For the first time, NYSSMA is holding three calls for student music creators—Student Composers, Electronic Music, and Songwriters!
Student creators will receive a written evaluation of their music. Each submitted work will also be considered for inclusion in one of three concerts at the All-State Winter Conference in Rochester. Student creators will also participate in coaching workshops and a post-concert discussion.

2021 Applications

Applications close June 4, 2021.

Send any questions to Dr. Rob Deemer at


  • Dr. Rob Deemer, chair (State University of New York at Fredonia)
  • Dr. Daniel Deutsch, past chair (Stony Brook, NY)
  • Dr. Daniel Ott (Juilliard and Fordham University)
  • Dr. Kamala Sankaram (Purchase College)
  • Dr. Margaret Schedel (Stony Brook University)
  • Dr. Stephen Shewan (Williamsville East High School)
  • Dr. Andrew Martin Smith (State University of New York at Fredonia)
  • Brian Zeller (Red Hook High School)


No child’s musical education is complete without experiences in composition and improvisation. These two closely-related areas are included in the national and state standards because they are the creative source of music itself. When we teach composition to our students, we invite them into the inner world of music. They begin to realize the many choices that composers face, and they become more aware of the intentionality of music. As students actively use the elements of music to express their own musical ideas, they become much more fluent in the language of music. Just as a language arts program must entail reading and writing, a full music education program requires performance and composition.

NYSSMA established the Music Composition/Improvisation Committee in 1999 in order to assist teachers and students explore the wonders of music composition and improvisation. The committee conducts an annual statewide student composition assessment program, presents educational sessions for teachers at NYSSMA conferences, provides articles for School Music News, mentors teachers informally, and offers other resources.

Composition Assessment and Feedback

Every year, NYSSMA provides composition assessment and feedback through its Call for Compositions. The Call for Compositions is not a competition, but rather an opportunity for a large number of students to receive personal feedback about their compositions. The compositions are reviewed by a panel of professional composers, and each student receives an encouraging written evaluation of his/her piece. The adjudicators highlight strong points and make positive suggestions for future growth. 

To learn more about the NYSSMA composition evaluation program, please read this School Music News article by Dr. Dan Deutsch.

Winter Conference Student Composition Program

Although the emphasis of our evaluation program is on feedback rather than competition, the most outstanding compositions are selected for performance at the NYSSMA Winter Conference. The student composition concerts have become a highlight of the Winter Conference, with many first-time attendees expressing amazement at the high level of the compositions. Indeed, many NYSSMA student composers have gone on to pursue their studies at institutions like Eastman, Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Michigan, Yale, and Harvard. They have won prestigious awards such as the ASCAP Morton Gould Student Composer Award and the BMI Student Composer Award.

Each Winter Conference features a prominent Composer-in-Residence who works with the student composers and conference attendees. Past Composers-in-Residence have been William Bolcom, Morton Subotnick, Tania Leon, Joseph Schwantner, R. Murray Schafer, Libby Larsen, Steven Bryant, Paul Moravec, Joan Tower, Chen Yi, Kevin Puts,  Stephen Paulus, Christopher Theofanidis, Alex Shapiro, Abbie Betinis, Roshanne Etezady, and Jake Runestad. The student composers and interested teachers attend the Young Composer Seminar with the Composer-in-Residence, and also the Composition Coaching Workshops, which are small-group master classes in composition with professional composers and educators. An All-State performing ensemble often performs at least one composition by the Composer-in-Residence, and the conductor and ensemble have the opportunity to work with the composer. 

Composition/Improvisation Sessions for Educators

In addition to the student composition sessions mentioned above, our committee presents sessions on composition and improvisation of all styles for teachers at the annual Winter Conference. We seek to present clinicians of the highest caliber with the aim of providing teaching strategies and techniques that teachers can implement immediately.


NYSSMA was honored to welcome Jake Runestad as Composer-in-Residence for the 2019 Winter Conference!

Jake Runestad is an award-winning and frequently-performed composer of “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works. He has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles and organizations such as Washington National Opera, the Swedish Radio Symphony, the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Seraphic Fire, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare, and many more. Jake’s visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and speaking engagements, enabling him to be one of the youngest full-time composers in the world. Considered “one of the best of the younger American composers” (Chicago Tribune), Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts; Jake has also studied extensively with the acclaimed composer Libby Larsen. A native of Rockford, IL, Jake is currently based in Minneapolis, MN and his music is published by JR Music.

