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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Abayev


The annual NYSSMA Evaluation Festival in New York state takes place in the spring - usually, somewhere between March and June, depending on your school district.. For the last several years, it was almost always from mid-April through May in Westchester county.

NYSSMA requirements & preparation tips

You can always learn more and check the current year requirements by visiting NYSSMA website -

You will need to register for the audition through your child's school - just contact your music/orchestra/band teacher. Most of them are aware of the procedure. Please remember, It has to be done ahead of time - at least two months before the actual NYSSMA date!

Now, let's discuss how to prepare for the NYSSMA.

First, you would need to select the level (from 1 to 6) and the actual piece you are going to perform. Do it with your teacher, and it has to be on the NYSSMA requirements list, which is updated every two years or so. Don't get too ambitious and please, do follow your teacher's recommendations. It is sometimes necessary to repeat the same level for two years in the row - in order to improve your overall technique and to mature your musicianship!

Every NYSSMA performance consists of three parts - scales, the actual piece that you will prepare and sight-reading.


It is rather a formal requirement - as long as you play them in tune, with a good, rich sound and at even pace - you are fine.

2. The piece you have prepared.

Most important points here - intonation, tone, dynamics and interpretation.

Intonation - it has to be perfect, period!

Tone - it's never beautiful enough, so you should try really hard to make your violin sound sweet, or, as some of my students say - "pretty".

Dynamics - most of the students (and even mature professional musicians!) are so concerned about playing the right notes that they forget about dynamics. If you pay attention to this - you will be one of the very few people that stands out of the crowd - right away!

Interpretation - it is truly the "essence" of music. If your phrases are meaningful and your playing is thoughtful and expressive - then you get to the point of the real artistic achievement. Congratulations!

We WILL talk more about musical interpretation in the future as I believe it is the most important and essential element of human interaction, by playing and listening music - TOGETHER.

Please stay tuned ...


Probably, the most overlooked part of NYSSMA!

Based on my experience, even very well prepared students would lose some points for sight-reading.

And no, you can not get better at sight-reading overnight. So - plan accordingly.

Pay particular attention to the tempo/meter & time signature.


Usually, it's the rhythm (not the pitch) that lets you down during a sight-reading test.


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