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The below explains what honor ensembles are available for students to audition for. The eligibility and selection process are listed for each:

OCMEA All-County High School and Jr. High School Honor Ensembles (best musicians throughout the county): Selection process - live audition, Available to 9th - 12th grade students. (OCMEA = Orange County Music Educators Association - a professional organization for music teachers throughout Orange County, NY)

NYSSMA Area All-State Honor Ensembles (best musicians in the 5 surrounding counties): Selection process based on last year's NYSSMA Solo Score. Typically you need to have scored in the mid to high 90's on a level 6 solo to be selected. Because of the large competition certain instruments such as Flute and Saxophone typically requires a 99 or 100 on an All-State solo to be selected. Available to 9th - 12th grade students. (NYSSMA = New York State Schools Music Association - a professional organization for music teachers throughout NY state)

NYSSMA All-State Honor Ensembles (best musicians throughout the state): Selection process based on last year's NYSSMA Solo Score. You must have performed a "Level 6 All-State" audition solo. Only students in grades 10 - 12 are eligible to do an All-State audition. "Level 6" solos and "Level 6 All-State" solos are the identical solos. The only difference is students performing an All-State audition must have a piano accompanist (if the piece requires it, of which most do), and is judged by a certified All-State adjudicator (who typically judges harder). NYSSMA = New York State Schools Music Association - a professional organization for music teachers throughout NY state)

NYSBDA All-State Honor Band and Jazz Band (best musicians in throughout the state): Selection process based on last year's NYSSMA Solo Score. Typically for the high school ensembles you need to have scored in the mid to high 90's on a level 6 solo, and mid to high 90's on a level 5 or 6 for the Jr. High ensembles to be selected. For the high school ensembles, because of the large competition certain instruments such as Flute and Saxophone typically requires a 99 or 100 on an All-State solo to be selected. Students that are selected to the NYSSMA All State ensembles are not eligible to participate. Available to 9th - 12th grade students. (NYSBDA = New York State Band Directors Association - a professional organization for band directors throughout NY state)


Getting ready

  1. Make sure you know your solo inside and out.
  2. Get a good night sleep the night before
  3. If you are performing at the NYSSMA solo & ensemble festival, before you leave to go to the festival make sure you:
    1. Have two copies of your solo
    2. Have all parts of your instrument in your case before you leave home (eg. Extra reeds, neck strap, mouthpiece, valve oil, etc.)
    3. Bring something to help you relax (see #3 below)
  4. Get there early enough so you are not rushed. Likewise, don't get there so early that you have to wait and extensive time to your audition. (45 minutes early is good)
  5. Try not plan other things around your performance time (like having to rush off to a dinner date right after you play)

Once you get to the audition site:

  1. Find your performance room before going to warm-up. This way you know exactly how long it will take you to get to your room from the warm-up area.
  2. Don't over warm-up and burn out your lips.

Keeping relaxed before your audition:

  1. Relax by any of the following ways:
    1. Read a book
    2. Do homework
    3. Listen to music
    4. Drink water (you can use this even in the performance room throughout the audition)
    5. Play your favorite mobile game
    6. Play card games; solitaire or something with a friend
    7. Eat a banana; the potassium is said to calm the nerves
    8. Use the rest room (no kidding!)
  2. Things that students do that typically make themselves nervous:
    1. Playing too much in the warm-up room by either playing the entire solo or over practicing a section. You did the work already. Another 15 minutes of "practicing" is not going to make a big difference.
    2. Listening and comparing yourself to other students who are playing in the warm-up room. Keep in mind you WILL hear people who are better than you and others worse than you. The weekend is long. It is possible that you are hearing the one or two other amazing player throughout the weekend. There are probably 50 other weaker players auditioning throughout the weekend.
    3. Rushing to find their audition room.
    4. Planning other appointments either before or after your audition time that will force you to rush in or out from the audition.
    5. Hanging out with other students who are nervous! This is the number one issue that causes students to get nervous. They talk back and forth about how nervous they are. It is just an ugly spiral down to nowhere. If you are going to hang out with friends make sure you are doing things that are going to take your mind off of things rather than mess your mind up for no reason.

How to stay relaxed once you are in the audition room:

  1. Greet the judge with a smile: The judge is rooting for you to do well. Know that the judge is there for you, you are not there for the judge. They want you to do your. Make conversation with the judge may take the edge off for you. Small talk (weather, "where are you from", "do you like this solo"…)
  2. Adjust the chair and stand the way you like it. You can stand or sit. It's you choice.
  3. Play a few notes to hear the acoustics of the room. You may sound loud in a classroom. It's O.K., just play how you normally play. Don't adjust to the room.
  4. If you are having a piano player tune to the piano.
  5. Finger your scales before you actually play them. Thinking through them will help your accuracy.
  6. If you need to it is all right to admit to the judge that you are nervous. They will understand and treat you nicer.
  7. Count yourself off. Think of your tempo before you play your solo and sight-reading.
  8. Take big/energetic breaths throughout your audition.
  9. Drink water during your rests if it will help.

