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The New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) sponsors annual festivals for soloists and small ensembles (string quartets, brass quintets, vocal duets, etc.). The solo festivals are wonderful opportunities for students to receive feedback on their progress. In addition, they are also the vehicles for students in grades six through twelve to audition for the All-County, Area All-State and All-State bands, orchestras, and choruses. All students who are taking private lessons are strongly encouraged to participate in the NYSSMA Solo Festival. Due to restrictions on time, it is difficult for school music teachers to prepare individual students for these auditions. Students who are not studying privately should consult with their school music teacher early in the school year if they wish to participate in the solo festival.


Prior to the festival, each soloist or ensemble prepares a selection from the NYSSMA manual. It is important that the student’s private teacher and/or school music teacher assist(s) with the selection of music so that the level of difficulty is appropriate for the student. Levels of difficulty range from one (easy) to six (difficult). Students who wish to use the audition to gain entrance to the Intermediate All-County groups generally must play a level four or five NYSSMA solo, while students who wish to perform with the Area All-State groups must perform a level six selection. There are multiple restrictions on All-State candidates (please see section on All-State). Please note that only students who are auditioning for All-State are permitted (and required!) to have piano accompanists for the audition.


In addition to performing a selection from the manual, each soloist will be required to play scales (number varies according to level of solo) and sight-read (difficulty varies according to level of solo). Ensembles are not required to play scales or to sight-read. Each soloist or ensemble performs for an adjudicator who evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the performance and provides suggestions for improvement. Students may elect whether or not they wish to have their parents, teachers, friends, etc., in the room when they perform. If the student elects to have an audience, the audience will be asked to exit the audition room during the sight-reading portion of the audition.


Performances are evaluated against a standard and assigned a rating. Students who perform at levels one through four receive one of the following ratings: Outstanding, Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor. (Students may elect to receive comments and no rating.) Students who perform at levels five and six receive a letter grade (including pluses and minuses). Evaluations are mailed to the school approximately two weeks following the audition. The evaluations are photocopied. A photocopy is given to the student to share with his/her parents and private music teacher. The original copy is kept in the student’s music portfolio at school. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s music teacher if they have questions about the evaluation.


All students who perform NYSSMA auditions must provide original (not photocopy) copies of the music for both themselves and the judge. Students who arrive at the audition site without two original copies of the music will not be allowed to audition. As a convenience to parents, the school music faculty will order NYSSMA solo music for students. Music must be ordered at least six weeks in advance of the festival. Parents will be responsible for the cost of the music.


Three months prior to the festival, entry forms will be distributed to all interested students who are enrolled in band, orchestra or chorus. The form must be returned by the date indicated along with a check to cover the entry fee. (This form will also serve as an order form if students wish to order music through the school.) The form must be signed by the student, the student’s private lesson teacher, and by the student’s parent/guardian.


The week prior to the festival, each participating student will receive an entry form from his/her school music teacher. This form will provide the information needed to complete the entry form at the festival site. Students who fail to bring this form to the festival will not be disqualified from performance, but will risk completing a form incorrectly. Unfortunately, an incorrect form can prevent students from being considered for All-County/All-State ensembles.

The NYSSMA rules are complex and lengthy. The music teachers invite students and parents to contact them with questions regarding the festivals. The value of the educational experience is worth the extra effort needed to “unravel the red-tape.”





The New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) sponsors annual festivals for bands, choruses, and orchestras. Each participating music ensemble prepares three selections for the festival.


Two of the three selections are selected from the NYSSMA manual, a compendium of music literature sorted by level of difficulty. Levels of difficulty range from one (easy) to six (difficult). Each ensemble performs for two adjudicators who evaluate the group (individuals within the group are not evaluated) and provide suggestions for improvement. In addition to providing a brief verbal critique following the performance, each of the judges also makes a tape recording of the performance including his/her running commentary on the group’s strengths and weaknesses. The ensembles are judged against a standard rather than against each other, and leave the festival not only with two tapes filled with accolades and suggestions for improvement, but also with one of the following ratings:  Gold with Distinction, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Certificate of Participation.

The Elementary, middle and high school bands and orchestras, as well as the middle and high school choirs, typically participate in this festival.


The school provides transportation to the festival. Parents generally do not attend the festival, but are welcome at the festival site when space permits. Chaperones are almost always needed for this event. Please let your child’s music teacher know if you are interested in serving as a chaperone. Chaperones will have the opportunity to hear the performance and the judges’ commentary.




The WCSMA and NYSSMA websites have additional information that may be useful to parents.  The websites are found at the following addresses: and

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