The Scarsdale Friends of Music and the Arts is pleased to offer this Q&A document to help answer any questions you or your child might have about the annual NYSSMA spring music festival. Additional information can be found at www.nyssma.org/zone11 and www.wcsma.org.

What is NYSSMA?

NYSSMA stands for The New York State School Music Association, which Westchester County is a part of.
The Mission of NYSSMA is to advocate for and improve music education across New York State by promoting and producing appropriate activities and programs for its membership and students in member school music programs.
Every year (in the spring), students are able to prepare a solo to perform in the NYSSMA festival, should they so choose. This festival (referred to simply as “NYSSMA”) is an opportunity for students to prepare a solo or small group piece and receive a score and comments from a music judge about their performance.

Who is eligible for NYSSMA?

Any student in the district who wants the extra challenge of performing a solo before a judge is eligible. Usually these are students who take private instrument or voice lessons in addition to participating in the school music program (band, orchestra or chorus).
Students prepare a solo (selected from the NYSSMA manual – see below), and practice scales and sight-reading, which they will perform for highly trained judges who deliver insightful, positive comments. Students get to meet many other players, and most students enjoy practicing for and participating in this festival. It is a worthwhile and fun experience. For students in middle and highschool, NYSSMA scores are used to select students to perform in the All County, Area All-State and All State ensembles in the fall of the following school year.

How do I sign up for NYSSMA?

Complete the NYSSMA registration form, attach a check for the correct amount, based on your level, obtain the page number of your solo from the manual and specify the time slot as per the form. Return the form and check to your school orchestra/band/chorus teacher by the deadline. Ask your school music teacher for the registration form, which may be found on some online teacher pages.

What is the NYSSMA Manual?

The NYSSMA manual is a comprehensive list of solos that are approved for performance at NYSSMA. Please contact your school music teacher for details.

Where do I get the NYSSMA Forms? 

Ask your school music teacher for the registration form. Check with your school music teacher or their schoolwires page for when forms and payment need to be returned to school

What do I need to bring to NYSSMA?

IMPORTANT: 2 ORIGINAL copies (photocopies are strictly prohibited) of the solo must be brought to the NYSSMA festival – one copy for the student performing, the other for the adjudicator. If the solo music comes with a piano accompaniment that also has the melody, this can be given to the adjudicator as the second original copy. (If the student plans to perform his/her solo from memory, one copy of the music for the judge will suffice – but it should be free of markings!) Students will also be asked to perform certain scales (requirements vary by level of difficulty) and a sight-reading exercise.


There are six levels of performance for NYSSMA, based on your skill. Level I is the easiest, while level 6 is the most challenging.

NYSSMA Experience and Score

Upon arriving at the festival location, students sign in, have a chance to warm up (if time permits), and then proceed to their assigned classrooms. Once your name is called, you will be asked to perform a certain number of scales, depending on your NYSSMA level. Afterwards, you will perform your NYSSMA solo piece. Finally, the judge will ask you to sight read a short portion of music based on your NYSSMA level.

Forms are returned to the students by their school music teacher shortly after the festival. Your grading form will contain scores on all three of these performances.
Scores range from “needs improvement” to “outstanding,” with specific areas of skill marked individually. Most judges add encouraging narrative comments to the score sheet.

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