieved standing 
(like the archers' tassels)?  Would such recognition be conveyed to the 
general populace for them to recognize accomplished bards?  I wear the 
blue belt sash nowadays, but nobody seems to know what it means outside 
of a handful of bards.

Honestly, I don't think we necessarily have to ALL come together over 
such an idea.  Someone (or a like-minded group) just needs to be able to 
say "This is what I want to do and y'all are welcome to join in."  If it 
gets support to keep rolling, great.  If it doesn't, so be it, or see 
what can be fixed and try again.

In service,

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