Solo and Ensemble Rating and Merit Scholarships

I heard recently that getting a high Solo and Ensemble rating can be useful for merit scholarships. Is that right? If so, how does that work? Is it just something you include in your general application?
Even though my kid has played seriously for quite a while, I really didn’t (and still don’t) know about the SEPA ratings. I am not finding much online. Can anyone explain what getting a superior rating can do for you? And, on the flip side, how much it hurts you if you have only submitted for such a rating one time before applying to college?

Is your kid applying to BA or BM programs?

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Looks like it will be a mix of applications - some LACs that offer a BA with the option of double majoring with music and something else; some that offer the dual degree (although this one seems less appealing from a $$ perspective); and some BM schools.

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So first of all I had to look up SEPA ratings. Our school had all state and district, but I think those are different.

So for BM programs at conservatory or schools of music, or for double degree programs, the SEPA ratings would not be a significant factor. The audition is what counts. Many applicants gain admission without any SEPA rating at all, of course. Students have different backgrounds, preparations and accomplishments, including conservatory prep.

For BA or BS programs at colleges, including LAC’s, and universities, your son would submit a music supplement with a recording/video, music resume, and letters of recommendation from music teacher(s) or director. The SEPA ratings would go in the music resume along with lessons, performances, summer programs, awards and anything else that is relevant.

District and all state weren’t important in my kid’s admissions. I don’t think my kid even put it in the resume, but others would for sure. No problem at all doing it once.


Thank you @compmom

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I also had never heard of a SEPA rating by that term. (life time in the music field as a student and professional with grown conservatory grads working in the field). I couldn’t even find it on-line, but on a second try (after CompMom’s success!), I found the term as related to the Middle Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association.

Many states and regions have professional organizations for music teachers that sponsor solo and small ensemble competitions for students, but I had not heard of the specific acronym “SEPA”. If your student chooses to list ratings earned at such an event, it might be more clear to admissions people to indicate the association that is doing the assessing. Something like: Superior Solo Rating - Association Name - Year

Have you asked the band (or orchestra or choir) teacher at your student’s school what their experience is with SEPA ratings and merit aid? This may be a regional thing - perhaps there are area schools that do consider this in their admissions.

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Thank you - makes sense that the particular term is regional! And your suggestion on how to list is a good idea.

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I found solo and ensemble ratings at district festivals in several states. Mostly mid=West. Participants are from “member schools.” For example:
Solo & Ensemble (

Here is the ratings sheet:

CHSAA_Solo _Ensemble_Ratings_Sheets_HeartOut.pdf

In my state, Massachusetts, we have district and state-level festivals that sound very similar, run by a music educators’organization.
All-State Festival & Concert | MMEA (

On this music forum, people have asked about district and all-state winners and , at least to my recollection, the responses have been similar to what I wrote in my previous post. But someone may come along who knows about SEPA specifically.

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As far as I know, all states have some sort of solo and ensemble contest/festival for high school and younger students sponsored by the music educator’s organizations within the individual state. Different states operate differently - some have regional evaluations followed by state evaluations for high scorers at the regional levels, some define graded levels of solo and chamber works on published lists of “allowed” repertoire, some states honor top scorers individually while others grant a general rating with no ranking, etc. The National Association for Music Education or NAfME, is the national umbrella organization for state groups.

It is common for public school music programs to be involved in this type of festival/contest/evaluation as many public schools and teachers are part of the sponsoring State or Regional organization. There are sometimes parallel sponsoring organizations for church-based schools that run similar evaluations. I have seen accommodations made to allow homeschoolers to participate as well. I’m also aware of a number of private non-sectarian schools that do not participate in these events at all. And, I know many fine music students that do not participate in this type of evaluation, even if available through their school music program.

I knew someone who insisted her son’s NYYSMA (New York State) ratings were important to college admissions, but frankly, I doubt it. The proof is in the audition, not the resume!


Again, for an applicant to a non-audition BA program, such as at some LAC’s, the SEPA rating can go in the music resume which is part of a supplement along with recording/video and LOC’s. The supplement, if good enough, may indeed enhance admissions chances, but the SEPA rating would be part of the larger picture.

For BM or double degree, it is the audition.

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