2023 Electives

The Summer Music Academy is unique in offering an extensive list of music and non-music electives. For students considering a career in music, these electives offer an array of experiences that will hone interests and provide new musical experiences typically not available in most summer music programs.

Current elective offerings are subject to minor changes.

Electives are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, typically starting towards the beginning of June. Registration information will be sent via email to all parents before enrollment opens. Posted electives subject to change depending upon interest and enrollment. Students in the Performance Track must choose Practice Time for at least two (2) elective periods – all others must select one (1) Practice Time session.

Elective Schedule

Period 1 (1:30 - 2:10 PM) Period 2 (2:15 - 2:55 PM) Period 3 (3 - 3:40 PM)

Music of the African Diaspora from Africa to America (Whitehead) – Beeler (3104)

Diction for Singers (Holzhauer)  - 2310

Let’s Create an Original Musical! (Adams) - Nabenhauer (4308)

Introduction to the Piano (Holzhauer) - 1101

Introduction to String Instruments (Sulbarán) –   3304

Introduction to Percussion Instruments (Alexander) - IRR (4306)

The Joy of Practice (Bernard-Papachryssanthou) - 2310

Hip Hop Piano (Bernard-Papachryssanthou) - 1101

Jazz Standards and Improvisation II (Bernard-Papachryssanthou) – Presser (3102)

Modern Band (Keefner) – Presser (3102)

Modern Band (Keefner) –  Presser (3102)

Breathing for Better Music Making (Earll) – 2310

The Musical Mind (Peebles) - 2328

The Sounds You See:  How Music is Used in Film (White) – Iger (2105)

Handbell Choir (Peebles) - 3304

Fascinatin’ Rhythm:  New Concepts in Musical Time (Oxford) – IRR (4306)

Exploring Historical Events Through Musical Theater (Benware) - Broido (2201)

Introduction to Composition (Oxford) – 2102

Introduction to Conducting (Benware) - Ford (4301)

Yoga for Musicians (Grajo) - 3302

Jazz Improvisation and Standards I (Arcuri) – Beeler (3104)

Yoga for Musicians (Grajo) - 3302

Introduction to Sound Recording (Klingensmith) - 2102

I Might Want to Prepare for a Career in the Musical Arts! (Burgess) – 2304

Introduction to Sound Recording (Klingensmith) - 2102 Practice Time

Self Care for Musicians (Grajo) - 3302

Practice Time  

Practice Time


Breathing for Better Music Making

You've heard it before: Take a bigger breath; You need breath support; Breathe from your belly, but don't move your shoulders!  But - how can you do any of these things?  This elective will give you the tools to tackle the single most important fundamental for woodwind players, brass players, and singers - breathing!  You'll learn about how our bodies breathe, how to calm your breathing while you practice and perform, how to perform with your best sound, and gain the confidence you need to become a better performer.  Bring your instruments, be ready to sing, and finish this class with some serious new music skills!  

Instructor - David Earll


Diction for Singers

Learn about the sounds of singing, the symbols we use to describe them including the International Phonetic Alphabet, and how to communicate through song in English and other languages (Italian, French, and German). No prior knowledge of languages other than English required.  For vocal students. 

Instructor – Mary Holzhauer


Exploring Historical Events Through Musical Theater

From "1776" to "Miss Saigon," "Assassins" to "Evita," "Parade" to "Hamilton," and the list goes on, the musicals of Broadway have long been an outlet for composers to explore historical events or the dramatized lives of historical figures. This elective will explore several such musicals through video recordings, plot outlines, and audio tracks, complete with opportunities for class participation. Come see why Composers like Jason Robert Brown, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lin Manuel Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, and so many more love to tell history through their art form!

Instructor – Drew Benware


Fascinatin’ Rhythm:  New Concepts in Musical Time

Want to take your musical skill to the next level? By exploring different rhythmic ideas, you’ll easily be able to conceive and perform advanced music of all kinds. Exploring concepts such as polyrhythms and odd/changing time signatures will immediately catapult your playing into an unprecedented level and set you apart as a unique mind and musician. 

Instructor - Josh Oxford


Handbell Choir

Expand your musicianship and rhythmic skills by performing in a handbell choir. In this hands-on class, we will learn basic performance techniques, compose a processional, and learn a few songs!

Curious about this type of ensemble? Check out this link: https://youtu.be/Lg9bSbfFV1Y

Instructor – Crystal Peebles


Hip Hop Piano

Using the music of MF DOOM, Nujabes, and Robert Glasper, students will learn a general approach to playing hip-hop styles at the keyboard. Students will lean chord progressions, riffs as well as fundamental rhythmic concepts used to play along to a backing track. A minimum of 2 years of piano playing experience is required to take this elective. (This is NOT a production course; fresh beats will be provided). 

Instructor – Alejandro Bernard-Papachryssanthou


I might want to pursue a career in the musical arts!

