With December rapidly approaching comes the time to begin considerations and planning for solo festivals. I was thinking about how I prepare our soloists for state solos (we call it NYSSMA here in NY), and what it takes to prepare for such an undertaking. I thought it might be helpful for us judges, teachers, and students here to share our thoughts and maybe assist each other with some insights for preparation. Please, share your thoughts. From a judgeâ€™s perspective, I like to hear a soloist who knows their scales and who plays musically with understanding. Dynamics, varying styles of articulations as marked and as appropriate are critical for me when I sit behind the table (or desk, or bench, or whatever I sit behind in the room where I am). I like to see correct posture, hand position, and yes, trumpeters, use of the 3rd slide at least. Especially for students who are more advanced (levels 4-6 out of 6). Please select music which is an appropriate challenge for the student (or yourself); do not have a kid play the Goedicke, for example4, if they cannot double tongue consistently well. Be sure your students (or yourself) are fully aware of all requirements well in advance of the festival. I canâ€™t count the number of times I saw a panic stricken look of horror and shock when I mentioned sight-reading to be followed by â€œI didnâ€™t know I had to do that!â€ Be sure also to check the scale requirements for your (or your studentsâ€™ level). In one instance in particular, I was unable to give a performer a rating because they did not know the necessary number of scales. That really is not an enjoyable experience for anyone. As a teacher, I try to be sure of all that, and discuss all of the options available with the students during â€œthe NYSSMA lessonâ€. We cover what scales are required for the level the4 student is considering; we arrive at that level, by the way, through a mutual understanding of where the student is musically. If they performed a solo last year, we discuss it, how it went, what rating they received, what they feel theyâ€™d like to improve, where they think they should be; usually they are bang on with what I think. Sometimes, there is a discrepancy, and that must be handled with grace and knowledge of the studentâ€™s abilities and personality. Perspective is the all-important element here: what is the student trying to accomplish? Is he/she considering a career in music? Taking lessons privately? How will the experience benefit the student? Other things I consider as a teacher: how much time is needed to prepare the solo? A level 1 (out of 6, 6 being the most difficult), takes less time than a level 6. Students performing at level 6, by the way, should demonstrate musical awareness and technical prowess above and beyond the average players in your groups and area. Just because someone can pop or squeak a high C does not mean they should do the Kennan. In my experience, the average high school junior or senior can really dig in and nail a level 4 piece and get something out of it that is more than a number on a sheet. Some are really solid level 5. Level 6 is reserved for those elite kids; those once in a whiles that you just go â€œwowâ€. (Iâ€™ve had 2 over the course of a 15 year spanâ€¦I may be developing another this year). The solo festival is often given too much emphasis by many directors. At fault is the selection process for all-county, all-state, all-everything band or orchestra. This, to me, should be looked upon as a summation of the studentâ€™s musical abilities TO THAT POINT.