The National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a student performing with his saxophone

The National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute

Are you a budding musician with dreams of making it big in orchestral music? Look no further than the National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Music Institute! This tuition-free program is your ticket to a 21st-century music career, breaking down barriers and giving you the tools you need to succeed.

What’s the deal with this program, you ask? Well, it’s all about setting you up for success. The National Symphony Orchestra Education team aims to shape the next generation of music pros. They want you to be a game-changer in the orchestral scene, promoting equity, inclusion, diversity, and a sense of safety and belonging.

So, what’s in it for you?

Solid Foundations: Get ready to build a strong classical base while flexing your multi-genre muscles. This program is all about versatility!

Career Savvy: Wondering how to navigate the twists and turns of a music career? The institute is here to guide you in making informed decisions for your future.

Healthy Musicianship: Have you ever heard of lasting musicians? That’s the goal here – to shape you into a musician with staying power.

Pathway Leadership: Become a trailblazer in your chosen musical path. The institute is all about grooming leaders in the making.

Empowered Expression: Unleash your artistic self! This program wants you to stand tall and proud in your individual artistic expression.

World Engagement: Ever thought of yourself as a Citizen Artist? The institute aims to equip you to engage with the world, making your mark as a musician with a global perspective.

But what about the nitty-gritty details? The program offers performance opportunities, top-notch technical training, and practical tools to enrich your musical journey. It’s not just about playing the notes; it’s about becoming a leader and thinker in your chosen musical field.

So, are you ready to take the stage and let your musical potential shine? The National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute is your gateway to a future where your passion meets purpose. Don’t miss out – join the symphony of success this summer!

people playing the violins

National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute Program

Are you a high school or college instrumentalist ready to kickstart your career as a 21st-century musician? The Summer Music Institute (SMI) by the National Symphony Orchestra is the pre-professional intensive you’ve been waiting for!

What’s in Store?

From June 26 to July 24, 2023, immerse yourself in four weeks of musical excellence. Here’s what you can expect:

1. Private Lessons

Picture this as your one-on-one pass to musical excellence. Private lessons with members of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) are like having a personal guide through the intricate world of your chosen instrument. They’ll tailor their expertise to you, addressing your strengths, polishing your technique, and guiding you toward your musical best.

2. Chamber Music Coaching

Think of this as your musical teamwork huddle. Chamber music coaching sessions, led by NSO musicians, are where individual talents blend into a harmonious whole. It’s not just about playing your part; it’s about understanding how your piece fits into the larger musical puzzle. It’s about creating something beautiful together, with guidance from those who’ve mastered the art.

3. Master Classes and Seminars

Consider this your crash course in musical mastery. Masterclasses and seminars are like deep dives into the world of technique, interpretation, and musical philosophy. It’s a chance to glean insights from experienced professionals, expanding your understanding of music and sharpening your skills.

4. Side-by-Side Rehearsals

Imagine standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the pros. In side-by-side rehearsals, you’re not just an observer but part of the ensemble. This unique opportunity lets you learn and collaborate directly with NSO members during orchestra rehearsals. It’s a hands-on experience that bridges the gap between aspiration and reality.

5. NSO Rehearsals and Performances

This is your backstage pass to musical brilliance. Attend selected rehearsals and performances of the National Symphony Orchestra. It’s not just about witnessing a concert; it’s about

immersing yourself in the energy, precision, and artistry that make NSO performances unforgettable. It’s a front-row seat to the magic of live orchestral music.

6. SMI Orchestra Participation

Here’s where you become part of something bigger. Join forces with talented musicians like yourself in the NSO Summer Music Institute Orchestra. It’s your chance to contribute to a collective musical masterpiece, showcasing your skills and making music that resonates with audiences.

7. DC Metropolitan Performances

Take your talent beyond the institute walls. DC Metropolitan Performances are your opportunities to share your musical gift with the vibrant community around you. It’s a chance to connect with diverse audiences, bringing the joy of music to the heart of the nation’s capital.

8. Meet the Masters

Prepare to be inspired. Meeting internationally renowned conductors, soloists, and musicians is like getting a backstage pass to the wisdom of the music world. Learn from those who have conquered stages globally, absorb their insights, and let their experiences fuel your own musical journey.

These opportunities at the Summer Music Institute aren’t just about honing your skills; they’re about immersing yourself in the rich tapestry of the musical world, learning from the best, and becoming a part of something truly extraordinary. 

zoomed in picture of people playing the cello and violins

Key Dates and Details

  • Application Deadline: January 22, 2023
  • Program Duration: June 26 – July 24, 2023
  • Application Fee: A non-refundable $30 application fee is required upon submission.

