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This fall, we had the privilege of working with the team at Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) on a COVID-necessitated pivot to a fully online solution for their Solo & Ensemble Festivals. Thanks to their clear vision, engaged team, and a lot of collaboration, we were able to go from initial discovery conversations to a fully functioning initial launch in just seven weeks.

The background

Every year, WSMA hosts Solo & Ensemble festival programs for over 100,000 students, representing every county in Wisconsin. Through their participation in Solo & Ensemble, students learn the discipline of rehearsal, are challenged to advance their musical skills, and receive feedback on their performance from an adjudicator.

Students who perform at the highest level and receive the highest rating at district festivals have the opportunity to advance to State Solo & Ensemble. Each year, over 32,000 students qualify for State, making it one of the largest of its kind in the nation, and representative of the student talent and high quality of Wisconsin school music programs.

The problem

Normally, Solo & Ensemble is done via 180 in-person events held around Wisconsin. In 2020, COVID-19 limitations on in-person gatherings required that WSMA pivot and create a digital platform for these events. They saw this as a way to reach thousands of students who otherwise would have no way of participating in Solo & Ensemble – often a key component of their music education.

Their vision was a cloud-based “virtual festival” that would allow teachers and adjudicators to register, submit, and evaluate the approximately 55,000 performances received each year in a new and nimble way.

WSMA engaged with Acumium to assist in defining, designing, developing, and launching this software solution to help them provide continuity and service to their member schools and other constituents. Time was of the essence, as WSMA needed this platform ready for the early part of the school year. 

The solution

In seven weeks, working closely with the WSMA team, Acumium designed and built a fully custom, cloud-based software application that took the primary activities of WSMA's Solo & Ensemble festivals 100 percent online. Some of the initial release functionality includes:

— Teachers can create and submit event registrations for students across one to many schools where they teach

— Teachers can register one or more students for specific event types (e.g. flute solo, violin trio, mixed choir) across several event families (e.g. woodwinds, brass, strings, vocal)

— Eligible musical selections are predefined for teachers to pick based on the event they’re registering for

— Students create video recordings of musical selection performances, and teachers upload the video performance along with a PDF of the sheet music prior to submitting the registration for evaluation

— Adjudicators can see eligible performances awaiting evaluation that fall within predefined event types they’ve been approved to evaluate

— Adjudicators can review the details of the registration, watch/listen to the performance recording, and provide comments on their assessment, along with an optional rating against a predefined scoring rubric

— After an adjudicator completes their assessment, the system automatically calculates and assigns a final rating based on WSMA rules and any applied rubric

— Teachers are notified when performances they register have been evaluated, and can share those results with their students

— Application reporting allows teachers to review current invoices for performances, and tally scores across event types and ratings to assist in purchasing of Solo & Ensemble festival medals to commemorate their students’ achievements

What WSMA is saying

"As a state and national leader in music education, our organization needed to respond quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic with virtual options for student participation. In seven weeks, Acumium helped us bring our vision to a fully-functioning reality through an efficient and effective process. The new registration and music performance submission software is user-friendly and visually appealing, and they were able to build the platform with options for future capabilities and add-ons. Acumium was highly responsive to our needs, both in service and outcome of the solution developed. We look forward to growing this software into an all-encompassing festival management and participant app."

-Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA)

And teachers seem happy, too...

It's plenty great when a project results in a happy client, but it really makes our day when it results in a happy end user. The WSMA team shared this feedback from one of their teachers:

"I'm not sure who orchestrated the entire online process, but KUDOS!! That was really seamless! I have a few more submissions to make and I'm thrilled this opportunity is still available for students.  I'm going to have some excited kiddos."

Next steps

Going forward, WSMA intends to use and build upon this platform as a digital complement to in-person festivals. They are also looking forward to adding in large group events (e.g. concert band, orchestra, full choir) and potentially making this a solution that can be white labeled for other states to license and use. 

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