New York State Summer School of the Arts

New York State Summer School of the Arts

The New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) is a series of summer residential programs for New York State high school students. It provides intensive pre-professional training with internationally acclaimed artists and artistic companies. It is open to all New York State high school age students who qualify through audition. Eight component schools offer training in the specific disciplines of ballet, choral studies, dance, jazz studies, media arts, orchestral studies, theatre and visual arts.[1]




Students are housed at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, close to the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which hosts the New York City Ballet during the summer. The program is under the direction of internationally acclaimed NYCB Principal Jenifer Ringer. Students work every day with members of the NYCB and attend all of the company's performances at night. The School of Ballet also presents lectures on dance and career opportunities led by the staff and guest artists from around the world. Students receive intensive instruction in ballet, pointe, character, jazz, variations, and pas de deux. The dancers also partake in a physical therapy program.

Choral studies

The School of Choral Studies is takes place at SUNY Fredonia, where students are led in daily chorus and private voice training, as well as given lessons in musical theater, opera, stagecraft and movement, small ensembles, and voice recital. Students perform in the King Concert Hall at the Rockefeller Center for the Arts at SUNY Fredonia, as well as the Amphitheater at the nearby Chautauqua Institute.[2] Classes are led by a led by a regular staff, as well as guest artists and performers. Students are also encouraged to enjoy concerts, operas, and theater performances at the Chautauqua Institute.


The School of Dance takes place at Skidmore College during the latter half of the summer, after the Ballet program is completed. Instruction takes place in the dance studios of the National Museum of Dance and the Skidmore Dance Theatre. Classes provide instruction in modern dance technique, composition, music for dance, career possibilities, repertory and performance. In addition to the staff and faculty, guest artists attend many nights a week. Workshop performances are also offered to the students, as well as trips to the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.[3]

Jazz studies

The Jazz Studies program also takes place at Skidmore College, during late June/early July, under the direction of acclaimed drummer Ed Shaughnessy. In addition to the students accepted through NYSSSA, the Skidmore Jazz Institute accepts applicants from all over the country, including college students. Some of the classes include ensemble and large group performance, jazz theory, improvisational theory, and special topics by guest artists. Highlights of the summer are the two-day Freihofer's Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the evening concerts by major jazz artists on campus. Past guest artists have included Ray Brown, Rufus Reid, James Moody, Slide Hampton, Clark Terry, Joe Lovano, Benny Green[disambiguation needed ], Wallace Roney, Christian McBride, Robin Eubanks, and Jackie McLean.

Media arts

The School of Media Arts takes place at SUNY Oswego, in Oswego, NY for four weeks in July. The program includes classes in video, filmmaking, photography, computer graphic arts, and new media, with courses providing a review of fundamentals of the craft, overview of aesthetics, and surveys of contemporary work, trends, and ideas, as well as giving students an opportunity to use professional equipment and facilities. Students work on a number of projects, both individually and collaboratively, throughout the four weeks of the program. While the curriculum stresses creative production, it is not exclusively goal-oriented. Exploration, experimentation, and discovery are stressed in each project. The program culminates with a final show and screening.[4]

Orchestral studies

The School of Orchestral Studies takes place at Skidmore College, and is cosponsored by the New York State School Music Association, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Students are offered classes in history, literature, and theory of music, in addition to daily rehearsals. In addition to the full orchestra, a string orchestra and a wind ensemble, as well as other small ensembles, are available for students to perform in. Over the course of the program students participate in a number of performances, including shows in the Empire Plaza in front of the state capital and at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.[5] The program’s repertoire is arranged in conjunction to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer repertoire and many of the small ensembles give concerts before the Philadelphia Orchestra’s SPAC performances.


The School of Theatre takes place over 4 weeks during July at Adelphi University. Students are given daily courses in improvisation, movement, voice and scene study. Guest artists and performers also provide master classes, readings, and workshops in diverse areas, such as stage combat, comedy and improvisation, mask, play writing, and directing. Students are also taken on field trips to New York City to see on and off-Broadway plays. In addition to their rigorous course load, students write and direct plays, as well as perform in fellow students’ work.

