The All-State Process



The All-State bands, chorus, orchestra 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 and Innovations 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. 

Each year in late August approximately 600 students are notified that they are selected to participate in the NYSSMA Conference All-State music groups. How does NYSSMA select these students? This seems like a simple question however the answer is complex. This article outlines the “process” used by our organization in selecting students for participation in the NYSSMA All-State performance groups.

The All-State experience begins with a music educator, his or her student and an accompanist spending countless hours preparing a NYSSMA Level VI solo which must be selected from repertoire lists in the current manual. Typically, over 6,500 sophomores and juniors from across the state of New York prepare for All-State evaluations in the hope of being selected. New York State is divided into 15 regional zones by NYSSMA. These zones represent geographic areas within the state and also take into account the student populations within these zones. Typically, over 40 All-State audition sites are scheduled in schools throughout the state.  The All-State selection “process” begins with the solo being evaluated by a NYSSMA Certified All-State adjudicator at one of these designated sites. All-State adjudicators are responsible for evaluating every All-State solo of the same instrument or voice part. At the conclusion of the festival, the All-State adjudicators create a rank ordered proficiency list of all students being recommended. Every student who earns a score of 98-100 must be recommended. The “process” continues with the adjudicator ranking every recommended student by score first, with the 100’s ahead of the 99’s etc. If there are multiple students with the same qualifying score, the adjudicator must list those students in a proficiency order based on his or her evaluation of all performances. This year over 2400 students received scores of 98 or higher and were recommended for All-State consideration. At the end of the festival the All-State adjudicator gives their completed paperwork to the NYSSMA Zone Representative who then matches the adjudication sheet with the student’s completed application form and forwards them, along with the proficiency sheet to the appropriate All-State Chairperson.

Late in June, the “process” continues when selection committees are convened. The committees are made up of NYSSMA members from virtually every zone in the state. These committee members are charged with the monumental task of sorting through the proficiency lists from every festival and compiling a statewide master proficiency list for each instrument and voice part. Numerical scores and ranking on the local proficiency sheet are of primary importance in developing the master proficiency lists. After all recommended candidates are sorted numerically, a number of other factors are used in determining the final placement of students on the master proficiency list. The All-State Selection Committee reviews (in no specific priority): member school music teacher recommendations, adjudicator recommendations, the candidate’s previous NYSSMA Solo ratings, grade in school, zone representation, participation in the previous year’s All-State, and participation in other performing organizations. In the process of developing the master proficiency list, no qualified candidate on a local proficiency list may be passed over for another student on that list. In addition, committee members are instructed that all music literature from the NYSSMA Manual Level VI repertoire lists must be given equal consideration in the candidate selection process.

Occasionally, candidates are disqualified for All-State consideration. Disqualifications may occur when a music teacher does not recommend the student, application forms are incomplete or missing, or the candidate has violated any of the NYSSMA Rules and Regulations concerning the audition procedures including the requirement that all applicants must be a participating member of his or her corresponding school music organization at the time of the audition and at the time of the applicant’s membership in the Conference All-State organization.

After the master proficiency list has been established for each instrument and voice part, the “process” continues with each successful candidate assigned to positions in one of the eight All-State performing ensembles. Care is taken not to place a student in the same ensemble for two consecutive years. In cases where a candidate is selected for more than one ensemble, acceptance letters are sent for each group and the choice of ensemble is given to the student. After all selected students have been placed within the eight performing ensembles, an appropriately sized list of alternates is selected from the master proficiency list for each instrument and voice part. There are often more candidates with scores of 100 than can be accommodated by the limited size of the All-State groups, however every student receiving a score of 100 is guaranteed alternate status.

In late August, all selected students and alternates are notified by mail and asked to return acceptance forms. Music and instructions from the All-State Chairs and conductors are mailed to the successful candidates on October 15. Students are expected to prepare their All-State music with as much care and attention to detail as was given in preparation for their audition the previous spring.

A successful All-State experience depends on a number of factors: talented and well prepared soloists; careful attention and utilization of the NYSSMA Manual; tireless efforts of the All-State Chairs and Assistant Chairs; an exceptionally experienced, dedicated and responsible team of NYSSMA Chaperones; the finest conductors available; music that is of the highest quality; and almost 900 All-State Musicians who are thoroughly prepared to have an experience of a lifetime!


