• 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 or small ensemble piece (duets, trios, etc.) 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.


    What is the preparation process like for NYSSMA?

    Students prepare a solo (selected from the NYSSMA manual – see below), and practice sight-reading, which they will perform for highly trained judges who deliver insightful, positive comments. The NYSSMA solo experience can be a wonderful tool for motivating young music students. It gives them the opportunity to strive for excellence, requires a mature sense of responsibility, and encourages discipline and commitment. Moreover, the ability to perform for someone you don't know develops poise and confidence. NYSSMA grades provide an objective standard that is used for acceptance to certain honors performing ensembles such as Area-All-State (All-County for 10th through 12th grade), the preparation helps students successfully audition for outside performing groups, many music camps, and should be included in college applications and recommendations. The festivals also serve as audition sites for the Conference All-State bands, choruses, jazz ensembles, and orchestras for students in grades 10 and 11 who elect, in advance, to perform their Level VI solo for an All-State adjudicator.


    How do I sign up for NYSSMA?

    First, consult with Mr. Riss on choosing a level and piece. Then complete the NYSSMA registration form at


    and then send your child in with a check for the appropriate amount made out to cash, or cash in the appropriate amount.


    When is the deadline for registering?

    This year’s deadline is Friday, March 22, 2019.


    What is the NYSSMA Manual?

    The NYSSMA Manual is a comprehensive list of solos that are approved for performance at NYSSMA. Mr. Riss has the most current edition of the Manual - see him for details.


    NYSSMA Festival 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 you are called into the assigned classroom by your judge, you will perform your NYSSMA solo piece. Then, 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 about a week after the festival. Level 1-4 auditions are rated as “Outstanding, “Excellent”, “Good”, etc. on a scale of 1-28; Level 5-6 is rated as A+, A, A-, B+, B, etc. on a scale of 1- 100. Points are given in major categories such as tone, intonation, technique, accuracy, interpretation, scales and sight-reading. Narrative comments are also written by the adjudicator to provide positive feedback, constructive criticism and to explain any point deductions.


    How long does the adjudication take?

    The entire process takes approximately ten (10) minutes for a level 1-4 adjudication and fifteen (15) minutes for a level 5-6 or All-State adjudication.


    May parents or friends be present in the adjudication room during the performance?

    Yes, parents and friends are allowed in the adjudication room at the discretion of the student,  but not during the sight-reading requirement part of the adjudication.


    Can the adjudication be recorded?

    No, NYSSMA does not allow any audio or video recording devices in the adjudication room.


    If my child is interested in participating in NYSSMA, how can they get help preparing for the audition?

    Mr. Riss is available to provide help on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2:45-3:15. A private teacher is not required for participation in NYSSMA, and students are encouraged to work with Mr. Riss after school on the sight-reading portion of the audition whether they have a private teacher who works on sight-reading or not. That said, the most successful students usually also study one-on-one with an instructor outside of school. In this setting, personal attention is emphasized and sufficient time is devoted to addressing the specific musical needs of individuals on a regular and routine basis.


    An accompanist is required for a voice audition, and you are responsible for hiring one yourself. You should work with them about two-three times before the audition. Mr. Riss is available to accompany Hastings voice students free-of-charge. You may also use a recorded accompaniment, but please speak to Mr. Riss for guidance on that well in advance if you plan to do so.


    Should my child attend NYSSMA?

    Each student’s decision to participate should be made jointly with the school and/or private music teacher. Trust their expertise to determine your child’s readiness. However, the benefits are many. Students learn to prepare for a deadline, focus their skills, plan long-term for success, and receive feedback from a completely impartial adjudicator. The event also serves as excellent preparation for the skills needed for auditions, public presentations and performances, interview skills, etc. Finally, students who practice diligently will experience a wonderful sense of satisfaction while becoming better overall musicians on his or her instrument/voice.

    Mr. Riss found attending NYSSMA to be a crucial part in his musical development from 4th through 12th grade.


    Is participation in NYSSMA required?

    Preparing a NYSSMA solo is an optional and extra task that goes above and beyond the regular expectations of band, orchestra or chorus. Participation requires a commitment of regular time and effort, especially in sight-singing, to be prepared.