Both New York All-State choirs performed compositions by Jake Runestad at their concerts in Kodak Theatre.  He visited rehearsals of both choirs to work with the conductors and student performers.


The Music Composition/Improvisation Committee received over 100 compositions in response to the 2019 Call for Compositions. Each student composer received a written evaluation of his or her composition. Evaluations were written by Dr. Daniel Deutsch, Frank Doyle, Melinda Kessler, Steve Kessler, Dr. Texu Kim, Dr. Carrie Magin, Dr. Daniel Ott, Dr. Margaret Schedel, Dr. Stephen Shewan,  Lauren Spavelko, Dr. Gregory Wannamaker, and Brian Zeller.

Committee members Rob Deemer, Daniel Deutsch, Daniel Ott, and Margaret Schedel selected 12 outstanding student compositions that were performed at the 21st Annual NYSSMA Young Composer Honors Concert at the All-State Winter Conference on Friday, December 6, 2019 in the Lilac Ballroom of the Rochester Convention Center.

The Honors Composers participated in a special post-concert discussion with the Composition and Improvisation Committee and in coaching workshops with clinicians Jake Runestad, Dr. Rob Deemer, Dr. Daniel Deutsch, Herbert Deutsch, Prof. Jamie Leigh Sampson, Dr. Andrew Martin Smith, and Brian Zeller.

2019 NYSSMA Honors Compositions:


2016 Composer Leona Liu works with a string quartet from Williamsville East High School that included 2016 composers Priya Pindiprolu (viola) and Drew Cone (cello).

Soaring at Sunset for clarinet & strings
by Raychelle Adadjo

Grade 9, Columbia High School
East Greenbush, NY

Mr. David Bresnahan, sponsor

Sahar Aswad for piano
by Sam Bright

Grade 6, Bronxville Elementary School
Bronxville, NY

Mr. Adele Hoffman, sponsor 

Mixed Feelings I. Energetic for flute & percussion ensemble
by Samuel Fisher

Grade 8, Tuxedo Park School
Tuxedo Park, NY

Mr. Todd Schietroma, sponsor

Writer’s Block for brass ensemble
by Marcus Francisco

Grade 12, Williamsville East High School
Williamsville, NY

Dr. Stephen Shewan, sponsor

Rhapsody for cello & piano
by Gabriel Guo 

Grade 12, Williamsville East High School
Williamsville, NY

Dr. Stephen Shewan, sponsor

Butterfly Garden for piano by
Sarah Kayler

Grade 5, Fulmar Road Elementary School
Mahopac, NY

Dr. Stephen Wands, sponsor

Music for a Small Ensemble for mixed ensemble
by Noah Kotzin 

Grade 11, Williamsville East High School
Williamsville, NY

Dr. Stephen Shewan, sponsor

Serenade No. 1 for string orchestra
by Leona Liu

Grade 11, Horace Greeley High School
Chappaqua, NY

Mrs. Kathleen Coletta-Feldman, sponsor 

Raindrops for mixed ensemble
by Helen Lyons

Grade 11, Hunger College High School
New York, NY

Dr. Michael Stratechuk, sponsor

Tell Me Your Real Name for flute, clarinet, & piano
by Casey Mathur

Grade 12, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School
New York, NY

Mr. John Fischer, sponsor

A Lonely, Angry Garbage Can for voice & tuba
by Cole Wilks

Grade 12, Williamsville East High School
Williamsville, NY

Dr. Stephen Shewan, sponsor

2019 Honorable Mentions:

  • Summit for string orchestra by Lyndon Hess (Scarsdale)
  • Scherzo for string quartet by Leona Liu (Chappaqua)
  • Funfare in Bb for wind band by Jacob Merrill (Ithaca)
  • Melancholy for mixed ensemble by Artemy Mukhin (New York City)
  • The Scarborough Fair, Mvt. I ‘Rosemary’ for string quartet by Michael Paciullo (New Hyde Park)
  • Une promenade à travers le Metropolitan for piano by Ethan Resnik (Bedford)
  • Confidence: A Rag for piano by Noah Sherman (Lindenhurst)

Watch the 2013 New York All-State String Orchestra play a movement of Christopher Theofanidis’s Visions and Miracles, conducted by David Hagy.

If you have any questions regarding NYSSMA’s composition programs, please contact Dr. Rob Deemer at 


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