If you are contemplating a career in the musical arts, this course is for you! Join us as we explore a myriad of topics including goal-setting, career options and career diversification, how music school differs from your high school program, healthy practice strategies, selecting music schools, professional etiquette, networking, preparation for and the audition process itself, the value of private instruction on your instrument or voice, strengthening your ears, and engaging in activities that enhance your music school application. Additionally, we will address issues facing the music profession today such as mental health concerns, diversification of the repertoire and the need to promote artists from underrepresented groups, performance anxiety, time management, and the true meaning of success! Come with your questions and leave with a sound game plan! 

Instructor – Aaron Burgess


Introduction to Composition

Students will get the opportunity to begin composing their own music!  Time will be divided every day between instruction and composing.  The participants will listen to a variety of classical music, discuss techniques for crafting a cohesive piece of music, and learn about various computer-assisted compositional techniques utilizing notation software. 

Instructor – Josh Oxford


Introduction to Conducting

This course is designed to equip the student with the fundamental skills of conducting, including baton position, left hand technique, score reading and preparation, transposition and rehearsal procedure. Members of the class will also function as the ensemble and each person will have the opportunity to conduct the ensemble. 

Instructor – Drew Benware


Introduction to Percussion Instruments

Open to all SMA students, this class will explore the basic techniques involved in playing the major percussion instruments which include snare drum, mallets, timpani and drum set.  Everyone will have the opportunity to play each instrument and explore what each area of percussion has to offer for everyone’s enjoyment.  No previous experience with percussion is required.  Instruments will be provided. 

Instructor – Conrad Alexander


Introduction to Sound Recording

Students will learn basic recording concepts that will include cable and connector identification, interconnecting of audio equipment, microphone technology, live sound, and remote recording techniques.

Instructor – Luke Klingensmith


Introduction to String Instruments

Open to all SMA students, this class will cover the basics of how to play the violin, viola, and cello. Topics will include posture, plucking, bow hold, left hand position, and tone production. Students will have the opportunity to try out each instrument and will perform a simple song at the end of the two weeks. No previous experience required.  Instruments will be provided.

Instructor – Cassandra Sulbarán


Introduction to the Piano

Students who have limited experience playing the piano will have the opportunity to learn the basics.

Instructor - Mary Holzhauer


Jazz Improvisation and Standards I

Students will learn the basic elements of how to improvise and compose an effective jazz solo. No previous experience in jazz or improvisation required.  

Instructor – Joey Arcuri


Jazz Improvisation and Standards II

Students will learn more advanced techniques of how to improvise and compose an effective jazz solo, such as playing over more challenging harmonies and more difficult songs. For students with previous jazz and/or improvisation experience. 

Instructor – Alejandro Bernard-Papachryssanthou


Let’s Create an Original Musical!

You've performed in them, dreamed up character ideas as you fell asleep, heard music in your head--let's put it all together in this collaborative class that begins with brainstorming and ends in an informal performance (which we will film). On the way we struggle with structure, linger over lyrics, and prune stuff we wish we could keep... and make fabulous art. 

Instructor – Holly Adams


Modern Band

In this course students will learn how to engage in informal music making practices such as learning by ear, songwriting basics, and jamming. Guitars, basses, drums, and keyboards will be provided with some instruction but any instruments and singers are welcome. Learn how to hone your aural skills in a supportive, self-directed environment. 

Instructor – Jon Keefner


Music of the African Diaspora from Africa to America

Participants will experience African drumming and dance and a survey of African-American music from opera to hip-hop.  No prior experience in drumming or dancing required.  Click on this link to see a recent performance by the Ithaca College West African Drumming and Dance Ensemble:


Instructor - Baruch Whitehead


Self Care for Musicians

This class introduces balanced approaches to mental health and "you" time.  Through activities such as meditation, journaling, nature walks,, and light stretches, we will regulate the nervous system, enjoy calm, and give space for authentic self-expression. 

Instructor - Shayna Grajo


The Joy of Practice

People end up becoming professional musicians not for the money, but because playing music is fun! And typically, music becomes more fun the better you get at it. In this elective we will uncover the secrets to more effective practice, helping you to become a better, more confident (and happy!) music maker. 

Instructor – Alejandro Bernard-Papachryssanthou


The Musical Mind

In this class students will participate in a variety of activities to explore the musical mind. We will consider how music shapes the brain and how the brain shapes music. Topics include perfect pitch, earworms, musical prodigies, and music therapies. 

Instructor – Crystal Peebles


The Sounds You See:  How Music is Used in Film

This elective examines various ways music is used in movies. Using a variety of short movie clips, we’ll look at how music is used to set a mood or provide atmosphere, reflect emotion or project underlying psychological aspects, reinforce or contrast with the action on the screen, suggest new story dimensions or provide a composer’s comment, build a sense of continuity throughout the story, and otherwise help make a film memorable and marketable. Other uses will be covered as time permits. (Due to the time of day, popcorn will not be provided---sorry!)

Instructor - John White


Yoga for Musicians

This course is designed with two aims.  The first is to help students unwind, relieve tensions, refresh the mind and body, and leave with a sense of renewal.  The second is to set the foundation for a regenerative yoga practice that students can build upon at any time beyond the course.  Expect to learn sequencing, technique, and posture modifications while nurturing seeds for lifelong self-care.  

Instructor – Shayna Grajo