The School of Theatre is a summer intensive conservatory program. The students take six hours of rigorous classes daily and attend nightly workshops for 3 hours, along with assigned reading and out of class homework assignments. Much of voice and movement study is rooted in the Alexander technique. The scene study curriculum leads a daily hour and a half Meisner technique class that delves into the process of repetition, eventually applying activities, given circumstances, and eventually scene work. The Improvisation class derives from Stanislavsky teachings, Michael Chekhov work. Students are required to read Stanislavsky's book An Actor Prepares, as well as William Esper's book, The Actor's Art and Craft. This advanced acting training is usually unavailable for adolescent actors, and typically not for such a low tuition ($2000).

Admission to the School of Theatre is by a competitive audition. 30 students are selected to participate. The audition consists of two contrasting monologues and an interview.

Visual arts

The School of the Arts takes place at SUNY Fredonia during the month of July, where students work in the studio with drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, figure, and inter-disciplinary arts under the direction of noted exhibiting artists/educators.[6] Related activities include drawing and painting from a live model, trips to farms and lakes in the area, and experience with art processes that include welding, casting, direct carving, modeling life-size objects in clay, and experimenting with a variety of printmaking techniques. Group critiques and discussions of student work provide feedback throughout the program.


The New York State Summer School of the Arts was established in 1971, under Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, opening with the Orchestral Studies program.[7] In 1976 the School was expanded with the addition of Ballet, Choral, Theater, Media Arts, and Visual Arts programs. NYSSSA was expanded further in 1988 with the Dance and Jazz programs.


Placement in the schools is reserved for New York State residents who meet the selection criteria. If there are remaining openings after this selection, they may be filled by out-of-state students who meet additional criteria. Students must be enrolled in grades 8 through 12 and students must audition for the NYSSSA School they wish to attend. This audition is completed in person at a regional audition site, through a portfolio review, or in certain instances, through a video or audiotape review. Tuition for the schools ranges from $1,100 to $1,500 for residencies from two to four weeks long. State funds keep these tuitions considerably lower than the actual program costs. Students are selected for the NYSSSA schools without regard to their financial need and tuition assistance forms are mailed to each student who is offered acceptance or alternate status for each program. NYSSSA awards financial assistance based upon individual need, but is limited to New York State residents only. Auditions are held throughout the state.

Notable alumni

  • David Heiss (Orchestral ’71) - Cellist with the Metropolitan Opera since 1982, Principal Cellist with the New York Pops since 1989.

Jace Alexander (Theater 1980) – Television director (Rescue Me, Burn Notice, Law & Order)

• Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Theater ’84)Oscar-winner actor (Capote), nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Charlie Wilson’s War), as well as an accomplished stage actor and director.[8]

Dan Futterman (Theater ’84) – Accomplished actor (The Birdcage, A Mighty Heart, TV’s Judging Amy) and nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Capote).

Bennett Miller (Theater ’84) – Film director (The Cruise, Foxcatcher), nominated for Best Director (Capote).[9]

• David Devlin (Media Arts ’86) – Lighting Director (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Psycho, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Shine a Light, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

• Julianne Jordan (Orchestral ’86) – Music Supervisor (TMNT, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity, Go)

• Paris Wilcox (Ballet 1987, ’88, '89) – Principal dancer with the Kansas City Ballet.

• Danielle Huben (Choral Studies ’90) – Performed as Rapunzel in 2002 Broadway revival of Into the Woods

• Curt Markham (Media Arts ’90) – Director of the Rochester International Film Festival and digital filmmaker.

Vanessa Carlton (Balet ’92) – Pop singer; hits include Grammy-nominated single "A Thousand Miles."

• Graham Goddard (Visual Arts ’95) – Contemporary artist; exhibitions include the Skirball Museum and the California African American Museum.

• Jon-Erik Goldberg (Ballet ’93, ’94, ’95, '96) – Performer for national tour of Mamma Mia! and Cats.

Jeremy Cushman (Orchestral ’08) – Renowned violin soloist, serving as concertmaster for the 2008 class.

See also


External links

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