Question: There is no language listed on the vocal selection in Manual. What language is required?
Answer: “A specific language  is required only where noted.” [page 7-1, 1st bullet under General Information]

Question: The solo my son/daughter is performing has many movements. How many do they need to prepare and perform?
Answer: “Except where otherwise indicated, in the Manual listing, soloists preparing a multi-movement work will prepare and perform two contrasting movements. Theme and variations are not considered multi-movement works.” [page R-15, 7th bullet under General Solo Information]

Question: Can I enter the room to hear my child’s performance?
Answer: Observers are allowed to be present in the room for the scale and solo portion of the evaluation. In most cases, the adjudicator will ask the student if they wish to have observers hear their performance. Observers and accompanists are not permitted in the room during the sight reading portion of the evaluation. (see page R-14 under General Rules & Requirements)

Question: Can I video or audio tape my child’s performance?
Answer: “There will be no video or audio taping at any NYSSMA Solo/Ensemble Festival Site.” [page R-14, last bullet under General Rules & Requirements)

Question: How many scales do students need to know?
Answer: Scale requirement vary slightly depending on the instrument.  The general requirements are: Three prepared major scales for Level I and II. Seven prepared major scales for Levels III and IV and fifteen prepared major scales for Levels V and VI. Students must play these scales from memory. In every case, only three scales are chosen for evaluation. The scales to be evaluated are selected by the adjudicator. (Refer to the first page of each solo section (right after the tab page) in the NYSSMA Manual).

Question: Can my 9th grade student audition for All-State?
Answer: No. “An applicant must be in 10th (sophomore) or 11th (junior) grade in school at the time of audition.” [page R-13, 3rd bullet under Enrollment Requirements]

Question: My daughter goes to a private school that has no chorus. May she audition for All-State?
Answer: As long as your private school has paid the school participation fee to NYSSMA, the following regulation would be in effect: “An All-State Choral applicant must be a member of his/her school chorus where such chorus exists.” [page R-14, 1st bullet, #1]  Both at the time of the audition and the time of the All-State. (see also:  page R-13 and R-14 under Enrollment Requirements for more details)

Question: My child is home schooled. Can they perform for NYSSMA? What about All-State?
Answer: “2)  Students of private music teachers, or home educated students must submit applications for participation through the appropriate public, private or parochial school which has paid the annual School Participation Fee.  3.)  All participating students and organizations must be from a current NYSSMA member school or school district which they represent (except the accompanist)” [Page R-1, #2 and #3 under General Requirements for Participation] The All-State requirement for membership in the school performing ensemble (band, chorus, orchestra, instrumental jazz or vocal jazz ensemble) is in effect. (see page R-14, first bullet) In short, IF the home schooled student was a member of the NYSSMA member school chorus (for example) that student could audition for All-State evaluation. “Participation is defined as a minimum of 50% attendance and practice at in-school rehearsals, where such rehearsals are offered and at all concert performances with this same school organization.” [page R-14, 2nd bullet]

It is entirely the decision of the school district as to whether they allow home-schooled students to participate in school activities.

Question: My child does not perform in her school orchestra, but does perform with a community based symphony orchestra.” Does this make him/her eligible to audition for All-State Orchestra”?
Answer:  No. This student does not meet the 50% rule and would not be eligible for All-State evaluation.

Question: Three of my All-State band students are performing at a NYSSMA Solo Festival. One of my students wishes to perform at a different site. Is this allowed by NYSSMA?
Answer:  No. “All Conference All-State Wind and Percussion applicants from the same high school must audition at the same Spring Festival Site.” [page R-14, 3rd bullet #1] All students within each group (1.Winds & Percussion. 2. String. 3. Vocal. 4. Vocal Jazz. 5. Instrumental Jazz.) must perform at the same site. Vocal All-State students and instrumental All-State students from the same high school may perform at different sites, however all the strings must be at the same site, all vocal students at the same site, all winds & percussion students at the same site, all vocal jazz students at the same site and all instrumental jazz at the same site. (see page R-14, 3rd bullet for more details)

Question: What happens if my All-State student breaks his/her arm right before their violin audition?
Answer: [page R-14, 3rd bullet, #6] “Any deviation from this regulation [see prior question] must have the prior written permission of the NYSSMA Second Vice-President.  This permission may be granted by the NYSSMA Second Vice-President under the following conditions:

  1. A written request prior to the Spring Festival is submitted to the NYSSMA Second Vice-President by the student’s school music teacher or Director of Music.
  2. The request states the student’s name, instrument/voice, and full school name, as well as the reason for the proposed exception (family wedding, student illness or injury, etc.), as well as festival sites, dates, and Zone(s) of both the original and proposed festival sites.”

In the case of an illness, a doctor’s note must be attached to the request letter.

For any questions not answered here, please contact Daryle Redmond, 2nd Vice President at