Choral Festival Sight Reading Guidelines

Choral festival sight reading is designed to evaluate the ability of students to sing music that they are viewing for the first time. MSVMA recommends that students and directors select a sight reading method and practice it as part of class/ensemble rehearsals. 

  • Whether a group is singing for a Final Determination or comments only, all choirs - junior high/middle/high school - are required to sight read. Choirs singing for comments only may request a sight reading clinic. 
  • The MSVMA Sight Reading Rubric defines the criteria for adjudication.
  • Sight reading exercises will be printed in the appropriate clef for each voice. For unison exercises involving male voices, it will be printed in both clefs.
  • Exercises will be eight measures long.
  • Directors should choose a tempo at which the choir can succeed.
  • Directors are allowed to read in a key that supports their choir's abilities. 

Director of Adjudication

Pam Pierson

Levels and Voicing

Policy change for 2023-2024 School Year -  All choral festival entries must sight read in their school category, i.e. HS must read HS and JHMS must read JHMS. The director must choose the voicing of festival sight reading to match the voicing of one of the two performance pieces. The director may choose any level. 

Rules and Procedures

  • When the choir enters the room, the singers may organize themselves as they wish.  
  • The adjudicator will confirm the level and voicing to be read with the director.
  • Singers will open the sight reading books when instructed to do so.
  • The director and singers may discuss all of the exercises at the beginning of the session or may address each exercise separately.
  • The director and singers may discuss any of the musical elements of the exercises. During the performance, the director may not sing, clap or in any way perform the exercise with/for the students.
  • If the director chooses to conduct the exercises, they may only conduct the basic meter of the exercise.
  • The director may use conducting and/or unvoiced assistance such as clapping, snapping or tapping in maintaining a steady tempo.
  • The director is discouraged from giving verbal assists during the performance of exercises. Verbal assistance from the director while the students are performing will be evaluated as part of the overall performance.
  • Rhythmic exercises must be sung using an effective reading system. Singers may not clap any of the rhythmic exercises.
  • The director may transpose the key to best support the vocal abilities of the choir. The director should inform the adjudicator of the key change. 

Performance Instructions

The performance should be sung using an effective reading system. Ensembles will read three exercises.

  • Exercise 1 will sung with rhythm only.
  • Exercise 1 will be performed with melody and rhythm.
  • Exercise 2 will be sung with rhythm only of the starred line.
  • Exercise 2 will be performed with melody and rhythm.
  • Exercise 3 will be performed with both melody and rhythm.  


The key may be established by having the students sing scales or chord patterns. Students may sing random intervals or patterns such as 1-3-5-3-1, 1-4-6-4-1, etc. Directors only may sing with the choir during the warm-up to establish keyality. Directors may not illustrate by singing intervals directly referenced from the exercise. 

When discussing the exercise, the director may point out potentially problematic intervals. They may not rehearse these with the choir.

Singers of the same voice part are permitted to discuss and sing with their neighbors during the prep time. This practice of “neighboring” is limited to 2 or 3 students. The “neighboring” groups may not join together and prepare as a section. In addition, students may practice the example up to 4 in a group with only 1 on a voice part.  


*Special note: For the purposes of MSVMA sight reading,
quarter-half-quarter is NOT considered syncopation and can be used at any level.


Michigan School Vocal Music Association

P.O. Box 1131

Big Rapids, MI 49307-1131

(231) 592 - 9344


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