Parents & Students

Parents, Students and Private Teachers – All questions concerning students, repertoire, registration or scheduling should go through the students’ school music teacher, guidance councilor or building administrator.

School Music Teachers – Please contact your district music supervisor, administrator or the host of your festival.


NYSSMA Festival Q & A for students and parents: 

1. What is a NYSSMA festival? 

NYSSMA sponsors approximately 145 solo & small ensemble and major ensemble festivals in New York State each spring. At solo and small ensemble festivals, students are given a performance evaluation that involves playing a graded solo from the NYSSMA Manual, playing scales and sight reading. At major ensemble festivals, school bands, choruses and orchestras are evaluated. 

2. How do I register my child? 

All NYSSMA registration is done through the student’s school music program. Information regarding scheduling times and appropriate materials should be received from the school music teacher or the head of the school’s music department. The school district or private school must be a school member of NYSSMA. 

3. Can I register directly as an individual or through my child’s private music teacher or studio? 

No. Registration is only done through the music program at the school which the student attends. 

4. Is this a competition? 

NYSSMA festivals (other than for All-State) are evaluations, not competitions. Students may compete with themselves from year to year, but NYSSMA does not view festivals as competitive. 

5. What music can be played? 

Students who desire a rating must choose a graded solo from the NYSSMA Manual. Student who desire comments only can perform any music and are not required to play scales or sight read. 

6. Where can I see a manual? 

Most schools and many teachers have a copy of the NYSSMA manual. It can also be found at many public libraries. The manual can be purchased at The manual contains rules and regulations as well as the extensive solo lists. It should be noted, however, that the manual is designed for use by music teachers and is not intended as a student or parent publication. 

7. Do I need a 2nd  copy for the adjudicator? 

A second copy of the solo is highly recommended, but not required. A piano accompaniment part may be used as the second copy, although it is important to be sure the solo part in the piano copy exactly matches the solo that the student will perform. 

8. What about photo copies? 

Any legal copy may be used, but if the legality is in doubt, it is wise to check on it before the day of the festival. 

9. Do I need an accompanist? 

Accompanists are not required except for All-State. They are highly recommended for vocal soloists. Because of the difficulty in obtaining sufficient pianos, most (not all) festivals do not allow accompanists for non-vocal or non-All State soloists. Recorded and electronic accompaniments are permitted, but students must supply the equipment and be able to set it up and perform within the time allotment. 

10. Must I bring my own drum set? 

Students are expected to bring their own instrument, including drum set. Some festivals have a spare set available, but being evaluated on an unfamiliar instrument is not recommended. 

11. Who are the adjudicators? 

NYSSMA adjudicators are professional teacher/musicians who have received instruction on the NYSSMA adjudication system. 

12. What is Conference All-State? 

The All-State bands, choruses, orchestras and jazz ensembles are honors groups comprised of the top students from school music departments across the state. The 5 groups are directed by renowned guest conductors and perform on one of three concerts in the Eastman (Rochester) Theater during the annual NYSSMA Winter Conference in late November or early December each year. Rehearsals take place in Rochester, NY from Thursday through the Sunday concert during the conference. 

a. What are the eligibility requirements? 

  • To be eligible, a student must be a member of the corresponding ensemble in his or her high school if the school has such an ensemble. This would be the school band, chorus, orchestra, jazz ensemble or vocal jazz ensemble. Students must be members at the time of the audition and at the time of Conference All-State. Students are chosen to represent these ensembles from their schools, and as such, must be participating members of their school ensembles. 

b. Is there piano All-State? 

  • All-State is not available for piano except for students who audition for the All-State jazz ensemble. 

c. How does a student qualify? 

  • Students must be recommended by the director of their high school ensemble (band, chorus orchestra, jazz ensemble) – AND that formal recommendation is to be completed online 6  weeks prior to the festival where the audition will take place.
  • Students must perform an All-State audition at a spring NYSSMA festival. 
  • For the audition, students must perform a Level 6 piece from the NYSSMA Manual. 
  • If selected for All-State, endorsement of the student’s high school principal is required on the final forms. 

13. Is All-State competitive? 

Yes, selection to All-State is very competitive. For selection to conference All-State, students compete not only with other students at their audition site but with students from across the state. Over 7000 students compete for the 890 positions in the 8 All-State ensembles. Even a perfect score of 100 does not guarantee selection to All-State on many instruments or voices. 

14. Where can I get more information? 

The primary source for festival information is your school music teacher or the head of the music department in the school you attend.