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Our First Year At NYSSMA

NYSSMA offers an annual Spring Evaluation Festival every year, and our piano teacher suggested my son apply for this prestigious evaluation for professional feedback. He has been playing piano for over two years and plays beautifully, but since he hasn’t been heavily trained to sight read she suggested he start with Level I. There are 6 levels, and we are hoping to reach at least 4 (but if our young man wants to keep going all the way, we are going to keep going all that way!). This year my son participated with “First Sonatina” as his solo piece, and C, D, and G as his scales. He also had to sight read as part of his evaluation, during which we weren’t allowed in the room, so I don’t know what he played for this. I also wasn’t allowed to take pictures of him during the evaluation (out of respect for privacy), so all our pictures are of him waiting for his turn, and after ☺️

He is a great piano player, currently playing songs like “Piano Man” by Billy Joel and “Canon in D Major” by Pachelbel. When he first tries a song, he slowly plays through the piece, and by the second run through I can easily recognize it. By the third play, I can sing and hum along, so I know he can read music well, even if he doesn’t necessarily play a new piece perfectly on his first sight reading. This will come with time, and I’m so proud of him.

NYSSMA stands for New York State School Music Association, and every year, thousands of students from all across the state perform for judges for evaluation in a variety of musical instruments. I was nerve-wracked about the process (and how he’d be evaluated- even though I knew he was skilled and very confident), but it was really very smooth and everyone at NYSSMA at the Corona Arts & Sciences Academy made everything easy. For those of you who are planning to “do NYSSMA” in the future and curious about the procedure, here is what happens:

We apply with our piece of choice from a pre-approved selection, and inform them of what scales the applicant has ready. We are sent a letter to bring in to register with, and must arrive at least 15 minutes before our evaluation appointment to register. If you aren’t familiar with the area, traffic is a little crazy and parking can be difficult, so I would suggest arriving much earlier. We planned to arrive 45 minutes earlier, and it’s a good thing because we not only hit traffic, but it took us almost 25 minutes to find a parking spot. Once we registered inside the building, we were given a scoring form, and we were told to wait until it was 10 minutes before our appointment to proceeded to our reserved testing room. The halls on the testing floors were filled with other children waiting their turn, and parents waiting for their children. Honestly, it was well organized, because at each station, there were only the children who were completing their evaluations, and the very next person waiting their turn, so it wasn’t chaotic. Most of the students waiting for their times were in a main waiting area downstairs, where children who completed their evaluations were also awaiting their results. There was ample time for each student, and they held to their appointment times so everything ran very smoothly. We listened to music students with violins, oboes, tubas, and other instruments practicing their scales and pieces while they waited.

When it was our turn, we were allowed to listen to our son play his scales and chosen piece, and then we exited the room while he played a new piece he never practiced before for the judge, to test his sight reading skills. We discovered later that his main interest while in the room was a Mario Brothers magnet set on the white board in the room (he apparently asked the judge if he could stay and play with it when his turn was over 😂), and we proceeded back down to the main waiting room, where every 15 minutes, the latest evaluations are brought down. When our son was called, he picked up his form and handed it to us, and needless to say, my worries were over. I was so, so pleased ♥︎