The NYSSMA Composition/Improvisation Program

2018 NYSSMA Call for Compositions – Deadline June 10, 2018

Composition and Improvisation Standards

No child’s musical education is complete without experience 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.

In order to help New York State’s teachers and students implement the composition and improvisation standards, NYSSMA established the Music Composition/Improvisation Committee in 1999. The committee conducts a 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 on its webpage:

The current Composition/Improvisation Committee includes:

  • 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. Patricia Riley (University of Vermont)
  • Dr. Margaret Schedel (Stony Brook University)
  • Dr. Stephen Shewan (Williamsville East High School)
  • Dr. Janice Smith (Queens College, City University of New York)
  • Brian Zeller (Red Hook High School)

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 article from School Music News.

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 such prestigious awards 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, and Dan Welcher. 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 usually performs a 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 (both jazz and non-jazz) for teachers at the 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.

2018 NYSSMA Call for Compositions – Deadline June 10, 2018

2018 Winter Conference Composer-in-Residence Announced

NYSSMA is honored to welcome Roshanne Etezady as Composer-in-Residence for the 2018 Winter Conference.

Roshanne Etezady‘s music has been described in Fanfare magazine as “fresh, effusive, and immediately likeable,” and she has been hailed by the Detroit Free Press as “a promising and confident composer.”  Her music ranges from clever and colorful to sublimely subdued; it combines lyricism with rhythmic intensity and engages performers and audiences alike.

Etezady’s works have been commissioned by the United States Military Band at West Point, the Albany Symphony, Dartmouth Symphony, eighth blackbird, Music at the Anthology, and the PRISM Saxophone Quartet. She has been a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Performers and ensembles including the American Composers’ Orchestra, Rêlache, Amadinda Percussion Ensemble, Ensemble De Ereprijs, and the Dogs of Desire have performed Etezady’s music throughout the United States and Europe. Etezady’s music has earned recognition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Korean Society of 21st Century Music, the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, Meet the Composer, and ASCAP.

An active teacher, Etezady has taught at Northwestern University, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Interlochen Arts Camp, Yale University, Saint Mary’s College, and the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. She has given masterclasses at California State University-Long Beach, Holy Cross College, the Juilliard School, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. She holds academic degrees from Northwestern University, Yale University, and the University of Michigan.

Both New York All-State Bands will perform compositions by Dr. Etezady at their concerts in Kodak Theatre.  She will visit rehearsals of both bands to work with the conductors and student performers.

Results of the 2017 Call for Compositions

The Music Composition/Improvisation Committee received almost 100 compositions in response to the 2017 Call for Compositions. Each student composer received a written evaluation of his or her composition. Evaluations were written by Dr. Rob Deemer, Dr. Daniel Deutsch, Frank Doyle, Dr. Mark Filsinger, J. Peter Hansen, Melinda Kessler, Steve Kessler, Dr. Daniel Ott, Dr. Margaret Schedel, Dr. Stephen Shewan,  Dr. Andrew Martin Smith, Dr. Gregory Wannamaker, and Brian Zeller.

Committee members Rob Deemer, Daniel Deutsch, Daniel Ott, and Margaret Schedel selected 13 outstanding student compositions that were performed at the 19th Annual NYSSMA Young Composer Honors Concert at the All-State Winter Conference on Friday, December 1, 2016 at 1:15 PM 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 Dan Welcher, Dr. Rob Deemer, Dr. Daniel Deutsch, Herbert Deutsch, Dr. Mark Filsinger, Dr. Patricia Riley, Prof. Jamie Leigh Sampson, Dr. Stephen Shewan, Dr. Andrew Martin Smith, and Brian Zeller.

2017 NYSSMA Honors Compositions:


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

Julianna Austin, Go, Call the Swallow for women’s choir
Grade 11, North Salem Middle School High School (Bloomingburg)

Allison Budd, Ç’est une Chose Éphémère for trombone quartet
Grade 12, Red Hook High School (Red Hook)

Ananya Chakravarti, The Color of Pomegranates for string quartet
Grade 12, Williamsville East High School (East Amherst)

Rebecca Ferguson, The Backyard for soprano & oboe
Grade 11, Williamsville East High School (East Amherst)

Samuel Fisher, Through Time and Space Movement (mvt.III) for string quartet
Grade 6, Tuxedo Park School (New City)

Alexander Francisco , edward taylor in late fall for brass quintet
Grade 10, Williamsville East High School (East Amherst)

Leona Liu, Galop for string quartet
Grade 9, Robert E. Bell Middle School (Chappaqua)

Peter Giulio Mainetti, Gavanen Peter Quintet for mixed ensemble
Grade 11, Northport High School (East Northport)

Alina Miller, Ice and Fire for string orchestra
Grade 9, Ithaca High School (Ithaca)

Artemy Mukhin, String Quartet
Grade 7, Mott Hall II (New York City)

Priya Pindiprolu, I Wish Us Back To Mud for women’s voices
Grade 10, Williamsville East High School (Buffalo)

Max Rubenstein-Miller, Twilight Forest for concert band
Grade 9, Ithaca High School (Ithaca)

Pakhi Tripathi, Silence for woodwind trio
Grade 12, Williamsville East High School (Williamsville)

Jasper Zimmerman, The Fanlight Rag for piano four hands
Grade 5, Hillside Elementary School (Hastings-on-Hudson)

Honorable Mention:

  • Ashleigh Basel, Flute Quartet, Grade 11, Northport High School (East Northport)
  • David Jung, Bleed Over for mixed sextet, Grade 11, Northport High School (East Northport)
  • Anton Klettner, Serenade in C Minor for solo piano, Grade 9, John Jay Middle School (South Salem)
  • Richard Ren, Romantic Waltz for flute and piano, Grade 8, Jericho Middle School (Jericho)
  • Jack Richman, Long Distance Blues for jazz trio, Grade 9, South Side Middle School (Rockville Centre)
  • Petra Roberts, Stars for voice, Grade 8, Lynbrook South Middle School (Lynbrook)

Teacher-sponsors of winning compositions:
Laura Abbatantuono, Michael Allen, Stephen Austin, Frank Doyle, Mark Lewis, Michael Rubino, Steven Sacco, Todd Schietroma, Dr. Stephen Shewan, Brian Zeller

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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