This information is for musicians and their families who are new to the Issaquah School District's music program,
or who would like to understand the solo/ensemble contests better.
Purpose. The solo/ensemble contests are
intended to provide student musicians an opportunity to perform
a solo or an ensemble in front of an adjudicator and a limited audience,
and to receive constructive comments, both spoken and
written, from the adjudicator. The primary benefits to the students are
the experience of performing alone or in a small group, and
a critique from someone other than their regular music teacher(s). These
contests also serve as regional qualifying events for the
State Solo/Ensemble Contest every spring.
Clarifications. A solo is considered to be a
piece performed either entirely alone or with a piano
accompaniment. An ensemble is a group of from 2 to 16 musicians
performing together, with or without a piano accompaniment.
The adjudicator (often called a judge) is a professional musician not
teaching school in the students' district. The solo/ensemble
contests should not be confused with the orchestra, band, or choir
festivals, in which the entire large group performs for a panel
Entries. Participation in these contests by Issaquah School District students is encouraged but not
required. A student's decision to enter or not enter will have no effect on that student's grade in class. Participation at the
high-school level, however, can earn points towards the music activity letter. Multiple entries are permitted: a student may
enter, for example, both a solo and a duet, two or more solos on different instruments, and/or two or more ensembles.
Fees. The entry fees for the contests are
subject to change, but have recently been around $15 for a
solo. The ensemble fee (based on the group's size) is slightly higher,
but can be split among the members of the ensemble. Besides
one or more entry fees, a student's other potential expenses are
accompanist's fees (see below) and purchase of personal copies of
Ratings. Each adjudicator judges a series of entries, all on the same instrument or class of ensemble,
and gives each performance a rating in the form of a Roman numeral with a possible modifier (such as II, I-, or III+). Many
performances will receive the same rating during a contest. This rating reflects various technical and artistic aspects of the
performance. A rating sheet showing these components and the adjudicator's comments is given to the music teacher at the end of
the contest; the teacher normally gives this sheet to the performer(s) on a school day following the contest.
Locations. The state of Washington is
organized into 22 music regions. The Issaquah School District
belongs to the Eastshore region (together with the Bellevue, Mercer
Island, Riverview, and Snoqualmie districts and certain
independent schools). The schools in every music region take turns
hosting that region's annual contests, and our schools take part
in the Eastshore rotation. All the participating schools are less than
an hour's drive from downtown Issaquah.
Dates. Each contest takes place on a Saturday,
lasting the entire day. The Eastshore high-school
contests are usually held in late January for vocalists and early
February for instrumentalists. The Eastshore music region also
organizes an annual middle-school festival, for both vocalists and
instrumentalists, which is usually in late March.
Music. The selection of music to be performed is left to the performers and their teachers. The only
stipulation is that it be "serious" (classical or genuine folk) music, rather than pop, rock, or show themes. The music teacher
can suggest one or more selections appropriate for the student's ability; performers may propose their own choices to their
teacher. The solo part, or the score of an ensemble, must be supplied to the adjudicator and picked up after the performance.
Students not performing by memory will need additional copies of their parts for themselves.
Accompanists. Most solos and some ensembles
call for a piano accompaniment. If the student does not
have a friend or family member that can play this accompaniment, several
pianists in the Issaquah School District's area are
available. The music teacher can supply their names and telephone
numbers. Rehearsals and contests take up an accompanist's time
and gasoline, and there is a fee for their services. This fee is not set
by the district or the music region and must be negotiated
between the student and the accompanist. A fee for one or two rehearsals
and the performance typically ranges between $30 and
Preparation. Students should make arrangements
for an accompanist several weeks in advance of the
contest, in order to schedule rehearsals and performance time. This is
particularly important because a contest often limits how
many entries each accompanist can accept, so the accompanist must take
them on a first-come-first-served basis. The accompanist's
name must also be included on the registration form. Before the first
rehearsal, the student should have his or her part practiced
and learned; the accompanist's services do not include teaching it. To
get used to the feeling of performing in front of other
people, students may have an opportunity to perform their pieces in
class a day or so before the contest.
Schedule. There are several adjudicators at
each contest, each using a different room in the host
school. Each entry is allocated a ten-minute time slot in one of these
rooms. The schedule of times and rooms is made available
to all teachers a few days before the contest. However, it is extremely
difficult to maintain this schedule with precision.
Unforeseen delays can cause a particular room to run behind, while
"no-shows" can put another room ahead of schedule. Because of
this uncertainty, and to allow time to warm up, students and
accompanists are advised to appear at the contest at least an hour
before their first scheduled performance. Travel planning should allow
time for traffic and weather conditions, as well as for
finding unfamiliar locations.
Conduct. Although the atmosphere at the
contests is informal, certain standards of conduct need to be
upheld. Formal dress (such as ties or heels) is not required, but it is
desirable to dress "nicely", as one might for church.
Students and accompanists should not play or sing except in the warm-up
room. Conversation should be kept to an absolute minimum
in the halls, especially near the adjudication rooms. Food and drink
should be consumed only in the area where they are served.
Procedure. Performers are expected to appear
with their music and accompanist at the proper place and
time. The contest office (usually near the entrance and well marked) can
help musicians locate the warm-up and adjudication rooms.
The office can also help deal with logistic problems such as conflicting
performance times or not being able to find an
Performance. Seats are provided in the
adjudication room for a small audience. Teachers, family, and
friends are welcome to attend. The audience is not allowed to enter or
leave the room during a performance, or to engage in any
distracting activity (moving or talking) while in the room. The
adjudicator normally talks with the performer(s) before and after
the performance but does not reveal the rating to them directly.
Results. The rating sheets are collected periodically from each adjudication room and taken to the
contest office for verification. They are retained and given to the appropriate music teacher at the end of the contest. In
high-school contests, the ratings are also posted in a central area as soon as they are verified. Ratings are not posted in
middle-school festivals, but the sheets are still given to the teachers. Each adjudicator at a high-school contest is asked
to choose one solo or ensemble entry (together with first and second alternates) to perform at the State Solo/Ensemble Contest
in Ellensburg, usually held in late April.
Categories. The WMEA defines the following categories for
Certain questions often arise (unlisted instruments, mixed wind/string ensemble, piano-four-hands accompaniment,
double-winner categories). For complete rules and regulations, see
Solo/Ensemble Rules and Regulations.
For further clarifications, see your director.
Dates. The following are the dates and venues for the contests and festivals that might be of interest
for this school year. Each contest and festival typically starts at 8:00 AM and runs at least into late afternoon.