Read these books:

"The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey. (<-- click to read) is a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. It uses tennis as a tool to demonstrate the author's performance techniques. His approach has been used not only by athletes but for a wide range of people including public speakers, business owners, and musicians (just to name a few). This book has sold millions of copies since it was published in 1974. It can be purchased at most book stores for $15.00 or online for as little as $10.20 on sites like

If you are more interested in not having to make your own analogies to music you want to read The Inner Game of Music co-authored by Barry Green and W. Timothy Gallwey. (<-- click to read) This book is designed to help musicians overcome obstacles, help improve concentration, and reduce nervousness, allowing them to reach new levels of performing excellence and musical artistry.

  1. PRACTICE Intelligently and with a metronome!
  2. When you encounter a troublesome area, ISOLATE it and work it out at a slower tempo, drill it to perfection, then gradually increase the tempo. Finally, incorporate it into the main body of work.
  3. Learn the piece in the same tempo. Do not play the easier section faster than the more difficult passages.
  4. If or when you encounter a technical challenge, once again, slow it down, and drill it. I find that if you change the rhythm of the technical area, this will help tremendously! What I mean by this is as follows: Let's say the line is a series of sixteenth notes, change the rhythm to short/long, short/long or long /short, long/short. You need to change your paradigm, so that you don't play yourself into a rut!
  5. Practice the LAST measure 1st! Then add the measure before it, etc., etc., so that you are constantly reinforcing previously learned material.
  6. Add dynamics, ornaments, tempo fluctuations as final musical elements, so that your performance is musical and interesting. Do not forget that making music is an art form; add your heart & soul to your performance. MAKE MUSIC!!!
  7. SPELL & FINGER out your scales just like spelling out your name! "IF YOU CAN SAY IT, YOU CAN PLAY IT!"

Sight-reading Guidelines

  1. Once you get the tempo from the adjudicator, IMMEDIATELY tap your foot to that tempo and DO NOT stop tapping that tempo until you leave the room!
  2. Determine your KEY & TIME SIGNATURE,
  3. Scan for technical areas 1st and then look for dynamic, tempo fluctuations, etc.,
  4. Finger the rhythms as many times as possible silently in your head!,
  5. Once you begin to play, DO NOT STOP AND/OR CORRECT A PERCEIVED MISTAKE! Just keep playing!

  1. Establish the "rhythmic feel" of the time signature by thinking:
    1. "boom-chick/ boom-chick/ etc…" for 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, cut time - which all use duple subdivisions:
    2. "boom-chick-chick / boom-chick-chick / etc…" for 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 - which all use triple subdivision:
  2. Finger the scale of the key signature
  3. Quickly scan for accidentals that occur near the beginning of measures. If you see one check to see if there are other notes in that measure that maintain the accidental.
  4. Sing and finger three times:
    1. Memorize a low, middle, and high note from your solo so you can hear your first pitch
    2. 1st X notes and rhythms
    3. 2nd X added dynamics
    4. 3rd X add articulations
  5. Review the first 2 measures
    1. If extra time focus in on particularly difficult measures, and (b) pay attention to the first measure of the second line of music; people often make mistakes when moving from one line to the next.
  6. Count yourself off 2 measures to establish a beat.


(For students performing a NYSSMA Level 6 All-State audition)

What to ask when contacting an piano accompanist:

  1. Ask if they are available to accompany your NYSSMA Solo on your performance date
  2. Ask what their fees are for rehearsals and the performance itself.
  3. Set a rehearsal date to go through the solo with the pianist.
  4. Ask how you will meet up with them the day of the performance.
  5. We recommend recording the piano part when you have your rehearsal meeting. This recording will allow you to practice with the piano part between your rehearsal and the performance dates.

Gregg Michalack 978-5337
Laura Evans 778-6534
Arline Stivers 858-6274
Linda Ludden 496-6449
Beverly Poyert 496-1445
Dr. Margaret Small 534-9485
Pat Maimone 446-2395
Lisa Zahn 565-9766
Janice Nimetz 783-1242
Lilly Mikefell 736-3375
Bonnie Doyle Ham 778-5549
Jimrae Lenser 614-5599

Reference recordings of your NYSSMA Solos can be purchased at:

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