NYSSMA Explained Blog

Navigating how to participate and prepare for NYSSMA can be a confusing and daunting task, especially if this is your first time. Luckily, we have created a comprehensive list and video with everything you need to know to have a fun and successful festival experience!

If you haven’t already, you and your teacher will decide whether or not you should participate in the NYSSMA festival. NYSSMA is an optional statewide music festival, in which students will be judged on their performance. For those who have never done NYSSMA before, the process and adjudication can seem intimidating. We have compiled a list of answers to the most commonly asked NYSSMA questions, as well as tips and tricks to help you succeed. Watch our video to find out everything you need to know about NYSSMA:

Below are some of the questions we have answered in the video:

1. Who can participate in the festival?
NYSSMA is both for soloists and ensembles. Almost all instruments are included in the NYSSMA festival. Typically, NYSSMA papers are given out from your public school teacher. If you are playing an instrument outside of school, you will need to approach a music teacher and let them know that you want to participate.
2. How is NYSSMA graded?
NYSSMA levels are a way of telling where you are as an instrumentalist or vocalist. NYSSMA levels are 1-6. Levels 1-4 are graded out of 28, and levels 5 and 6 are graded out of 100. The adjudicator (who is usually a retired or current music educator) will award or take away points for criteria such as tone quality, dynamics, expression, articulation, note accuracy, rhythm, the performance itself (i.e. While you are singing, are you conveying the meaning of the piece correctly?), sight reading, scale playing, and many other things. It’s best to consult your teacher for a specific guideline of your instrument and level.
3. What are the NYSSMA requirements?
Each student is required to select a solo piece to perform, located in the NYSSMA manual. In addition, there is sight reading and, depending on the instrument, scales to perform. Each level has it’s own difficulties as they increase, so make sure to discuss with your teacher exactly what you’ll need to know.
5. How can I participate in All-County and/or All-State?
For levels 1 through 6, if you do very well, you may be nominated to participate in All-County. This is where they select the best students from each adjudication, and combine them into an ensemble. The techniques learned and experience gained from this is invaluable. Level 6 soloists may be able to participate in All-State, which is state-wide. Furthermore, level 6 All-State students may be selected for All-Eastern or even a National ensemble. These are great goals to strive for!
6. How can I prepare for NYSSMA?
The first thing you can do to prepare is START EARLY! Too many students start too late, not allowing enough time to prepare accordingly. It is a good idea to have your scales perfected and memorized early. Stay on track with your piece and work closely with your teacher to develop your piece in a fluent manner. Allow yourself plenty of time to practice sight reading. The more you do it, the better you’ll get! You can pick up any piece, and read through it slowly as you play. This is a fun way to prepare, while also learning something new in the process! You may also want to practice in front of people. This will help keep your nerves down on the day of to eliminate the possibility of nerve related mistakes. You can also practice in front of a mirror. The mirror will allow you to check your posture, facial expression and body language. You always want to mirror the mood of the piece you are performing. You wouldn’t want to seem angry when you’re singing a happy song! Get your sheet music and accompanist early! Don’t wait until the last minute to get these details finalized. You wouldn’t want to stress if the books are out of stock, or there are the inevitable shipping delays. Accompanists are hard to book around NYSSMA time, so might as well book them early and have the ease of mind!
7. Tips for NYSSMA Day:
Arrive early! Many times you’re going to a new place, so make sure to allow time for getting lost and figuring out where to go. Arriving on time is an important part of the process. You’ll also want to dress nicely! This helps in making you feel good about yourself, while simultaneously showing respect for the judges and the music. Lastly, have fun! This is meant to be a fun and happy experience. Remember, nothing bad will happen if you don’t perform at your very best so don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

Additionally, make sure you are following NYSSMA’s copyright rules when it comes to sheet music! Use of illegally copied music is prohibited at all NYSSMA events. Unless you perform your solo from memory, you must purchase 2 legal copies to use at the festival (one for you and one for the judge). If you are using an accompanist, they must also have a legal copy of the music. So for example, if you are singing from memory you still need 2 legal copies: one for the accompanist and one for the jugde. With that being said, you are allowed to use pre-recorded accompaniment at the festival. You just need to provide your own playback equipment. If you are using a phone or tablet to play the track, make sure you have an external speaker so that the track can be heard well (phone speakers are usually not loud enough).

We hope that these tips have helped you prepare for NYSSMA. Good Luck!

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