NYSSMA-What is it? Why do it?

 Parents come to me frequently confused and wondering what NYSSMA is and should they have their child do it?   NYSSMA stands for New York State School Music Association.  And the other answer is probably -yes.

Your child will learn and perform on the scheduled day, a solo chosen from a manual given by  NYSSMA to music teachers in the public schools.  Songs are gathered into levels of difficulty from Level One to Level Six All State.  The student selects a song to prepare which they will sing for the adjudicator.  There is also a sight singing component of the NYSSMA ratings experience.  This means that the child will have to sing a line or two or more, at higher levels, of notes they are seeing for the first time.  The adjudicator will give them the key and play Do.  Then they must decipher the rhythms and notes on their own and after a few moments to figure it out, sing them, either with or without syllables, for the adjudicator.

The singer is then rated on the following categories:  Tone, Intonation(pitch), Technique, Accuracy, Interpretation and Sight Singing.  The score they receive, for levels one through four, is from one to twenty eight.  Levels 5, 6 and 6 All State is rated from 1-100. In some instances scores are given to the teacher at the end of the day and in others, mailed to the school. The scores determine whether or not the child is invited to participate in the All County Choirs, either  Junior, Intermediate or Senior.  If they are invited, several pieces of sheet music in different styles and often, languages are provided for the child to learn.  Then on the designated weekend, they meet and rehearse on Friday for several hours as well as on Saturday and then they perform later in the day as a choir for the public.  Those students participating at the highest level, Level 6 All State, have the opportunity to be selected for the All State Chorus and the All Eastern Chorus.

I always get the manual and help my voice students choose a song which suits their range and ability on an appropriate level.  I teach them the song and I also teach them to sight sing.  They learn to recognize keys, notes, intervals, rhythms and dynamic markings.  I have many examples in varying levels of difficulty for them to use for practice. I help the students find the sheet music they need to take to the audition. Anyone in the room who is using music must have an original piece of music rather than a xeroxed copy. This means the judge and the accompanist if there is one. At lower levels students can choose to sing to a recording.  If they do so, they must provide the recording as well as whatever they use to play it.  Often I help the students who are chosen for the choruses learn their parts in the sheet music sung at the performance.

Wikipedia goes into detail and you can read more there at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_School_Music_Association.  You can also google  NYSSMA.org.  If you are looking for info there, you will want to know that we here in Rockland County are in Zone 9.  That will help you locate where and when your child will be doing NYSSMA.  This year most schools will be going to NYSSMA on May 15th & 16th at Suffern High School, though some, like North Rockland High School, will be going earlier on the weekend of April 24th & 25th at Kingston High School.

Each year I help prepare on average, 25 students for NYSSMA.  The process is set up to encourage the child  to begin to read music and value good technique in posture, breathing, articulation and artistry.  At the highest levels singers have the opportunity to learn foreign language art songs and arias.  I see the students work hard over months to improve.  They are very proud of their scores and of themselves for putting in the effort.  They enjoy the choir performance very much and feel comradery with the others who have shared the experience.  For some, it is the entrance into what will become a major in college.  For others it is an opportunity to sing classical music which they may not experience again.  The best part is that whatever they learn in the process, is theirs to keep forever.

I am always very proud of the accomplishments of my students who participate.  Over the years I have had many students in all the choirs, including All State, All State Jazz and All Eastern, which is quite a thrill.  I highly recommend the NYSSMA experience.