May 8, 2018

Solo & Ensemble Contest


2010 (photo by A. Abboud)
2010 (photo by A. Abboud)

Participation in Solo & Ensemble Contest provides an opportunity for music students to select, make perfect, and perform music for a highly esteemed music educator (and other family members) to receive quality feedback on how they may improve. In the months leading up to the contest, the process of preparation also includes constant feedback from peers and/or teachers as well as self-evaluation as they work towards perfection. Also, after the contest, students will have a piece of music that they can perform well in any musical setting – for example for family during the holidays, sharing on YouTube, or in school classrooms during poetry readings.

Every year on a Saturday in February, 7th & 8th grade students participate in Solo & Ensemble Contest. 6th Grade students are encouraged to participate as well. Students may perform a solo or as part of a small ensemble, typically consisting of 2 to 5 players. Students perform in front of a judge and receive scores based on the seven categories below. Medals may be awarded based on score.

  • Tone Production
  • Phrasing
  • Intonation
  • Note Accuracy
  • Rhythm Accuracy
  • Articulation
  • Dynamics
  • Balance/Blend
  • Other
2010 (photo by A. Abboud)
2010 (photo by A. Abboud)

Students receive a 1, 2, 3, or 4 in each category based upon their performance. The sum of the ratings in each category determines the medal awarded. A perfect score (all 1’s in each category) earns a “Division I” Rating and a Medal with a Gold Star. A sum of 31+ (solos) or 32+ (ensembles) points earns a “Division I” Rating and a Medal. A sum of 26+ (solos) or 27+ (ensembles) points earns a Division II Rating and a Medal. A sum of 25- (solos) or 26- (ensembles) points earns a Division III rating. Students will receive the Judge’s Rating/Comment Sheet a few days afterward in school.

Sign Up Deadlines

  • End of November: Deadline to Register with Director
  • Before Winter Break: Deadline to Select Music


The cost involved for students is relatively minor. All fees may be paid by check, cash, or with money from the student’s Orchestra Account. Each performer owes $8 for each event for which they are registered. 

Why Participate in S&E Contest?

2014 (photo by R. Broach)
2014 (photo by R. Broach)

Solo & Ensemble Contest is the perfect opportunity for students to grow, not only musically, but by setting a goal and striving towards perfection. The contest provides motivation for students as they prepare their selected piece for performance in front of a judge who analyzes the performance and provides quality feedback for the student to improve. The performance is an authentic artistic process in that the performer knows of the coming performance date, selects music, works out challenging parts in the music, and then polishes any aspect of their performance.

It’s also important to point out the difference between performing a solo or in a small ensemble. In a large ensemble (like orchestra), many students are playing the same musical part. For example, in a string orchestra there may be 14 violins playing the first violin part, 14 other violins playing the second violin part, 9 violas playing the viola part, 9 cellos playing the cello part, and 6 basses on the bass part. Students have the luxury of relying on other players to cover any mistakes they may make – therefore, they may not see a need to work out challenging parts in the music.

2013 (photo by M. Gilbert)
2013 (photo by M. Gilbert)

Solo & Ensemble Contest provides a setting where the students are the only instrumentalist performing one part. For example, in a string quartet there is 1 First Violin, 1 Second Violin, 1 Viola, and 1 Cello. There is no room for error or no one else available to cover any mistakes another player may be making. The same is especially true for soloists.

Participation in this contest may be one of the most effective means towards improvement as students select a piece of music tailored to their needs and have the authentic pressure of performance motivating them to work out and polish any challenging parts in their music.

Schedule of Events

2012 (photo by M. Gilbert)
2012 (photo by M. Gilbert)

Each year, a couple of weeks prior to the date of the contest, NIMCon provides us with a specific schedule for students’ performance times. Unfortunately, due to the large number of entries the schedule cannot be completed until only a couple of weeks prior. Students and their families should have the whole day unplanned as the performance time can be anywhere between 8:00a and 5:00p.

It is very important that the performers arrive at the contest site early – at least 30 to 60 minutes prior to their scheduled time. Students should first report to the homeroom area (which is usually a gym) to check in with their director, tune & warm up, find the room where they perform, and prepare to perform. Mr. Broach will remain in the homeroom area for the duration of the day. When in any new setting, finding rooms and getting comfortable will take longer than usual and it is vital that the performers do not feel any pressure from time constraints. Please check the scheduled time and plan accordingly.

Prima Musica performing in 2014 (photo by M. Gilbert)
Prima Musica performing in 2014 (photo by M. Gilbert)

Students do not need to stay for the remainder of the event after they perform, however, most wait for their score to be posted. This usually takes anywhere from 15-60 minutes following each performance. Sometimes hosting schools post the scores online so families can check away from the contest site.

