2024 High School 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, in early 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 from Africa to America – Baruch WhiteheadChamber Music Literature – Diana GoldenTheatre Improvisation: Serious Fun for Everyone – Marie Sirakos
Exploration in Studio Art - Julianne HunterYoga for Musicians – Christine Hickey ArmstrongYoga for Musicians – Christine Hickey Armstrong
Why is this Song Good? – Josh OxfordConquering Performance Anxiety – Ben RochfordIntroduction to Composition – Josh Oxford
Introduction to Sound Recording – Luke KlingensmithIntroduction to Sound Recording – Luke KlingensmithJazz Improvisation and Standards I – Nick Weiser
I Might Want to Prepare for a Career in the Musical Arts! - Aaron BurgessVocal Jazz Ensemble – John WhiteJazz Improvisation and Standards II – Alejandro Bernard-Papachryssanthou
Introduction to String Instruments – Cassie SulbaranIntroduction to Percussion Instruments – Conrad AlexanderIntroduction to the Guitar – Zachary McDonald
Handbell Choir – Crystal PeeblesThe Joy of Practice – Alejandro Bernard-PapachryssanthouThe Musical Mind – Crystal Peebles
Introduction to the Piano – Mary HolzhauerDiction for Singers – Mary HolzhauerVocal Skills that Impress Audiences! - Carami Hilaire
Introduction to Conducting – Drew BenwareExploring the Musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber – Drew BenwareThe Sounds You See: How Music is Used in Film - John White
Practice - one practice period required of all students. Two practice periods required for Perf Track StudentsPractice - one practice period required of all students. Two practice periods required for Perf Track StudentsPractice - one practice period required of all students. Two practice periods required for Perf Track Students



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 The Musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber

In this course, students will explore the musical output of Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and his significant contribution to the genre. From "Starlight Express" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" to more modern shows like "Sunset Boulevard" and the incomparable "The Phantom of the Opera," this elective will use video and musical examples to work through each musical by Webber with attention paid to notable musical numbers and plot synopses. Instructor – Andrew Benware

Instructor – Drew Benware


Why is this Song Good?

Has anyone told you why the music you like is good or bad?We will listen to and comment on either a live student performance or an audio recording. The ensuing interactive discussions will range from learning about musical theoretical concepts to compositional and production techniques— how to critically comment on and evaluate the music we hear. Instructor – Josh Oxford

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


Vocal Jazz Ensemble

For musicians new to this genre or those with prior experience, this elective explores the exciting world of ensemble jazz singing. We’ll rehearse at least four tunes in contrasting styles (blues, samba/bossa, swing, funk), focusing on vocal techniques essential to the vocal jazz idiom. We’ll also cover the foundations of vocal improvising (scat singing), especially building a step-by-step approach for how to get started. Bah vah deh bahp! 

Instructor - John White


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


Beginning 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 – Nick Weiser


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


Theater Improvisation: Serious fun for Everyone

From the dramatic to the hilarious, and everything in between. Level-up yourtheatre and performance skills, getin the flow of group performance work, and create scene, character, and story out of thin air. Wear clothes to move, bring along your hard-working attitude, and let’s have some fun.

Instructor – Maria Sirakos


Music 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


Conquering Performance Anxiety

This course will examine the various factors that contribute to music performance anxiety. In addition, students will be introduced to techniques used to cope with this problem and will practice them in class.

Instructor - Benjamin Rochford


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 – Christine Armstrong


Vocal Skills that Impress Audiences

In this class students will explore the technique behind the skills that impress their audiences, from belting and mixing to runs, coloratura and legato. Students will explorethe nuances of these skills daily, using real world examples from all genres of music to bolster their understanding of how to leave a room breathless.

Instructor - Carami Hilaire


Chamber Music Literature

This elective will highlight works of chamber music from the Baroque period to the present. We will listen together to instrumental and vocal pieces of varying instrumentation, from a range of composers and geographical locations. Some composers may be considered household names, and many composers will be new to workshop participants! In both cases, we will discuss what is unique and fascinating about each selection. Listeners will gain greater appreciation of the variety of styles musicians can explore within the chamber music literature!

Instructor – Diana Golden


Introduction to the Guitar

This course is designed for students with little or no background in playing the guitar. Students will obtain a functional understanding of the guitar, as well as tools for the continued exploration of the instrument beyond the scope of the class. Emphasis will be placed on right and left hand technique, basic chord shapes, and reading skills. Guitars will be provided. 

Instructor – Zachary McDonald


Exploration in Studio Art

Students will have the opportunity to explore many different practices in art making for this course. Drawing, bookbinding, ceramics, cyanotype, printmaking, collage, painting, and papermaking will allow students to tap into another creative side of themselves. Each day will have a unique focus and present the opportunity to learn new skills and methods of making. No previous experience is required. Most materials will be provided, but a notebook, sketchpad, pencils, pens, or other general art supplies are helpful, if you have them available!

Instructor - Julianne Hunter