How to Apply

If you’re aged 15-20 and serious about a musical career, follow these steps:

1. Recorded Audition: Showcase your skills through a video audition.

2. Orchestral Excerpts: Demonstrate your mastery with instrument-specific excerpts.

3. Solo Performance: Share a solo piece (up to 20 minutes) with optional piano accompaniment.

4. Essay Questions: Answer two essay questions, either in writing or via video recording.

5. Recommendation: Provide a recommendation from your music teacher or conductor.

What’s Next

Results were sent out by the end of March 2023. This is the chance to enter the spotlight and make your mark on the musical stage. Don’t miss the opportunity – apply now and let your music speak for itself!

Your Instrument

If you’re a musician dreaming of joining the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute (SMI), it’s time to know if your instrument cuts.

Eligible Instruments

  • Violin
  • Viola
  • Cello
  • String Bass
  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Clarinet
  • Bassoon
  • French Horn
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Tuba
  • Harp

Special Opportunities


Local percussionists, you’re in luck! While housing isn’t provided, you can still be part of the NSO Summer Music Institute Orchestra. Here’s what you get:

  • Participation in rehearsals and full-orchestra performances
  • Sectional rehearsals coached by NSO musicians
  • Side-by-side rehearsal(s) with the NSO
  • Observing NSO-led master classes
  • Taking part in select enrichment courses and seminars

No specific excerpt requirements for percussion. Just send in up to two video samples of the orchestral repertoire.


Local pianists, it’s your time to shine in the chamber program. Although housing isn’t on the table, here’s what you’ll receive:

  • Chamber rehearsals and performances coached by NSO musicians
  • Observing NSO-led master classes
  • Participation in select enrichment courses and seminars

For piano submissions, there are no specific excerpt requirements. Just share two video samples: one of solo repertoire and one of chamber repertoire.

Music Teachers' Association of California

Tuition-Free Scholarship

First, every student accepted into the program is awarded a tuition-free scholarship. This scholarship covers the package – activity fees, top-notch instruction, comfortable housing, and local transportation. However, remember it doesn’t cover your round-trip travel to and from Washington, DC, or the cost of your meals.

How to Request Financial Aid

Need a little extra support? No worries! Students can indicate their financial aid request within the application. Once accepted, those who requested aid will be contacted for further details. Your journey to musical excellence is our priority, and the program staff is here to help make it happen.

Optional Concerto Competition

Feeling extra ambitious? The SMI Concerto Competition is open to all full-time participants. The competition kicks off right from the SMI application stage. Your chosen solo piece in the application becomes your competition piece. It must be for a full orchestra and readily available for purchase or rental. Curious about the details? They will be shared with you upon program acceptance.

Obligations of Participants

Joining SMI comes with responsibilities, but they’re all about passion and commitment. Serious dedication and a hunger for a well-rounded musical education are key. Participants will enter into a contractual arrangement with the Kennedy Center/National Symphony Orchestra.

While the Kennedy Center/National Symphony Orchestra covers private lesson and ensemble coaching fees, remember that any unexcused absences may require a student to cover those fees.

The Role of the National Symphony Orchestra

One of the distinctive aspects of the Summer Music Institute is the direct involvement of the National Symphony Orchestra. Participants have the opportunity to work closely with NSO musicians, receiving guidance and mentorship that is unparalleled in its quality.

This hands-on experience allows young musicians to gain insights into the professional world of orchestral music and learn from some of the industry’s finest performers.

The National Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1931, is a world-renowned ensemble based in Washington, D.C. Comprising talented musicians from around the globe, the NSO has a rich history of delivering exceptional performances and promoting musical excellence.

Collaborating with the NSO during the Summer Music Institute provides participants with a unique chance to interact with musicians who have honed their craft through years of dedication and practice.

During the institute, participants not only have the opportunity to observe the NSO musicians in action during rehearsals and performances but also to engage in one-on-one sessions with them.

These sessions allow for personalized guidance and mentorship, where participants can receive feedback on their technique, interpretation, and overall musicianship. The invaluable advice and insights shared by the NSO musicians help young musicians refine their skills and broaden their understanding of orchestral music.

The Benefits of Participating in the Summer Music Institute

Skill Development and Musical Growth

Participating in the Summer Music Institute offers many benefits for young musicians. Through intensive training and practice sessions, participants can enhance their technical abilities and refine their musical skills.

The guidance and expertise provided by renowned instructors and NSO musicians offer invaluable insights into performance techniques and interpretation, fostering artistic growth and excellence.

Participants can immerse themselves in a rich musical environment during the Summer Music Institute. They are exposed to various musical genres and styles, allowing them to expand their musical horizons and develop a versatile repertoire.

