Thousands of music students who prepared to perform vocal and instrumental solos in cancelled District/State Solo & Ensemble Festivals recently participated in the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) Virtual Solo Festival — an alternative experience the non-profit organization scrambled to develop and launch for youth statewide (and beyond) amidst the pandemic “social distancing” restrictions.

“Our WSMA team, along with partner CS Music, worked vigorously to quickly adapt key parts of the traditional WSMA Solo & Ensemble experience in order to give music students the opportunity to perform for feedback from adjudicators through a special video submission platform,” said WSMA Executive Director Laurie Fellenz.

“As an organization we knew we needed to serve our children, and so students were at the center of every decision we made. And we’ll never regret it; it has supported kids who have lost so many opportunities this spring,” Fellenz expressed.

Over 5,000 students took part in the WSMA Virtual Solo Festival, which opened in March and concluded in May. The total consists of a little more than 2,500 district and 2,500 state submissions, representing participation from all geographic areas and schools sizes in Wisconsin. Students from bordering states of Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan also participated in the timely offering. More than 200 WSMA certified adjudicators, many of whom are active Wisconsin music educators (many also donated their time), evaluated the video submissions, provided feedback, and also a rating if desired. Students were able to upload their performance video and receive evaluation/comments all through a single portal, originally created by CS Music as an audition evaluation program, and adapted exclusively for WSMA Solo & Ensemble Festivals. Students also celebrated “virtually” through a WSMA social media recognition campaign.

Students must earn a “starred first” rating in Class A (which consists of the most difficult music) at a WSMA District Music Festival to qualify for WSMA State Music Festivals. The participants, in grades 6-12, can choose from a variety of instrumental and vocal solo and ensemble categories for their performances in district festivals throughout the state. In a typical year, WSMA has held over 225 such events, involving more participants than any other student activity.

“Despite today’s challenges, we are as committed as ever to the WSMA mission to ensure students have opportunities that encourage lifelong involvement in music, provide statewide music programming activities, offer leadership and support for school music programs, and advance music as an integral part of the school curriculum and community life. The Virtual Solo Festival is an example of our unwavering commitment to this mission,” said Fellenz.

WSMA continues to receive national recognition as a leader among state music associations. Learn more about WSMA and how its mission is carried out, by going to wsmamusic.org.

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