Choral Sight Reading Procedure

A note from the Vocal Division Chair:

After listening to, discussing with, and receiving input from sight-reading judges and directors in all of our districts after this year’s Large Ensemble Assessment Sight-Reading event, we have edited the information to provide more concise rules and procedures by clarifying, tweaking, and improving the sight-reading procedures adopted for the 2024 assessment.  The procedures remain the same as before, they are just clarified and are more concise.  Nothing has been changed regarding rules and procedures. (5/18/24)Download a copy of the Sight-Reading Procedure

LMEA Sight-Reading

Choral assessment sight-reading has been designed to assess our students’ sight-reading ability.  To be successful, preparation prior to the festival is required/necessary.  Sight-reading should be a regular part of daily class/ensemble rehearsals.  Students and directors should select and adhere to a sight-reading method with which they are comfortable and can have success.

Large Ensemble Assessment – Choral Sight-Reading Procedure

The sight-reading assessment event is a closed event. Only the ensemble, director, adjudicator, accompanist, and compliance official are allowed in the sight-reading room.

It is imperative that all directors read and understand all of the rules and procedures of the LMEA Sight-Reading Event.  Directors will be required to provide their signature on the registration form for Assessment Festival, stating that they have read and thoroughly understand the rules and procedures for sight-reading.

Score Study Period

  • Prior to the instruction period, the director will be allowed to study the sight-reading music full score for a minimum of three-minutes during which time the director may take notes or utilize removable notes in the score, but not mark directly on the score.
  • During the score study period music, will be distributed to the students, held face down. The students may not view or study the music until the instruction period begins.
  • The score study period concludes once the script has been read and the adjudicator is ready to begin. Score study may not exceed three minutes.

Compliance Official

A compliance official, as selected by the District Director and compensated, shall remain in the sight-reading room during the instruction period to distribute sight-reading materials, monitor time, ensure compliance with procedures, and read the official LMEA Sight-Reading script to the ensemble.  The compliance official may be a current or prior music teacher, or any other person determined by the District Director to be competent to perform the responsibilities. The compliance official must read the entire script before the study period begins. Nothing should be read to the ensemble or director after the instruction period.

Instruction Period

  • The adjudicator will start recording their comments at this point of the process via audio recorder.
  • Only one director may instruct and direct the ensemble.
  • The director may not sing at any time during the sight-reading event. (Elementary-Rhythm Only: The director may not clap or chant the rhythm with the students, nor may he/she demonstrate note or rest values at any time during the sight-reading event.)
  • Neither the director nor the students may mark or write on the music unless instructed to do so by the judge.
  • There should be one instruction period as follows for all organizations:
    •  Level 4, 5, and 6: 10 minutes
    •  All other levels: 8 minutes
  • Neither the director nor the students may utilize technology devices.
  • The tonic chord may be played on the piano in broken chord style at any time up to 5 times.
  • The students may sing the sight-reading music individually, in small groups, or with the full ensemble, at the discretion of the director.
  • The students may sing the music, count, clap, tap rhythms, and/or chant using solfege syllables, numbers, or words during the instruction period. Students may also sing the scale and/or arpeggio of the key.
  • Students may sing up to four consecutive measures with piano twice. These must be the same four measures. You may not sing four different consecutive measures the second time. The number of tonic chords played on the piano will be reduced with each attempt. For instance, if the director chooses that you sing four measures with the piano once, the number of allowable tonic triads played on the piano is reduced to four.
  • At any point during the instruction period, the director may stop the clock, receive pitches, and have the choir perform the entire selection once with the piano. The students are allowed to hum their beginning pitches. The clock restarts and instruction may then continue until the time expires.
  • The director may move around and near the ensemble during the instruction period.

After the Instruction Period and Prior to the Performance

  • No further warm-up or musical instruction of any kind is permitted by the director.
  • If a director did not stop the clock and have the choir sing the selection once with piano during the instruction period, he/she may choose to do so immediately after the instruction period has ended. The choir will receive starting pitches, may hum them, and sing through the entire selection once without stopping.  HOWEVER, because the instruction period has ended, the director may not give any further instructions, comments, or gestures.  This performance will not be adjudicated unless the director indicates BEFORE beginning that they are waiving this option and want this performance adjudicated. [This does not pertain to Elementary Rhythm Only.]


  • When the judge is ready, starting pitches for each voice part will be given. The students are allowed to hum their beginning pitches.  The ensemble shall perform the piece using solfege syllables, numbers, or neutral syllables.
    1.  All Elementary Unison and Middle Schools will perform with the piano for adjudication.
    2.  All High Schools will perform a capella for adjudication.
  • In the event the director chooses to stop the performance, it should be for the sole purpose of designating a starting point and receiving the starting pitch. No further instructions may be given. Any stoppage of the sight-reading performance will result in the lowering of the overall rating by one division per occurrence.
  • Directors may not make an obvious contribution to the performance by either singing with, using hand signs, or speaking to the students while they are performing. Only a conducting pattern is allowed by the director (including Rhythm Only) during the performance.  Dynamic, phrasing, and interpretive gestures are allowed within the conducting pattern.
  • The director may give a verbal count-off to begin the sight-reading selection.
  • The director must remain behind the podium for the adjudicated performance of the sight-reading piece.

After the Performance

  • The judge may provide verbal feedback to the ensemble or director with the objective of guiding ensemble and director growth.
  • The ensemble’s performance shall be evaluated by the adjudicators in accordance with the LMEA sight-reading adjudication rubric and the performance shall be the sole criteria for assigning a rating.
  • Violations of the stated guidelines at any point during the sight-reading process will result in a penalty of one rating per violation. A judge’s decision in these occurrences would need to be brought to the District Director and the Compliance Official after the ensemble’s performance. The District Director makes the final decision.

Student Conductor Area

The student conductor event is limited to one student conductor per large ensemble. This event is conducted in the sight-reading room after the group has completed sight-reading. An original score of the selection must be given to the sight-reading judge. Student conductors will be assessed using the Student Conductor Adjudication Form.


The sight-reading scripts have also been clarified. Be sure to read through the one that affects your ensemble and review it with your students before your assessment.