Each spring, the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) sponsors festivals across the state in which the students have on opportunity to perform solos and small ensembles (duets, trios, etc.) for an impartial adjudicator – usually a music educator or a professional musician from other areas. They listen to each student’s performance with a graded selection from the NYSSMA manual, a short sight reading selection, and a prescribed scale, for instrumentalists


The NYSSMA solo experience can be a wonderful motivation for the music students. It gives them the opportunity to strive for the excellence, requires a mature sense of responsibility, and encourages discipline/commitment. Moreover, the ability of performing in front of someone you don’t know will develop poise and confidence.

NYSSMA grade provides a standard objective that is used for acceptance of honors performance ensembles such as Nassau Music Educators Association (NMEA), All-County and Long Island String Festival Association (LISFA), Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and Gemini Youth Orchestra, and many other music camps. NYSSMA could be also included in college applications and it is a great recommendation for the college acceptance.


Students must bring two original copies of music – one for the performer and the other one for the adjudicator. Extra piano score is acceptable for use as a second copy. Photocopied music is not permitted and may result in disqualification.

For vocal students and for those who are auditioning for All-State ensembles must provide their own accompaniment. Since a live accompanist is always preferable, arrangements should be made ahead of time to secure pianists and guarantee ample time for preparation.



Overview of ABRSM Exams

ABRSM exams give the developing musician a set of worthwhile and motivational goals to work for. They provide the opportunity of performing high-quality music and developing all-round musicianship through a range of supporting activities.

Graded exams are available for more than 35 instruments, singing, jazz, ensembles, practical musicianship and music theory. They offer a framework for life-long learning in music, without restrictions on age, length of study, or the requirement that candidates are taught in schools or other centers.

Many students will start with the Prep Test, a simple and positive assessment at the pre-Grade 1 level, and then work through the 8 grades, but there is no set pattern. For students who progress beyond Grade 8, professional diplomas (ABRSM, LRSM and FRSM) are offered in three subject areas: performing, directing and teaching. For younger learners, Music Medals offer a set of fun, rewarding and accredited assessments supported by award-winning repertoire. They introduce essential musical skills and inspire developing musicians to play and enjoy music together.

General Syllabus

Available for over 35 instruments, these exams incorporate four individual components:

• Set pieces. The student is required to play three pieces prepared beforehand. For most instruments, some or all of the pieces are played with piano accompaniment. Each piece is marked out of 30. The pass mark is 20.

• Scales. Various scales, arpeggios, dominant and diminished 7ths and, for Grades 1–4 only (Grades 1 & 2 for piano). Scales are marked out of 21. The pass mark is 14.

• Sight reading. The student is presented with an unseen piece, has up to 30 seconds to prepare, and then must play to the best of his or her ability. Sight-reading is marked out of 21. The pass mark is 14.

• Aural. Various exercises are played by the examiner and the student is required to demonstrate skills in listening to and analyzing music, for example clapping the rhythm or singing the melody. At higher grades, students are expected to comment on features of a short piece played by the examiner, including dynamics, phrasing and style and period. Aural is marked out of 18. The passing mark is 12.

The exams are marked out of 150, where 100 is a pass, 120 a pass with merit, and 130 a distinction.

ABRSM Diploma, Licentiate Diploma, and Fellowship

ABRSM offers diplomas in three disciplines:

• Music Performance

• Music Direction

• Instrumental/Vocal teaching

For each discipline there are three levels of award:

• Dip ABRSM (Diploma of The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)

• LRSM (Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music)

• FRSM (Fellowship of the Royal Schools of Music)

These are professional qualifications, and entitle the recipient to append the letters after his or her name.