Performance Time Requests & Changes

Unfortunately, most years (except when we host) I do not have control over the performance schedule and cannot make changes to students’ performance times easily. However, we can switch times of students within our school that are performing in the same room at contest. Sometimes there are many students performing in one room and there are many opportunities, sometimes there are few to only one performing in any given room. Here is a rough timeline of how the schedule works:

  1. I submit students’ performances to the NIMCon website by December 1. I can enter AM or PM requests though we are asked to do so sparingly.
  2. We receive a draft schedule a few weeks prior to contest. I check that all events are listed. I try to catch conflicts.
  3. We receive a final schedule from the host site. I distribute to MSN students and families.
  4. Students, families, and I work to switch any events to resolve any conflicts. This must be done within our school. This should be done sparingly.
  5. On the day of the contest, I inform the judges in the given room of any changes. This should be done sparingly.

Current & Previous Contest Sites

Your Performance


Students should dress nicely for their performance as one of the categories on which they are judged is “Stage Presence”. No jeans or sweats.

2013 (photo by T. Castro)
2013 (photo by T. Castro)

Score & Medal

Following your performance, you may choose to wait for roughly 30-45 minutes for your score to be posted. This usually takes place in the cafeteria where you may also purchase food, beverages, or simply gather with friends. When we return to school I will have your Judge’s Comment Sheet to read and Medal for you to wear proudly.


2015 (photo by R. Broach)
2015 (photo by R. Broach)

Parents, family members, and friends are encouraged to show their support by watching their favorite performer during their performance! Please remember to remain quite during the performance and show your support with a hearty applause!

Piano Accompanist

Students that are performing a solo must have a piano accompanist. Mr. Broach will make available a list of piano accompanists sometime in January, prior to the contest date. Most accompanists charge about $25 for their service. The following pianists are available to accompany soloists.

Norreen Klemens
phone: contact Mr. Broach for direct phone number

Annika Sundberg
hone: contact Mr. Broach for direct phone number

Kelly McCallum
phone: contact Mr. Broach for direct phone number

Additional Information

Good Behavior

Since we are visiting another school, we want to show good behavior throughout the day of the contest. Throughout the day, quiet in the halls is mandatory.

  • No playing instruments in the halls or anywhere other than the contest rooms or warm up rooms
  • No loud talking in the halls
  • No rambunctious behavior


Parking at various host schools may fill up quickly. Parents may want to drop off their child before parking. Build in extra time to park when planning when to arrive.

Cafeteria & Food

Most often, there is food available at each school that is hosting the contest. Students and family members may wish to bring cash to purchase food and drinks. This is most likely, where scores will be posted.


2013 (photo by R. Broach)
2013 (photo by R. Broach)

Every few years, we share the responsibility of providing a quality site for all performances. This includes making a lot of preparations (directors, parents, and students) as well as many needing many volunteers on the day of the contest. If you are available to coordinate any portion of the contest, please contact your director. We have or will be hosting following contests:

  • 12 February 2011
  • February 2017

Student Results

YearGoldSilverBronzePerfect Scores
202038178Sienna M (2), Ethan C, Joe G, Theresa F, Likhith D, Elijah C, Brady K, Tyler L, Anastasia B, Charlie M, Gordy L, Hannah F, Josue G
20194260Lynette S (2), Andrew B, Edward E, Diana G, Matthew J, Jibraan K, Amelia K, Roxanne L, Ajay O, Nathan P, Sharanya R, Brayden V, Elijah C, Charlie M, Zoe O
201871163Nathan B (2), Sam B (2), William C (2), Emma R (2), Dylan D (2), Diana G, Ryan K, Jacob K, Sharanya R, Lynette S, Nikko G, Savannah M, Rewa S, Andrew B, Sydney K, Katrina N
201760280Madison C, Sam C, Nathan P, Annette S,
201659226Andrew O (2), Suzie M (2), Alex T, Josh P, Annette S, Sam B, William C
201553254William G (2), Suzie M, Andrew O, Nandini R, Nathalie N, Ameena B
201463181Chloe F, Prithu P, William G, Suzie M, Andrew O, Josh P, Brennan G
201345220William G, Ryan K, Noah S
201256230Elizabeth G, Angela K, Kearra P, Alvin P, Jayme P, Noah S, Sydney K, Hannah K, WIlliam G, Deborah C, Francesca C, Francis K, Nicole L, Katie T, Madiha M, Nick P, Isaac S, Courtney V
201145300Emma E (2), Rachel S, Elizabeth G, Amanda M, Grace D, Bokun L, Austin H, Spencer M