The program also emphasizes the importance of musical expression and interpretation, encouraging participants to explore their unique artistic voice.

In addition to technical and musical growth, the Summer Music Institute also focuses on personal development.

Participants learn important skills such as discipline, perseverance, and time management. They are challenged to push their boundaries and overcome obstacles, fostering a strong work ethic and a sense of accomplishment.

Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition

Networking and Collaboration Opportunities

Collaboration is a key component of the Summer Music Institute. Participants can work closely with other talented musicians from around the world, forming lasting connections and networks.

This collaborative environment provides a supportive and inspiring atmosphere and opens doors for future musical collaborations and partnerships.

Throughout the program, participants engage in ensemble rehearsals and chamber music sessions, honing their collaborative skills and learning to work as a team. They are encouraged to share ideas, experiment with different musical interpretations, and learn from one another.

These collaborative experiences enhance their musical abilities and foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among the participants.

Furthermore, the Summer Music Institute provides unique networking opportunities with industry professionals. Participants can interact with renowned guest artists, conductors, and music educators, gaining valuable insights and advice.

These connections can be instrumental in shaping their future careers and opening doors to performance opportunities and scholarships.

Moreover, the Summer Music Institute often hosts masterclasses and workshops by distinguished musicians. These sessions offer participants the chance to receive personalized feedback and guidance from experts in their respective fields.

They can learn from the experiences and expertise of these professionals, gaining valuable knowledge and refining their musical skills.

Overall, participating in the Summer Music Institute offers young musicians the chance to develop their skills and grow as artists and provides them with invaluable networking and collaboration opportunities. The program fosters a supportive and inspiring environment, encouraging participants to reach their full potential and pursue their musical passions.

American Protege International Competition of Romantic Music

How to Make the Most of Your National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute Experience

1. Open-Minded Approach

Approach the program with curiosity and an open mind. Every note, every instruction, and every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Embrace the diverse musical experiences that SMI offers, whether it’s learning a new piece, exploring a different musical genre, or delving into a unique aspect of your instrument.

2. Willingness to Learn

The key to musical mastery is a genuine willingness to learn. Be receptive to feedback from instructors and mentors. They are there to guide you, share their expertise, and help you reach new heights in your musical journey. Every correction is a step towards perfection, so take it in stride and use it to refine your skills.

3. Embrace Challenges and Opportunities

SMI is designed to challenge you in the best possible way. Embrace the challenges that come your way – they are stepping stones to musical excellence. Whether it’s a complex piece, a demanding technique, or a new musical concept, see it as an opportunity to stretch your abilities and broaden your musical horizons.

4. Seek Guidance

Feel free to seek guidance from your instructors and mentors. They are seasoned musicians with a wealth of knowledge and experience. If you’re struggling with a particular passage, grappling with a musical concept, or just seeking advice on your musical journey, reach out. They are there to support and guide you.

5. Showcase Your Talent

Every performance and rehearsal is a chance to showcase your unique musical talent. Approach each moment on stage with confidence and passion. Let your music speak for itself. Whether in a solo performance, chamber ensemble, or full orchestra, use these opportunities to express yourself and connect with your audience.

6. Build Connections

Music is a collaborative art, and the connections you build with fellow participants can be invaluable. Forge friendships, collaborate on projects, and share your musical experiences. The

bonds you create during SMI can last a lifetime, and the shared passion for music can open doors to future collaborations and opportunities.

7. Create Lasting Memories

SMI is not just about honing your musical skills; it’s also about creating lasting memories. Enjoy the journey, savor the moments of musical magic, and appreciate the camaraderie with fellow musicians. Whether it’s the thrill of a successful performance, the joy of a breakthrough in your practice, or the shared laughter during breaks, these moments contribute to the rich tapestry of your SMI experience.

In essence, making the most of your SMI experience is about fully immersing yourself in the musical journey, being receptive to growth, and embracing every facet of the program with passion and dedication. Are you ready to make your mark at the Summer Music Institute? The stage is set for you!

It is important to have all the necessary information before making any decision. AdmissionSight is always here to help you with any questions or concerns. We have over ten years of experience helping students successfully navigate the challenging admissions process.

Consult with AdmissionSight and find out how we can help you get into the school of your choice by ensuring that you are fully informed and prepared for the application process. We will work with you to develop a personalized plan that meets your specific needs and goals. We will also provide you with access to our team of experts who can help you with everything from choosing the right schools to writing your essays.

Don’t let the admissions process overwhelm you. Contact AdmissionSight today and let us help you achieve your dreams.

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