What Fresh Hell is This? Oh, it’s NYSSMA.

 In Seriously?


There’s been a lot of talk about student stress lately. Last week’s news was littered with stories of parents opting their child out of the Common Core testing, citing student stress as a contributing factor to their decision.

But do you know what is really stressful? NYSSMA, that’s what. I’m not even sure what the acronym stands for but I know it strikes fear into the hearts of mothers whose children are musical. I’m going to assume the “M” stands for music, but the other letters? Perhaps they refer to the anti-anxiety drugs you will need to get through this.

So, the deal is this: The child prepares a piece to perform in front of a judge, often an italian piece no one understands. They must perform this solo in front of some person of musical significance. I understand that there is also a terrifying sight reading component. What they actually do behind the closed door, I cannot say. Your child must enter the den of judgment alone, armed only with a terrified smile and sheet music that they must surrender to the accompanist.

I’m honestly not sure who suffers more, the child or her mother? So, for all you newbies out there, I have compiled a handy list of tips for parents on NYSSMA day.

  1. Prepare for 2-3 days of feral adolescent behavior prior to said date. Unexplained weeping, irrational behavior and physical threats to siblings are to be expected. If your NYSSMA child has a younger sibling, it might be best to find alternate lodging arrangements for them for a few days.
  2. Plan ahead. Buy whatever dress the child desires. Trust me, whatever you paid will be a worthy investment to avoid the traumatic “What to Wear” escapade that is likely to ensue if you do not take this step.
  3. Do not, I repeat do not speak to the child during the transportation to said event. Keep your eyes on the road and resist all motherly impulses to offer comfort or reassurance for these will only be met with aggression.
  4. It is permissible to assume the leadership role of checking in at the registration table. This is one of the few times you will be allowed to speak.
  5. Once you have found the room of torture, wait quietly. Yes, it is awkward to stand there in the hallway but do NOT attempt any form of conversation with other parents, especially a parent whose child is behind the closed door. These parents, though they may look friendly, are actually engaged in reciting as many Hail Marys as they can for the duration of the performance.
  6. Under no circumstances are you allowed to burst into song, even if the song you hear muffled through the door is the one you sang for NYSSMA back in 1983.
  7. Avoid eye contact with all who exit through said closed door. Whatever grief or triumph there may be in their eyes, stay out of it. Try to remain calm if they fall weeping into their mother’s arms. Just stay focused on your own Hail Marys.
  8. When your child’s name is called, say nothing. Even a friendly “good luck” is likely to be met with savagery.
  9. It is not considered good form to place your ear to the door in a maternal attempt to hear your child. I can’t say why. Just stand at attention, holding their stuff, and pray to whatever God you worship.
  10. As for this last one, if by chance your daughter’s NYSSMA coincides with her monthly cycle….well, I got nothing for you. Better luck next year.

Parents, just know that it will be over in a few moments. You can’t watch, you can’t help, you can’t fix what will go wrong. All you can do is be there.

And possibly take down the license plate number of the judge for future reference.

Featured Image: http://media.salon.com/2002/09/justice_behind_closed_doors.jpg

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  • Lynn Thornton

    Jennifer -once again you have hit the nail squarely. It is an insane exam. Love your writing.

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