Are you or your student participating in ISSMA Solo and Ensemble contest this year? This is a very popular event that encourages students to branch out, either with a solo or an ensemble (or multiple events!) and is encouraged by many directors and private teachers. Have first-time questions, or head swimming from trying to pick the perfect piece? Read on!

If you are a first-time S&E participant with a beginning student, the process may seem overwhelming. Don’t fret–it is definitely worth it. This opportunity for your student to present his or her progress to an audience and receive positive critique and reinforcement is one of the best opportunities for improvement, and to get your student acclimated with playing in front of an audience. Students can choose to participate in a solo, with or without accompaniment, or an ensemble (a trio or larger–no duets). Entry fees for 2016 are $13 per solo and $7 for each ensemble member. The deadline is rapidly approaching: directors must have their entrants submitted by December 5th! To avoid the last-minute rush, many directors have their own deadlines to have their students submitted, so be sure to check with your teachers.

There are five entry levels for students based on their advancement on their instrument: Group V-Group I. Group V is reserved for students who are in the beginning stages of their instrument, while Group I is for advanced middle school to high school students. Students who compete in Group I and receive a gold rating will advance to State Solo and Ensemble contest in Indianapolis. For Group I ONLY, there is a REQUIRED list from which students must select a piece. This is very important, as some very popular pieces are not on this list and will result in the student being disqualified or moved to a lower group level. When selecting from this list, also note that some pieces have required publishers, movements, or cadenzas listed.

Coming next week: how to select the perfect ISSMA contest piece!